05/15/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Depression: The Post Script

The other night I cried so hard that I bruised.

And it wasn't just the usual petechiae under the eyes one would get from, say, vomiting, or being choked. My entire forehead was dotted with purplish spots, to the point that when I lifted my hair away and saw them, I thought that somehow, all of my future age spots decided to appear at once and the fact that it was right after intense crying was a bizarre coincidence.

My poor husband was beside himself, trying to say and do the right things with really no idea of what those right things might be (if I didn't know, and I was the one having the breakdown, then he didn't stand a chance). He sat with me, closed the bedroom door so as not to frighten the dog, who was already whining and pacing (or the kids, for that matter, who were also already whining and pacing), and let me cry it out.

I've always rather envied the "traumatic breakthrough/breakdowns" As Seen On TV, where the person suffering from a depressive jag "sees the light" and has a profound revelation which will cure his/her depression for life. Me, I guess I'm not so lucky. My traumatic breakdown occurred because my husband asked whether I paid a credit card bill or if he was supposed to do it.

Afterward I was so embarrassed that all I could manage to say the rest of the evening and most of the next day was, "I'm sorry. I'm okay. Really. I'm sorry. I'm okay. I'm sorry." And while the crying didn't put an end to my misery, the next day I actually had moments where I stopped and realized I felt normal. Glimpses of my life started returning, and with them, hope.

As the glimpses came closer together over the next few days, I was able to make lists of things to do each day - a load of laundry, get to the grocery store, return phone calls, set up the dentist appointments - and was able to do them, if only a couple a day. The sense of accomplishment that comes with completing even a rudimentary task, to someone in the throes of depression, is an unbelievable upper. Oh, sure, I still took to the couch every so often, but one step at a time, people. One step at a time.

And then it was this morning. I awoke, as usual, to a cat biting my toes, and instead of the bored, "oh, the cat's biting my toes" response of late, I shouted, "Do you FREAKING mind?!" I made lunches instead of forcing my kids to eat school food because I couldn't get it together to make a sandwich. I showered and did the "look ten years younger in one week with this magic cream!" routine on my face. I blow-dried my hair. I graded papers. I looked at the clumps of dog and cat hair in the corners and thought, "time to vacuum", instead of, "hmmm, look at those clumps of dog and cat hair in the corners."

And here's when I knew the tide had shifted: when I returned to bed after completing my tasks, I got back up. I didn't want to sleep; I wanted to find a belt I'd lost. Yes, a belt. I'm telling you, it really is not all that dramatic. There are very few epiphanies. Depression is not like that. That's all on television. In real life - in my life, at least - it hits very ploddingly, and it lifts very ploddingly. A lot of plodding going on. In fact on paper, it's rather dull.
So that's where I'm at. Usually I write on more inane topics, like how I never got over the cancellation of "Sports Night" or how in the space of one menopausal night I can both sweat and freeze. But as I always tell my class, write about what you know - whatever that may be at the time. Sometimes it's bright and colorful and happy.

And sometimes, as we know, it's black and blue.