Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dead Watermelons, Dead Feelings

Hey! Look at this jellybean watermelon I grew!
Just kidding. I didn't grow this. Any possible melons I could have grown are dead.
"Let me rephrase. No... let me sum up"....

In the spring, my mom gave me two little watermelon plants from a batch she had bought. Now, I'm not a green thumb by any means, unless it's tropical indoor plants, and I think it was just dumb luck that I stumbled upon how to keep them alive. That, and my mom's example of semi-neglecting them. I mostly forget to water stuff, as I'm sure some of you can relate to. But anyway, I plopped those two little watermelon plants side by side in my ghetto side-yard. By plopped, I mean I dug a tiny hole against the shady part of a house in a yard that already gets very little sun, full of the most miserable dirt you can imagine, and kind of made a mini wall of dirt about 1ft in diameter around the plants. Then I dumped water on them, and dumped more water on them (with my neighbor's watering can), whenever I remembered, which was like every 3 days. By golly, those things grew like weeds after the first 2 weeks or so. You can barely imagine my delight at having grown something successfully with almost no effort. The better the plants did, the prouder I became, and it became a ritual to go out and water them with Ishmael and pull up the tiny weeds inside the dirt wall and imagine the beautiful little melons that would someday come from the multiple flowers on the vines.

One day, I went out there to water, and there was a little mound of dirt just outside my dirt wall (which is about an inch high) that was clearly made by gophers that are around, but hitherto had not entered into my list of worries. Half of one smallish stem of my plant was chewed off, which was faintly annoying, but no biggie - I could share with the little guys, right? I poked around the dirt mound and kind of marveled at the fact that I couldn't find any sort of hole, but again, it didn't concern me that much. I hoed the little mound semi-flat and went on my way. The next time I went out there, one of the plants had clearly died. I was flabbergasted and crushed and mightily infuriated, but I watered the hell out of what was left in desperate hopes that the other vine would be spared or that the chewed one could possibly bounce back with some nurturing. I mean, what's one or two less roots? Can't plants just grow some new ones and get on with things?

As I watered, the ground began to cave in under my plants and the river of water just disappeared into the abyss. One plant came up easily in my hand, but since the other didn't come up easily, I left it and poured more and more water down the hole in hopes that I could drown those mongrels and simultaneously save the remaining plant. As I'm sure you have foreseen, the other plant was equally dead the next day. Last night, I even dreamt that the 7 foot (no joke) sunflower that is thriving in the yard was prostrate on the ground as well. All I could think for an hour was, "I'm gonna get those ***** *******. What a bunch of ********", etc. (I've been binge watching a prison drama). Below is my newly dead plant in my unedited "yard". Below that, my Hyperbole-and-a-Half-style interpretation of how I felt about this, except I envisioned it at a whole other level of maniac-crazy-lady than this picture really illustrates:

Okay, so I was upset about my watermelon, but probably no one but my husband and mom really feel that sorry for me. Actually, Jonas was hurt when I said I'd like to take a shot gun to the gopher hole, so he's only kind of on my side. The larger story around this watermelon plant is about anger, cynicism and depression.

Depression is one of those things that I think is somewhat of a taboo subject, especially in Christian circles. As someone who struggles with it off and on (mostly off in the past 5 years, which is nice), even I half believe that it's only the byproduct of selfishness. There's no easy way to talk about depression without feeling like you're wallowing in self pity and fishing for affirmation from others. I don't know what I think about how much brain chemistry is involved, and what I should do with that knowledge, even if I was certain on it. For me at least, there's even a stigma around the term, "depressed", because it was really thrown around in high school as something that was kind of cool to be, like we were all deep thinkers and feelers and that caused us to mope around and write morbid poetry. "Emo", in other words. I know it was real for some kids - including myself in large part - but what I don't know is how much of that I spun by wading deeper and deeper into that culture.

Even though I know how to handle it when it strikes now, it's still debilitating. A more technical description I saw somewhere recently spoke of depression as a state in which you feel there is nothing to look forward to in all of life. I haven't experienced depression that extremely in a long time, but even while I have good things to live for (really good things), I can't force myself to care very much or get out of a funk and start living for them. All I can do is stare at the wall and realize that I don't have that much to complain about, yet I still feel paralyzed. Nothing is interesting, nothing is alluring. By "I know how to handle it", I mean that I know to pray through it, I know to get out and exercise, I know to latch on to anything that sparks my interest or a smile, and I do those things. Yet depression is a demon that has a mind of it's own.

Usually depression seems to be caused by something troubling in life, and then my emotions or chemicals or whatever spiral out of control until it stops being just about that thing and is its own thing. There have been things that upset and irritate me lately, but this time, I felt like the onset was particularly mysterious, and I began to panic that it would be a two year ordeal, as chronicled in this web comic (followed by part 2) about depression by Hyperbole and a Half, in which the first paragraph (actually, the whole darn thing) is so... right:
Some people have a legitimate reason to feel depressed, but not me. I just woke up one day feeling sad and helpless for absolutely no reason. It's disappointing to feel sad for no reason. Sadness can be almost pleasantly indulgent when you have a way to justify it - you can listen to sad music and imagine yourself as the protagonist in a dramatic movie. You can gaze out the window while you're crying and think "This is so sad. I can't even believe how sad this whole situation is. I bet even a reenactment of my sadness could bring an entire theater audience to tears." 
But my sadness didn't have a purpose.  Listening to sad music and imagining that my life was a movie just made me feel kind of weird because I couldn't really get behind the idea of a movie where the character is sad for no reason.  

