Cheers, from my anti-depressant to yours

It’s been just about a month since I started taking an anti-depressant. My drug of choice is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) called citalopram, popularly known as Celexa.

I need exogenous chemical intervention because I’ve been trying to fight off depression and anxiety for the past couple years, and I recently hit the bottom of the dark, gloomy pit.

Actually, if you’ve been following my blog, you might have realized long before me that I’ve been hitting the bottom over and over again. I can’t even give you links to particular blog posts that illustrate this problem. There are too many. Just go scroll if you must.

Actually, if you’re my husband, you’re apparently of the view that I’ve been hitting the bottom like a panicked fly smacking a clean window for the past decade and a half. Anthony started a sentence a couple weeks ago with, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” and I knew nothing good would follow. He finished the thought by remarking that I’ve been depressed, on and off, pretty much since my dad died in 2001.

* * * * *

So you might remember that when I popped my first pill, butterflies flew out of my ass.  The next pill, it was unicorns out my nose. Day three, a rainbow entered my left ear and exited my right, leaving a trail of glitter behind.

But look, never mind the butterflies and unicorns. This is kind of hard to talk about, kind of hard to admit that I’ve had a serotonin deficit for so long that I didn’t even notice it, kind of a bitter pill to admit that I’ve been harming myself and my family through my untreated long-term clinical depression.

On the other hand, it’s kind of easy to admit that the drug is working.  It’s working so well that I’m almost giddy. Sometimes I just croon at Anthony, “serotooooooonin.” Sometimes I even smile and hug him for no reason, and I feel happy and peaceful.

It’s weird and unfamiliar.

Sometimes I walk out to Anthony’s car with him as he’s leaving in the morning. I might even be cheerful and upbeat, which is all kinds of messed up that early in the morning. He might roll down his driver window and I might lean in for a kiss.

The words inevitably come out of me with a laugh. “CITALOPRAM-A-WHAMMA!!”

* * * * *

I know the antidepressant is working because I’ve gotten more done in the last month than I did for the two years that preceded it. I am so functional and productive that my body can hardly stand it. I’m falling apart at the seams physically.

I do laundry.

I clean toilets and mop floors.

I wash dishes from breakfast before I eat dinner. As Anthony pointed out, this is not only pleasant, but also hygienic.

I don’t spend much time anymore sitting on the sofa pondering all the things I have to do and don’t feel like doing. I actually get up and  do them.

In the past 30 days, I’ve thrown three parties — one for a friend, one for my kid, and one for Anthony’s graduating seniors. I believe I was pleasant at all of them.

I did our taxes on time. (but only barely)

I don’t yell at the kids very much. Instead, I problem solve. Could I be more annoying?

There’s an intangible change in how my mind is working. I’m having real trouble finding words to describe it. My personality hasn’t changed: I’m still really grumpy and I still laugh at poop jokes. But before I started taking this daily pill, I was always on the brink of collapsing into morose blankness, for any reason or none at all. I stopped being able to even fake it.

That’s changed. I feel like there’s this space in my brain that used to fill up with my black moods, a space that now fills up with something more capable and resilient — more like who I used to be, back when I was an active and lively person. When Jesse’s in crisis, I find that I’m more able to identify her needs and respond with love and kindness, rather than despair and anger. When things don’t go the way I want, I don’t give up as readily. I can go with the flow a little better. Well — a lot better.

* * * * *

I know  the antidepressant is working because I wanted to do a bunch of woodworking chores — refinish a couple tables, craft some built-in drawers, finish some wood trim and such — but Anthony wanted desperately to build a retaining wall, and he won and I’m not angry or depressed about it.  Instead, I chipped right in because the faster we get this horrifying task done the faster I can get back to what I want to do.

That is just disgustingly well-adjusted.

Anthony won by going outside one day and digging a trench, right where he wanted the wall to go. But then, because he’s kind of lame (I can say that with grumpy affection and pure love now, instead of with bitter bile and disappointment), I had to lead the effort to figure out all the details — wall height, how much and what sorts of materials we needed, where to buy them cheapest, and how to get them all delivered.

So I did all that. I just did it, because there was this trench in our backyard and Anthony wasn’t going to make the next move.

