I burned a sauce. It was a simple sauce: Can of expensive tomatoes. Stick of butter. Whole onion, halved. Simmer for 45 minutes. 45 Minutes later it was burned.
45 minutes later I cried that I had burned a simple sauce after calling my partner and telling him that I couldn’t eat because the kitchen was a mess. I can’t eat when the kitchen is a mess. A remnant from my childhood OCD that I have convinced myself is gone now, but it really isn’t. It never left.
This was five minutes ago.
I’ve reached a really precarious milestone in the life of a depressive person. It’s the time in your life when you finally feel like an adult of some kind. You finally have stability and love and plenty of food in the fridge, but you still… sink.
Truth be told, I saw this point coming. In terms of peaks and valleys, or plateaus and valleys when you suffer from chronic depression, I thought this valley would come later. Maybe after a kid or two, but definitely post 30. In my head, the mathematical formula of when I would lose my mind over a pot of burned sauce didn’t account for one particular variable: chronic illness.
Valleys used to come a few times a year. Now they come a few times a month. Everything is expedited when you’re in pain every minute of every hour of every day. Everything is expedited because everything is slowed down. Time means nothing anymore because this is one of those things that time doesn’t heal.
It’s all very sad. But you try not to be sad because it makes everything worse. You try not to grieve because you’re not dead yet, but the more you avoid the grief the more you wish you were dead because at least then the pain would stop. But you don’t really wish you were dead. Not always.
Depression I know. We’re fast friends. I’m even acquainted with Death. He haunts me on a regular basis. But Disability and Pain-Without-Ceasing, those two are new to the party and they’re much less fun than the other two.
I cried over burned sauce just ten minutes ago because it often feels like I can no longer care for myself. I can no longer care for the human being that I am because it feels like part of the soul of that human being has already given up on living.
Back in the before, I was vibrant. I was self sufficient. I took the world by its balls and carried them around like a trophy because I was untameable. Uncatchable. I had every will to live and every desire to see what everyone and everything had to offer. I was a fire that could never stop burning… until I did.
Part of me always knew that I was never meant to slow down. It always felt like if I let the blaze wain, it would just go out. In a world where your body keeps every record of wrong, my body was trying to tell me that she was badly hurt underneath the flames and if those bruises and scars were not constantly being purified by the fire, they would fester and render me incapable. Maybe I should have listened, but maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
I cried over burnt sauce because I didn’t used to care about what went into my body, but now I have to. There are talks of food journals and anti-inflammatory diets that fill me with anger because my blood is supposed to be resilient. My heritage was supposed to make me hearty and sturdy and instead I think I inherited all the bad blood in my lineage to ease the burden off of everyone else. I was supposed to be strong, but I’ve always been weak. Fragile.
And I often have the courage to say that I wish it were cancer. I wish it was something I could cure or something that would kill me soon enough to live fully on that last stretch. But instead there’s no end. There’s no cure. Just pain that I have to ignore for the sake of myself and those around me.
Instead I’m sitting here sobbing at a fucking computer and finally grieving the loss of my fire and my youth. I’m thinking about the lovely life I built for myself and cursing God because maybe rejecting the religion of my parents really is worthy of punishment. Maybe my heretical ways really are eating me alive. Maybe my mother and my father were right: there is no peace apart from fundamental bullshit to keep me in line. Maybe God does punish and does not love, like an abusive parent that cannot love you if you are not what they want you to be.
But I don’t really believe that. I don’t think so, anyway.
What I really believe is that we all have our burdens to bear in a life that is not fair. In a world where justice hardly ever seems to prevail, all of this is just some cosmic fuck up that had to hit someone and that someone just so happened to be me. I’m not the only one and I’m not the last one.
They say that chronic pain is tied to some sort of trauma in your life, usually physical but greatly exacerbated by psychological. Everything that has ever happened to me that was out of my control is very likely the cause of this pain that will never leave me alone.
I’m not so good at grieving. I’ve stopped crying about burning my sauce and instead just finished crying about what that sauce brought up: the unadulterated fact that I am now disabled.
There are days where I cannot walk without a cane or hardly at all. There are moments when sharp bursts of fiery pain jut out and then ease off, leaving me breathless wherever I happen to be. Then there are the days when my depression creeps in and settles in for the ride, thinking it’s a grand old time to be in on my misery. A misery that plenty of people don’t see and that some people choose to deny.
That’s one of the worst parts, convincing people of your pain. But you can’t really read this essay aloud every time someone asks you what’s wrong with you. That wouldn’t be kind. It would be a very accurate description and a full view of the situation, but it wouldn't be kind. You can’t go around telling people that there are moments in your life that your pain is so great you simply want to dissolve into the air. They’d institutionalize you.
Unfortunately for me, I have a great personality. I’m funny and witty and smart as all get out. To cope, I make jokes and I tell the world that it’ll all be fine because what else can you say about something that will torment you forever. We’ll all get used to it or pretend to in the meantime. The contraptions and idiotic solutions are a source of entertainment. The colorful cane is another accessory. And a wheelchair at Disneyland? A golden ticket to the ultimate and most efficient amusement park experience. You tell people there are pros, like a hot tub in your backyard and foot rubs at night, but there are no pros. I’d give it all up to be on fire again.
And now that I’m done crying comes the wave of acceptance. This is my life from now on. Plateaus and valleys of pain and depression. Disability placards and wheelchairs. No more galavanting all over the world and being stranded overnight in a strange city. No more solo travel at all, actually. All of that is unsafe and a recipe for burned sauces and disaster. I have to accept that doctors and loved ones alike will always have a hard time believing that I am in excruciating pain and not simply being “dramatic.” I have to accept that this is it. Forever.
From time to time, little things like burned sauce will send me over the edge into a valley. Life will seem like an insurmountable journey until it feels manageable again. And then the cycle will loop back around until something comes along to kill me and take away the pain.
My hands smell like the onion I cut in half to put into the sauce. And it should drive me crazy, but there are no more tears. I’ve grieved enough for today. Not enough, but enough for now. There is no more roaring fire. Only embers. But they can set a blaze, right?
My birthday is in two days. I’ll be losing my dad’s health insurance and gain my partner’s. Of all the things that could go wrong, that is not one of them. But even still, the journey starts again of convincing people that something is indeed wrong with me. Maybe this valley is deeper than others because life only gets more complicated the longer you live it. And when you are reminded of your birth, you are reminded of your death and all the complicated feelings you may have surrounding that. This may pass soon after my birthday, or it might linger for a while. But surely, it will pass because the embers stayed warm for another year. Maybe soon they’ll be hot enough to burn another sauce.