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A Perfect Day For Bananafish

A Perfect Day For Bananafish

Feet in the sand.

Friends, I am in a bit of a funk.

What constitutes a “funk” for somebody who is already medicated for major clinical depression?

Before medication, a funk as such did not happen. It couldn’t — I was already too far down all of the time. Before you are medicated, you are better at coping because you don’t really know what it is to feel good. You don’t really even know what normal is. Your coping mechanisms are constantly exercised and they are strong, and even if you feel like dying there is something that is defiant about depression in that state — like you are somehow heroic for persisting in spite of it all. The peculiar egotism of depression in its full blown, unaltered state can insulate you for years at a time, even if those years are gloomy and unremarkable; even if you have to wade through those years with your head down and your shoulders unconsciously hunched over most of the time.

The few times I have had to feel the full force of my depression since I first started a successful medication routine might be compared to what I imagine is the difference between being born blind versus having sight and then losing it. It is crippling. All that time you spent living your life and feeling good, your depression was hiding out, doing pushups and staying in shape, waiting for you to forget to take your drugs. And after being off them for a week or so, you’re plunged back in, but this time your coping mechanisms are down, and what’s worse: you know the difference between this and how you can feel.

But that is not the same thing as a funk.

There’s no connection in my life between problems and depression. I have problems, I don’t have them — whatever, I still have depression. If I stay on my medicine, then I am like somebody living with any chronic illness — possibly even less so, since my condition only requires that I take a pill and visit my therapist regularly. I do not have to inject insulin, change my diet, or worry about horrific side effects from experimental drug cocktails. It’s easy, sometimes, to think of it as not a big deal. You start to navigate the world almost like a normal person, and you have the ability to feel what a funk is. That alone is a luxury — that I don’t have real problems, that I only have the frustrations that are a side effect of living one’s life.

Lately, I have the feeling that I’ve not accomplished enough, that my failure is inevitable and I should just cut my losses. I have the anxiety that something will go wrong, and the stress from being pulled in opposite directions by people with opposing agendas. I have the nagging feeling that I’ve always had: that what I think or feel, or my perspective on things, does not matter to most of the significant figures in my life. I have petty jealousies and annoyances. I am furious, for example, that a couple I know was on Flipping Out the other night and I am unable to reconcile how they can have enough money, given their respective jobs and ostensible salaries, to live the way they do, where they do, and to have Jeff Lewis redo their house. And then, worse: I have the fury with myself that comes from not wanting to be the kind of person who keeps tabs on people like this.

But I am — I am that kind of person. I want Jeff Lewis to redo my house, and I want success yesterday. As much as I want to pretend like I can just improve myself to the point that these things don’t bother me, I can’t. Sometimes I think that it must have been during those unmedicated years, back when I was just trying to survive, that I missed something essential to growing up. And now, I’m here, medicated, but unable to accept or work through the fact that I cannot wish away my imperfections and my defects of character.

When I get like this I look at Mini and the perfectness of his eyes and his skin, and his joy with the newness of everything in the world, and I use him as an escape. Mini can represent the only purely good thing in the world, the only thing that is always good and beautiful. At night, I will stare at his eyes in the dim glow of his nightlight, and sing him to sleep, and I take solace in the idea that if I do nothing else, at least I had Mini. And even as I allow myself this selfish luxury, I remind myself of the time that is coming, when he will have to move away from me, when I will have to let him go. And I hope, I really hope, that I will be strong enough to do it.

Comments (37)

  1. Sep 9, 2010

    Oh, mama. I hear you.

  2. Sep 9, 2010

    This is a really beautifully written post, Anna. I know my little guy represents the same kind of escape for me – loving & being loved so deeply makes the ups & downs of life worth it all.

  3. Sep 9, 2010

    I’m feeling something similar these days. I wish you well.

  4. Kader
    Sep 9, 2010

    I hear you. Yes I do.
    No medications have worked for me. Also, I suspect that my constant depression is not as deep as yours is/was.
    I, too, pour my heart into the little boy who lives here with us. He seems so improbably perfect, given his genetic composition. I hope, on a daily basis, that he is spared some or most of my anxiety and depression.
    Also, even though I recognize that you are dealing with purely internal issues, I think of you as successful and brave and brilliant and articulate and seriously damn funny. Just in case that helps in any way.

