A few years ago, I stayed in bed as the minutes clicked well past my usual rising time 9 a.m. The same hooded sweatshirt and jeans I’d worn the past several days were draped forlornly across the bench at the foot of my bed. A stack of delivery menus were splayed out on the floor. I eyed them, almost lacking the energy to even reach for one and make the call for a toasted bagel. But it seemed easier than even walking to the kitchen for cereal. If there even was any—I probably hadn’t managed to go to the grocery store.
“Clinically depressed”: That’s what my insurance forms stated, per reports from my therapist. One report even specifically said that I had improved from moderately depressed to mildly depressed, but I knew that was mostly because I had started pretending I was feeling better at my weekly sessions. I felt required to display some sort of improvement even without feeling it.
Leaving my apartment for work was a necessity that I dreaded on weekdays. Weekends were my haven where I could hide and wallow in the darkness of my thoughts away from the pretenses of my carefully neutral public facade. What no one actually knew was that the concept of getting dressed was too much. Or that, for days on end, I would wrap myself in my comforter and turn on a television I didn’t have energy to watch just to drown out the noise in my head while ignoring phone calls and texts. While lonely and painful, this place was a relief because no one was watching. I could hurt openly. Away from prying questions that I couldn’t answer because I didn’t know how to put into words how terrible I felt all the time. There didn’t seem to be an adequate or appropriate explanation I could offer.
My bed became the restaurant when and if I could manage to eat. Sometimes it was just me, my cereal bowl and the phone I refused to acknowledge. Other times, my takeout containers joined me. Local delivery options recognized my voice and memorized my order, an accomplishment that I found morose and funny at the same time. “Yes it’s me again,” I wanted to say. “You and your delivery guy are my only form of social interaction today.”
Then there was the no good very bad day. Up until then, most days had felt equally desolate. But this day was different. I woke up listlessly, as had been the norm, feeling empty, bottomed out on sadness, and lethargic. I was too drained emotionally to even get up and brush my teeth. Suddenly I burst into tears, sobs that left my throat aching, my body trembling and my face puffy and unrecognizable. I want to stop, I thought. I want this to stop. I need to feel better.
In a rush of determination I put on yesterday’s clothes—yesterday being a loose term that encompassed the entire week—grabbed my keys, and ran down three flights to my car. If I waited for the elevator I might’ve changed my mind.
I went to the closest deli and bought a bagel. I know I looked awful, I was still shaky from crying so hard, and I wasn’t even sure that I was hungry. But it was an act of defiance. Breaking out of my routine of sadness, and as I returned back to my apartment I felt the smallest glimmer of hope for a second. Maybe I could feel better, maybe the tiniest things could help. I had gotten out of bed for something other than my job and survived. Maybe I’d even try again next week.
And it did become a weekly ritual. Forcing myself to go out and “eat a little something.” I continued to deal with my anxiety and emotional tumult, but leaving my bed to eat felt like a small way of fighting back so that I wasn’t completely lost in its debilitating grip.
These small breakfast excursions didn’t give me my life back. They didn’t magically cure the depression that clung to my every thought. But they were moments I had decided I could handle. Regardless of the pain I was struggling through internally, I could manage to pull myself out of bed for a few bites to start the day. Somehow it helped.