Five years ago Jon and I took a mid-week afternoon drive through the Alpine Loop to take photographs of burnt red trees and the sharp shadows of aspens standing in formation, ready to march, waiting for a signal. We stopped for lunch at Sundance, several memory cards full of images telling the story of the mountain’s transformation.
Jon looked at me over my iced tea and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know what to say to him because, while I knew there was something wrong, I didn’t know what it was.
What is worse? Being sad because something tragic has happened, or being sad because that is all your brain knows how to do? The tragedy will lose its swelling with time, but your brain stubbornly follows you, leads you, sticks it’s finger in your eye when you wake up in the morning and realize, fuck, I’m still alive.
My psychiatrist recently told me that more people commit suicide in March and September than during any other time of year. The rapid change in light, he says, roughs up those of us who have those frayed circuits in our brains, even if we’re medicated. Even if we’ve eliminated the toxins from our diet and meditate on the beach and have hours and hours of raucous sex with the person we love.
At Sundance Jon told me that ever since the day he rushed up those stairs on Stanley Avenue, taking two at a time, and we didn’t leave the apartment for days, he’s watched this sickening descent unfold every September. Neither of us knew then the reason. There had been no tragedy, at least nothing so awful that would have made me feel, there at that table in the middle of the lodge, like crawling under my chair to pull my knees to my chest so that I could muffle the sobbing.
Now we know, and I thought that the knowing would make it easier. And it has in that September will turn into October and October will merge with November, and I won’t be sitting at my desk feeling sad for no goddamn reason. But it’s knowing that there is no reason that makes it even more unbearable. Because as much as a person with depression is sad, we are the same measure of angry that we can’t just stop feeling this way.
Now that we know, I finally have an excuse to look forward to winter.