When I was going through a particularly manic phase about ten years ago, I was at the press club everyday chatting up the regulars, spending aimless afternoons playing shuffleboard. Then, like that, I was gone for weeks.
During my hiatus periods, I would get frantic calls from my buds. They would leave urgent messages on my answering machine wondering where I was. Had I put my car in a ditch somewhere? Was I lying in a pool of my own vomit in the upstairs bathroom?
It was never that glamorous.
Usually, I was working.
My pat answer to them when I finally went back to the club was this.
"You don't have to worry about me when you don't see me. You only have to worry about me when you do see me."
The sight of a Rose cut in the afternoon was a sign of trouble.
I was trying to outrun my problems.
Being a single mother is a tough road, fraught with potholes and detours. The schools are against you. The banks are against you. Your ex-husband is against you. And yes, sometimes the kids are against you, too.
When I finally made the decision to quit drinking in the afternoon, I started gambling. I spent hours at the Rideau Carleton Slots. In those days, I had money, so I spent my support money on the care and feeding of the kids and putting a roof over their heads, and I spent the money I made on gambling. Anti-gambling advocates might be hoping I would say that I lost my shirt. Nope, back in those days, before the video slots started to suck the wallets out of people's back pockets, you could actually make money or break even at the slots. You just had to have enough money to keep playing.
Besides, playing the slots was never about money for me. Like afternoon drinking, it was simply about escape. Like Bill Murray said in What about Bob?, I was simply taking a vacation from my problems.
I took a lot of vacations back then.
I don't gamble anymore. Don't have the money for it, and don't see the point of it.
I don't go downtown drinking in the afternoon -- or anytime for that matter. Again, I don't have the money to do it and I don't see the point of it.
Two years ago, I turned to exercise as my outlet. Every day, when Scott went to work, I'd suit up and pound the elliptical or the rowing machine. The exercise made me feel good, inside and out.
But something happened three months ago.
The gym didn't do it for me anymore.
My decline began gradually. I went from working out for an hour to a half hour.
Then I stopped going everyday.
Then, I stopped going totally and put my membership on hold.
It was about the same time that I stopped blogging every day.
First I stopped gradually, putting in a blog every couple of days. Then I stopped completely.
Depression has many faces. It disguises itself as addiction. It feeds on inertia.
I learned years ago that I couldn't drink away depression. I couldn't gamble it away.
And surprisingly, this year, I learned that I could run it off, either.
I just had to learn to stop, stare it straight in its ugly face, and get on with it.
For me, depression comes with living in bad circumstances.
And we have bad circumstances in spades these days.
Two dogs dying in two months. A husband and son out of work. Becoming the breadwinner on a freelance salary.
Fighting, fighting, fighting until you don't have a breath left in you.
Being a single mom gave me a Master's Degree in juggling. This year, I got my PhD.
I used to subscribe to the theory that "it gets better".
But now I know that not to be true.
Especially as you round the corner toward the end of your life, you have to accept that life is just what it is.
Things don't always get better.
A lot of times, they get much worse.
Today, I will be venturing back into the gym for the first time in 90 days. I will be going because I want to make sure that I do whatever I can to ward of disease and disability.
Heck, I can barely afford my blood pressure medication as it is.
There's no money for high falutin' drugs.
The gym isn't free but it's a lot cheaper than the alternatives.
And it's still the best way to give depression the finger.