  5. Sep 9, 2010

    This may be my favorite post of yours.

  6. Sep 9, 2010

    Oh, Anna.

    All of those feelings and fears – while not based necessarily in reality – are so, so normal.

    And so is the blissful escape into our perfect babies.

  7. Sep 9, 2010

    Sometimes, when I read this post or your posts about body image, I get this overwhelming sense that the pursuit of perfection is suffocating you. Just crushing you. You are not perfect, I am not perfect, and (please don’t cut me) Mini is not perfect. Perfection is not ours to own.

    The secret is learning that our job isn’t to fix the defects of character, or to overcome them, or even to embrace them and turn them to our advantage, unless you are some sort of guru. Our job is to make sure they don’t blot out our strengths of character.

    And your strengths are so very, very strong.

  8. Sep 9, 2010

    Whew, I am sorry. It sounds like a very funky funk. I hope it is not Seymour Glass bad. You DO have so many strengths and you are Mini’s mom, which is a lot. Hang in there. I hope the fog starts clearing soon.

  9. Sep 9, 2010

    Wow, I followed marinka’s link over here and am so glad I did. You are a beautiful writer. I am on pills which are attempting to keep illness – and consequently the funks at bay. When they don’t work, I too use my children as an escape. A way to pull me out of that dark “why bother anymore” place because they are the answer to that question. We bother because they need us and we don’t want to miss a second of their lives. When they leave us we’ll know we did our jobs but even then there is so much more to see. Being here to see it is the greatest gift ever!

  10. Sep 9, 2010

    Is it raining there?? I find that my depression is worse when it is gray and cloudy. Given all that I know what you mean. I have been feeling this way a lot lately. Hope it is better soon ((hugs))! Beatifully written by the way!!

  11. Sep 9, 2010

    You’re stronger than you think and deeper than you let on. It’s okay to be human. Sending you hugs.

  12. Sep 10, 2010

    Love the Salinger reference, although I don’t really like his writing all that much. I can totally relate to how you feel, although I’m not on medication and don’t have the perfection of Mini to help me through those rough days. I HATE feeling jealous when someone I know gets something I want, hate feeling petty and small, but I can’t seem to help myself. Oh well, just know that there’s someone out there who can relate, while being a bit jealous of you too.

  13. Sep 10, 2010

    What Jenny said. Truly.

  14. Sep 10, 2010


  15. Sep 10, 2010

    Thanks, Esther.

  16. Sep 10, 2010

    Thanks, maybe there’s some kind of flu going around? Wishful thinking.

  17. Sep 10, 2010

    Thanks, Kate. I probably just need to get out of myself a little bit more. But I’ll be OK.

  18. Sep 10, 2010

    Really? Is it because I admitted to being jealous of Jeff Lewis redoing somebody else’s house? In any case, thanks.

  19. Sep 10, 2010

    Thanks, Britt. I’m not sure how normal I am, but you might be right about the feelings anyway.

  20. Sep 10, 2010

    You are probably right, but it’s unfortunately something I’ve been doing for my whole life. I’m painfully aware that I’m not perfect now, but the thing I struggle with is the impossibility of ever being perfect, even though I know that is insane.

    Now, re: Mini, I will allow you that he’s not perfect: he refuses to eat vegetables. But other than that, 100% perfect. πŸ™‚

  21. Sep 10, 2010

    No, not Seymour Glass bad. That story just sort of came to mind, but no DON’T WORRY there is no Seymour Glass ending in the picture. Thanks.

  22. Sep 10, 2010

    Hi Annie, welcome, and thanks. I absolutely find strength in my need to be a good mother to Mini. Sometimes I just struggle to hide from him how I am feeling, but I always know that I will find the strength from somewhere to give him what he needs. There’s some consolation in that.

