My phone rang just after seven this morning. It was my sister D. . Like me, she’s an early bird.
“Hi,” I say. I stick my coffee in the microwave. “What’s up?” The optimist that I am, I always assume a phone call from home means something bad has happened.
“I wanted to call because I was thinking of you this morning when I saying my prayers.” (Backstory: she’s Christian. Like, really, really Christian.) I was asking God to bless you and your business and your book and to send you someone special and he responded.”
I picked at the cream skin in my too-hot coffee sat at on the edge of my bed. This should be good. “What did He say?”
“He said that you’re an outsider looking and you need to get in the middle of things instead of standing on the sidelines.”
“He said all that? Wow. God’s a Chatty Cathy.”
“Just listen,” D. said. “You plan all these events and your write this column–”
“That you’ve never read, but go on.” It’s true. My sisters have never read anything I’ve written. It’s a sore point.
“You shouldn’t just plan speeddating events. You should go to them. You need to get out there more.”
Apparently, God and my sister think exactly like, as she’s said this to my countless times. I let out an exaggerated breath. “I am out there. I am the gym every day for almost two hours. I take classes. I’m doing as much as I can do. My business and my book are my top priorities.”
“I know things are hard for you,” she said. “I know you get depressed, like most of us do.”
My hackles went up. “You do realize that my version of depression and your version of depression are different, right?”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t. You talk about depression like it’s interchangeable with sad. Maybe for you , that’s how it is. That’s not how it is for me.”
Now, let’s stop here for a minute. My family, starting with my father, wasn’t really big on the concept of mental illness. I’ve tried and failed and tried again to explain to this sister in particular that our other sister is seriously mentally ill and will likely never change. She keeps saying she doesn’t believe that, that my sister could become more responsible if she tried. She doesn’t understand that that’s not how mental illness works.
While my episodes are few and far between now, I still wrestle with bouts of extreme depression. My body aches; I can’t get enough sleep; I walk around exhausted; I pummel myself with searing criticisms. I become despondent. It happened today, and I know it was triggered by being back on OKCupid. All three of the men I began messaging with on Sunday have faded and a hefty portion of the messages I do get are from married men. They’re not men in ethically non-monogamous marriages. Nope. They’re straight up cheating on their wives. That’s enough right there to make a person feel hopeless.
It’s frustrating to know that my sister doesn’t understand what I go through some days. It’s hard for me to leave my comfort zone. Some days I feel worthless, like trying meet someone is a waste of time as they probably won’t like me anyway. On days like that I retreat back into my shell. It’s too scary out there and I’m so tired. But then I go to bed and wake-up the next day, my cat prancing back and forth across the comforter mewling because it’s six am, dammit, where’s my food? I rise, feeling refreshed and slightly hopeful that today will be different.
I realize that what I experience is nothing compared to those with clinical depression or other forms of mental illness. I am very lucky. My meds work and needed very little fine-tuning. My good days far outnumber my bad ones, a one hundred and eighty degree turn-around from just last year. I know my sister mean to be insulting. She had good intentions, and it does touch me that she was thinking of me. I just don’t need to be reminded that I am alone and that it quite possibly is my fault.
Dating really takes it out of me. I’ll keep trying, though. As God told my sister this morning, “You have to be in it to win it.”