Oh, no. I’m back. Back on antidepressants.
I first went on them in the fall of 2002, after “Lola,” my shrink friend in Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality, pointed out that I didn’t realize how depressed I was and I needed help. That was the same year my book Breaking Point came out, my book about Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who drowned her five children. I’m guessing that right there explains my depression. I was far from the only journalist who went on antidepressants after covering the murders.
I stayed on SSRIs through the fall of 2007, which is the same time I stopped actively seeking sources for Secret Sex Lives and began focusing solely on writing the book. Though I certainly experienced some emotional ups and downs after 2007, I found that if I exercised four to six times a week and ate healthier, I could keep at least a small light shining through the dark times.
Then in the fall of 2012, Secret Sex Lives came out and I had to deal with the repercussions of my memoir. My diet, which had become fatty, fried foods, became even more fatty, fried foods and more and more sugar. Worse, I cancelled my gym membership and wasted more and more time watching bad TV and checking Facebook, as if it were breaking news about world crises that I had to know.
As I look back at 2013, in so many ways, it wasn’t a bad year. Austin Monthly magazine named me one of 10 “Women We Love,” an honor that still dumbfounds me. For God knows why, director Justin Davis of the Institution Theater invited me to participate in The Next Chapter, a night of improv during which his improvisation troupe created the next chapter of Secret Sex Lives. I laughed and cried through the performance, which truly was one of the best and most touching nights of my life.
I got to write my first story for Salon.com and was on NPR’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, which may be my favorite Secret Sex Lives interview. For Kirkus Reviews, I got to talk with New York Times bestselling authors/Oprah Book Club novelists Sue Monk Kidd and Wally Lamb … and I got to talk depression with Marian Keyes, an outrageously witty, Irish novelist who has sold more than 33 million books worldwide.
Sounds like a pretty grand year, doesn’t it?
Yet that Darkness Visible that William Styron so vividly described in his “memoir of madness” began to be all that I could see. I tried to focus on my blessings, but that only made me feel guilty and even more depressed. I mean, how could I be so depressed when I’m so lucky? Especially when so many of my friends were dealing with life and death issues? I knew I was – I am – blessed. I have a loyal family. I have five published books. I live in a comfortable home. I have the best dog in the world. But what filled my brain were the negatives in my life.
And the internal negatives, which I so desperately wanted to keep secret, were becoming visible to the outside world, I believed. The acne that I’d kept clear since finding a great dermatologist started to bubble to the surface of my face. The 40 pounds of weight gain that I talked about in Secret Sex Lives, that I’d worked so hard to lose before the book was published, began to return. Worst of all, my attitude was pathetically and embarrassingly self-pitying. The slightest critique, which I often solicited, felt like a steel bar slammed against my head and heart. I was angry and bitter. I was becoming that person that I hated in 2004, that person who knew she had to get out of true crime before it destroyed her.
Then, one day, I wanted to drive my car into a concrete wall.
This time, I didn’t need Lola to tell me I was depressed. I emailed her for help. Between Lola and my doctor, I got back on antidepressants. I’m beginning to see the early glimmer of sunrise. At least I hope I am. And that right there is a miracle – I wrote the world “hope.”
God willing, I’m back.