A Chemical Crisis Vs. An Existential Crisis


I told Scott yesterday that I think I’m depressed.  That it feels like a wave has crashed over me and I’m barely able to hold on – only having the rare moment when I’m graced with the ability to break free and take in a deep gasping breath of air before I am pulled back under.  I told him that I am barely able to hold on during the day – that it is only out of sheer will that I am not breaking down and into tears at any given moment.

How long?  He asked. How long have you been feeling like this?  It seems like you’ve only been like this since the weekend.

I thought about it.

Since Saturday.  Saturday morning.  When I started writing about everything in present tense.  When I started going back there.  It feels like it’s happening all over again. 

This exercise in telling my story in present tense – like I’m back there, like I’m sitting in that room on that apple green carpet again is shaking me to my core.  And maybe I need to be shaken, maybe that’s the way that I will able to rid myself of these nightmares – by talking about them, telling those stories.  Making them real again by putting myself there again.  In that house.  In that room.

How is it so easy to be seemingly detached while talking about this in past tense and then I fall apart when I take “was” and turn it into “am”?

It is seeping into my brain – I can’t concentrate, I’m distracted, I think I’m depressed, I think I’m too weak to do this.

I told Scott that I thought I was depressed yesterday afternoon, that I thought it had come over me like a tsunami – a way that I knew in the back of my mind would be an extremely rare way for Clinical Depression to present itself.

And then I read this incredibly timely passage last night in Dani Shapiro’s memoir Devotion…

“The key word was doing. Not thinking, or wishing, or contemplating.  Not staring into space.  Not succumbing to dismay.  Recently I went to see a friend, a psychopharmacologist, because I had begun to wonder if thinking about all this stuff all the time was making me unwell. ‘You’re not having a chemical crisis, Dani,’ he told me.  ‘You’re having an existential crisis.’ It wasn’t getting easier because it isn’t supposed to get easier.”

I was rocked by that quote.  I read it at the exact moment I needed to.  Like it was placed there for me.  Like someone turned the page to the passage I needed to read, to absorb, in order to permit myself to feel awash with these emotions I’ve been feeling.

I am not depressed.  I am feeling.  I am remembering.  I am reliving.

I am moving closer in order to walk away.

And that is difficult, and hard.

I am not unwell, I am getting better.





  1. says

    I know that feeling you get when you find a quote that was meant for you. And you can’t figure out how it landed in your brain right at the precise moment you needed it. Like maybe there’s a divine intelligence coursing through everything. Maybe none of this is as random and unfair as we think it is. Maybe.

  2. says

    I have never shed a tear while telling my story. Listening to other people tell it makes me cry without fail. It’s all about perspective. Listen to that quote – Keep doing.

    • says

      I cannot tell you how much this means coming from you, Jacy. You are a woman who has beaten odds, who continues to do so by trying to prevent your past from becoming someone else’s future. I admire you – what you have done and where you are going. Thank you for this. xoxo, J.

  3. says

    Jamie, I could have written that post, perhaps not so eloquently, but I have had those feelings. It’s so hard to go back to dark times, when writing – really any time. Wow. Keep writing! I wish I had stuck to it back when.

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