  23. Sep 10, 2010

    Becca, it’s a little cloudy but to be honest if this is not just a sort of cyclical funk I’m in it might be that the drugstore sent a generic version of my medicine and it might not be working as well. Sometimes it’s something that simple, which is a little bit frightening.

  24. Sep 10, 2010

    Thanks, Jenny. I’m very deep — like a bottomless pit of need. It’s very attractive. πŸ™‚

  25. Sep 10, 2010

    Thanks. πŸ™‚

  26. Sep 10, 2010

    Thanks for commenting J. Have you ever thought about trying medication out? This post notwithstanding, I am ordinarily so much better as a result of my treatment. We can’t do anything about the jealousies and all that stuff, but it does really make a huge difference if you find medicine that works for you.

  27. Sep 10, 2010

    I don’t think there’s any way I can say, “Everyone else feels all of those things too” in a way that is convincing enough. But they do.

    I have no advice, because if I knew of the cure for funk, I would sell it and make a fortune. Except I would totally give you a huge discount.

  28. Sep 10, 2010

    Your title–I re-read that story last year because of my Mad Men obsession. My favorite thing, aside from the insanely perfect symbol of the bananafish hiding and then growing stuck in their hole, is the image of Seymour wearing that damned robe on the beach so that people wouldn’t stare at his (nonexistent) tattoo. Anything that gets you to drop the robe, anything that helps you forget the tattoo, those are good things.

  29. Laura
    Sep 10, 2010

    I wasn’t going to comment because internal dissonance is the absolute worst, and let’s face it, the brain wants what the brain wants and sometimes that amounts to a black smog of funk. How’s that for a run-on sentence? I wish there were something I could say to lift the brain pollution for you. Alas, it is what it is. I also understand this funky feeling too well. I’m constantly amazed at your honesty and bravery. It sets you apart in a really good way. Sending you a Peggy Olson (Mad Men reference) hand squeeze because hugs can be a little much when you’re in a funky place.

  30. Sep 10, 2010

    This is one of the best descriptions of what it is like to be in the full of depression and not really know it and then what it feels like (and how very scary it is) to fall back into after knowing what it is like to you be yourself again. Scary as hell.

    I do hope this is just a funk. I am in one, myself. Maybe it is a weird flu?

    Either way, remember to cut yourself some slack. It is hard not to want to polish all the imperfections out, I know. But we are all divine nonetheless.

  31. Sep 10, 2010

    sorry about the funk. i think we all have these moments. i’ve been having a lot lately and crawling in bed with my babies does help. i’m glad you have mini.

  32. Sep 10, 2010

    I third what Jenny said.

  33. Sep 10, 2010

    Girl, I feel like this all the time. You are OK, whether or not the meds are working.

    Peace, Anna.

  34. Sep 10, 2010

    Anna, you’re right, of course. I’ve never been blessed enough to find a medicine that didn’t leave me completely flat rather than depressed, but if you’ve found one that works I would be all over your pharmacy. I just mentioned the rain b/c it rained here yesterday, and all I wanted to do was cuddle with my wife and sleep! πŸ™‚

  35. Michelle
    Sep 12, 2010

    Imperfections? Are you recovering Catholic or something? Jealousy over an interior designer is HUMAN. It’s part of who you are. You like nice things, you enjoy pop culture and you like inviting crazy people into your life.

    Embrace you. “The kind of person who” is ridiculous. I spent my teen years saying I hated fashion because I didn’t want to be ‘the kind of girl who’ just cared about clothes and make-up. Except that some of the girls were vapid and some were straight-A and at least they were being themselves. Embrace yourself for all parts of your personality. You are you, not some ‘kind of person.’

  36. Sep 12, 2010

    “I have the nagging feeling that I’ve always had: that what I think or feel, or my perspective on things, does not matter to most of the significant figures in my life.”

    That is just plain sad. But as Kerry says, probably common.

    So here’s a question: does it matter?

    Maybe your perspective can’t be appreciated by those figures but can be appreciated by others.

    I appreciate your perspective Anna.

  37. Denise
    Sep 15, 2010

    Heart you, Anna. Keep on trucking. πŸ˜€

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