The brownie that was too heavy to lift:
I had taken Sunday off, to have a “Sabbath Sunday” with my family. (For more on “Sabbath,” see Mary Ann McKibben’s blog myblueroom.wordpress.com and book “Sabbath in the Suburbs”)
It was in October, and we had planned on camping on Assateague Island, with the wild ponies and another family for the weekend. But we checked the weather Thursday night, and realized that we would be camping in the rain, and high winds, and cold, none of which is fun on the beach. So we started looking up deals for hotels, and found a great one – Around $100 for a room with a balcony – Perfect!
What could be better? Other than the forecast, I mean. I had a normal non-work weekend ahead of me. We were with my best friend and her family. We had a lovely hotel room. AND the weather forecasters ended up being wrong! The weather was gorgeous. We were going to hike Assateague with the ponies, hang out on the beach, look for shells, play games, let the kids run wild.
And yet, I was not well. Yes, I was a master at faking it, but I was getting worn out with the faking. The façade of wellness was crumbling right in front of everyone, in spite of how hard I had tried to keep up appearances. Ocean City! The beach! Great friends! Time off! Family! Hanging out on the balcony watching the sunset with HOMEMADE BROWNIES! Truly, how could life get any better than this?
But none of the externals had a chance against the torments I was carrying in my brain, how my own brain had turned on me and was torturing me. I could see the brownies sitting there. I saw everyone reach in and grab one. I could vaguely remember that I used to adore brownies and anything chocolate. But now? In spite of everything that seemed so good, inside my brain was so bad. Life felt too heavy. That brownie felt too heavy – literally too heavy to lift. The two inch by two inch chocolate blissfulness was too heavy for my arm to hold, for my hand to grasp, for my fingers to fold around. There was no way I could get that brownie to my mouth, or figure out if it was worth the effort, or why I would want to. It all felt like too much effort, and even that thought made me want to cry.
We understand depression so much better than my first episode, at age 16, (I didn’t know what it was then.) We know so much more than when I was first diagnosed, more than 10 years ago. Researchers haven’t pinpointed what is responsible, what is going wrong, in a brain experiencing depression; it’s so terribly complex. Scientists are getting closer, thankfully. The chocolate that would normally give me a wonderful shot of dopamine – that is, the pleasure and reward neurochemical – well, in my brain, right then, that dopamine was lacking, or wasn’t being produced, or wasn’t being received by the neurons. We aren’t sure exactly how dopamine is involved, and we know it’s more than dopamine, but it has a role to play. Indeed, that brownie, the thought of that brownie, the anticipated taste of that brownie: It was all too heavy for my brain to lift that day.
That was one unarguable sign that all was not well inside my brain, that I turned down chocolate. (Don’t worry: I’m all for chocolate now!)