Especially as a believer, imaging people crying at my miserable life in movie form (I do in fact do that), just makes me feel more disgusted with myself.

Thankfully, my depression spell only lasted for about a week and a half, but even that much sucks. When I'm depressed, I miss my real self. I miss thinking funny things are funny. I miss having things to contribute to conversations. Depression makes me feel like a mannequin standing outside of a restaurant and watching everyone have fun inside, and I kind of want to be in there, but kind of just don't care either. Literally, there's a ridiculous amount of just staring meaninglessly into space and trying to stab the already dead thoughts so that I can get out of the hole. The thought of taking medicine doesn't sound nice, even if I were willing to try it.

It's a hard thing to talk about because people worry if you say that balconies immediately make you think of suicide, and they wouldn't be remiss in being worried about that. I worry when people say stuff like that too. Depression makes your emotions so dull that you don't even really care if you think about death a lot, it just kind of seems normal and mundane. What can anyone do about it anyway? Talk it out? Then you just say more depressing stuff and people get more freaked out, which makes you feel worse, and focus on your depression even more.

The end of the second installment of the Hyperbole and a Half comic ends on a hopeful note. She sees a piece of corn under a fridge and somehow, somehow, it makes her laugh so wildly that something springs to life inside her, albeit a teeny, tiny shoot of life. Like I said, my latest experience was not that dramatic, and I think I know what pulled me out, and it's something that I kind of hate.

My level of depression often does want someone to ask me about it, let me get it all out, and somehow "get it", like understand how it can be so, well, depressing, and yet somehow trivial in a way. As in, I'm not really going to jump off anything, but the thought is real, the feeling is real. In a bizarrely nonchalant and noncommittal kind of way. My level of depression wants someone to know me so deeply that they can see it all, call it out, and somehow say "the right thing." Sometimes people ask me how I am, but it has to be the right person and the right moment to give as truthful an answer as "I kind of think about jumping off stuff." I mean, I'm a fairly happy person, and that is kind of a big bomb to drop. For better or for worse, I usually have to get to the point where I blurt out to Jonas, "something is wrong with me!" and I hate it coming to that and that being the moment where the depression dissipates, because a) he knows me enough to know that in the way that matters most, I'm only half-assing it with any seriously dark stuff and b) that being the tipping points somehow means that all I wanted all along was for him to pay attention to my twisted emotional psychosis.

When the watermelon incident happened, I was about one day removed from that humiliating end of the official internal crisis. It's freakish how much of a light-switch affect there seems to be between not being able to give a poop one day and giving one the next, even if it's angry. Still, the experience of not giving a poop about anything was fresh enough that I was worried that the watermelon debacle would send me into a backwards slide down the hill of pitiful terribleness. Strangely enough, when I brought the whole watermelon thing up at our Sunday night Bible study, I was suddenly regaled with many a tale of gopher issues, and somehow that made me feel so much better. Not because I'm glad other people's plants get ruined too, but I was just happy that everyone understood how genuinely disheartening it was. One guy even said he saw a 6-foot cilantro plant (cilantro grows to 6 feet???) pulled into the ground right before his eyes! I almost wish that the gophers had run off with my entire plant, because then I could be righteously angry in my mistaken assumption that someone must have stolen my plants. Anyway, gopher-hating solidarity is the best.

This entire past two weeks of dead feelings and gopher hating made me realize how cynical, intolerant, angry, unsatisfied, greedy, and irritable I've become. As far as I can tell, I'm not like that all the time, but recently, I have felt that my fuse is remarkably short. Not that I'm a Lord of the Rings nerd (because really, I am NOT), but I believe it's called "warmongering and malcontent." I mean, people really do get ridiculous and bigoted and rude and all, and I never love that, but I'm always taken aback when I realize that I'm being just as repugnant to feel so venomous toward them for it. Furthermore, since when did everything become about making me feel good? I've felt very convicted about that, but it doesn't actually make me feel any better. Which kind of comes back around to struggling with depression as a Christian. I think some amount of reflection on how terrible I am is healthy, but those are muddy, eel-infested waters.

I'm not even 22 years old, and I imagine myself like these lovely women from Monster's Inc. and Atlantis. All I need is a limp cigarette. Instead, I have gum (non-nicotine) that I chew with scorn and sass. [photos: 1, 2]

Anyway, I don't know where that leaves me (or you, reading) except that I've come to realize a problem, I'm trying to work on it. And thanks for listening. And I'm already plotting raised beds for planting next year. That, or a whole mini-field of sunflowers.

P.S. The secret to watering orchids is only water them when the moss feels bone dry, about once every week and half in my experience. They don't need direct sunlight (but it doesn't hurt them either), and if they need more light in the winter, you can put them in front of a mirror to help a bit. If the leaves or moss is still green, it's not a problem that the stems are dead.


  1. I feel ya sister! On allll of this. It's awful to be "in the depths of despair" (Anne Shirley style), and all you want is for someone to notice you and feel sorry for you, but at the SAME TIME be disgusted with your selfishness. Still working on how to take all these feelings to Jesus instead of trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

  2. Hey hon - I listed you as one of my Liebsters :) So I'm posting here (on one of my favourite posts of yours) to let you know. Would be fun to hear your answers, whether in a post or by email. Love you!


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