Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crying on the bus

It’s about 5:30pm on a Wednesday evening in July and I am just about halfway home on the 38 along Geary, one of the main heartlines of San Francisco. I’ve just worked a full, satisfying day, rising at 6:30am and writing from 7am to about 10am. I had enough time to cook myself a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, cheese, and turkey, served on a bed of arugula and accompanied by a steaming cup of black coffee. By 11:15am I was on the bus downtown, where I put in another easy five hours at the bike shop. I had watched the sunlight fall golden on a red Velorbis and thought about how I should have photographed it in that moment, but then a customer had walked in, and the sun fell behind the tall buildings along Market Street. I had to run only a little bit to catch the bus home. I think I may have dropped a laundry quarter, but that’s okay. I was feeling pretty good -- tired, but good. I could let the quarter go. Maybe someone else would find it and use it.

But it’s now about 5:30pm, and I tell myself, “No, not here,” but I can’t stop crying. I’m thinking about how tomorrow I have an intake appointment at a center in the Haight tomorrow and how I hope that my limited income will render the sessions as close to free as possible, otherwise I may not be able to afford them, and I need them … very very badly. I think I’m crying because I’m relieved, because I’m tired of feeling like this, because everything seems so overwhelming and all my usual coping strategies aren’t working, because I have a fungal skin infection that won’t seem to go away (and that I probably got because depression compromises your immune system), because everything hurts so deeply and I don’t know why, because the things that used to make me feel fulfilled have ceased to bring me happiness, because one moment I’m okay and the next I am not, because this is not who I am, because maybe I’ll finally get an answer.

Window 1 by Yours Truly

I get off the bus, only a few blocks from home, but can’t maintain my composure any longer, so I turn the corner, walk a few steps, and sit down on a raised sidewalk planter to rest and to cry. To my relief, it is shrouded by the weeping branches of some sort of small willow tree, so the space feels private, and to further insulate myself, I hold my face in my hands. I’m not sure why I feel compelled to hide. I’m not particularly embarrassed to be crying in public. I guess it’s because the pain -- or whatever you want to call it -- it’s just so piercing and so profound that it calls everything to it. It focuses like light under a magnifying glass and splits my heart into two. What does it feel like when your heart breaks? It feels like being punched in the stomach, like having the breath knocked out of you. It feels like dying, like everything inside of you is wilting at time lapse speed. There are lots of reasons my heart could be breaking right now, but only darkness fills my mind, and then a throbbing, red light, the way I imagine a wound looks under the skin. I hear it my mind, a pulsing pressure in my ears. I cry because I can do nothing else.

Lying on the floor smoking a cigarette in long exposure.

I’m not a weak person. I’m a strong person. I’m a fearless person. I split lanes on my bicycle, weaving in and out of traffic just because I can. I’m not always a smart person, but I’m not a timid person either. To succumb to this … it’s a big thing. It’s bigger than I am -- much much bigger. It’s as big as the ocean and the sky seeping into one another in the middle of the blackest night, and standing on the shore you wonder if you might be standing at the edge of the world. If you step too far, you might fall into oblivion. The weight of it can be spiritually crushing.

But then I’m done. It stops. It subsides, receding like a wave ebbing. I’m not necessarily okay, but I’m functional again. I get up without glancing at who might have seen me -- I don’t care. I have a lot of things I want to accomplish today. I am not all right, but I am okay. I can do this.

A younger self would have been angry. I am frustrated, but I am patient. Before I steadfastly believed I was in control of this sadness, that its presence was an indication of my failure to cope and be grateful. I believed I was sad because I wasn’t trying hard enough, and that finding myself crying inexplicably was just because I was too lazy to do something else. Now I know better, now I am more gentle with myself. More and more research reveals that depression is a result of a malfunctioning brain, that neither yoga nor eating more greens nor volunteering nor spending more time with friends can fix it. In better times, those things will help stave off more extreme mood swings, but right now I am stuck, and I can’t even get to the point where things like that would actually help.

Window 2

So I cry. I don’t want to, but I can’t help it. I let the tears flow wherever I am, and I let people help me or I let people take a step back or I let people do nothing at all. I am frustrated, but I know it will be better … perhaps not tonight, perhaps not tomorrow, perhaps not even in a month … but eventually I’ll be okay, just like I was before.


  1. A worthy look into the difficult rigors of depression. Thank y ou for finding it in yourself to share this.
    Its a well-communicated and heartfelt perspective that, from hearing most people talk about depression, very few people are aware of.
    May others be moved as have I, and have their eyes opened as mine have.
    Stay beautiful.