I also figured out how to get the internet company out to lay a new cable line right away, after Anthony severed our existing line while digging the trench. When it happened, he looked up at me with his sweet earnest eyes and announced simply, “Look Carla, I cut a cable.”


Look how hard he must have worked to cut that cable in  half with a shovel. Sigh.

But I didn’t scream or get super angry.  Helium-filled pink puffy hearts came out of my butt and floated me peacefully into the kitchen, where I tracked down a phone number and called the company and waited patiently through fifty-nine selection options and eventually had a new internet line installed within three hours.


And then we persistently and ploddingly built a wall. We said we were gonna build a wall, and we built a wall. It’s the most fantastic wall you’ve ever seen, it’s a big, beautiful wall, made of the best materials. I don’t think there’s ever been a wall this amazing. All the neighbors came by and told me, “that’s the most beautiful wall we’ve ever seen.” All of them. Trust me, you’ve never seen a better wall.

Here, let me photo-journal-ize the building of the wall for you. You just keep chanting “build. the. wall! build. the. wall!” as you scroll through these pictures.

Let’s start with Anthony happily hugging a bag of gravel, because America first and making Anthony great again and he’s just happy to have a job.


Here’s the wall starting to go in:


Anthony said I had to lay the base course because I’m good at it. So I did what he asked, with good cheer. Look at all the levels I had to use. I had to lay each base stone so that it was level side-to-side and front-to-back, and also level with all the other stones in the row. This wall is about 35 feet long, each stone is 11.5 inches long, and it took me between 10 and 15 minutes to install each base stone. You do the math on how long it took me. Every third stone or so was really tough, and I would get really frustrated. So I would sit back and take a few deep breaths, or walk around the yard a bit, and then get back to work.


Perfection: look at that bubble.


And here are some progressive shots of the wall going up. You see Anthony backfilling with gravel:


And here’s the nearly-completed wall:IMG_3654

Frankly, despite its apparent hugeness, the wall looks small when you compare it to the house and yard:IMG_3656

Still, it should be big enough to keep out the riff-raff aliens, all those vicious rabbits and  chipmunks and robins that are constantly trying to raid things around my house.

I was so excited to build this wall, because the system we used only takes thoughtful effort on the base course. After that it’s pretty much just like stacking legos: 350-odd super heavy legos. It’s hard labor carrying those stones around, and backfilling with fill dirt, and dragging around 50-pound bags of gravel.

Did I fail to mention the fill dirt? I ordered 12 cubic yards — which, it turns out, might have been a bit too much, like maybe by a factor of two. And there’s nowhere to dump it except on the driveway.


We moved about half of that into the space behind the new wall, one wheelbarrow at a time.

As for the rest, Anthony came up with a plan: let’s build more retaining walls now instead of waiting a while like we had originally planned!


It was clearly important to him, so I set aside my woodworking dreams again, without a bitter heart. (Thanks, citalopram!)

We laid out lines for two new trenches. Anthony already has begun to dig.


I measured and ordered more stone and gravel and leveling  sand. I’m so thrilled that soon I will be laying the base stones for a 50-foot retaining wall, and then another 30 to 40 foot wall. Look at these delicious materials:


I can’t wait to break my back for the next  two to four weeks building more walls, even more fantastic and beautiful than the first.

I walked outside this morning to take these pictures to share with you, and for a brief moment I quailed. It’s so much work, I thought. Uugh.

But then I looked over to the other side of our yard and noticed how lovely the faux-wilderness garden looks this spring. La-lala-lala. The bleeding hearts and hellebores are spectacular, thanks to global warming, and everything is vibrant and lively, a perfect mash-up of yellow and green and purple and red. It distracted me from the funk that loomed, and I was happy to wander around pulling a few weeds and snapping shots of my lovely baby plants.


Thanks to citalopram, Anthony and I are actually going to get those walls built, whether or not the Mexicans pay for them. I’ll just keep going and going and going, piling stone on stone and shoveling gravel and dirt to my heart’s content, building slowly and inexorably without ever giving up. I’ll even remember to hydrate, because it’s important that I take care of myself in all these labors.

There’s a metaphor to be had in there. You figure it out.