It's pronounced HAYZ-ler, you dweebs.

Nikol, Who Is Selfish

My cousin came to L.A. recently for work, and we got to spend some time together. We made an agreement that she would write a new song an I would write anything at all. She suggested I write about the depression. I made a few stabs at writing about something other than that, but nothing came out. So, I took her suggestion.

The following reads more like a diary entry, I think. I don’t particularly think it’s very interesting. However, in previous comments, readers and friends have asked that I keep writing about this. So, uh, here you go.

Trying to live with major depression is like trying to capture toxic air in your fist. At first, people tried to help; tried to suggest things I should do. But it has taken hold for long enough that I don’t want to talk to anyone anymore. I have nothing new to say. I have no news. Things are the same. Whatever. Things are worse. Nobody wants to hear it. Those few people I’m still able to tell what’s really going on- usually as I bounce my knees rapidly, push on my head with my hands, and sob- those people don’t know what to say anymore.

I lost my identity, but not my existence. In the past, there were times where I simply felt I didn’t exist. Those times weren’t easier, just more sleepy and dark. There was no “me”, there was no world around me. Everything was very still. That’s not the case this time. Too many rapid changes happened quickly, and so many things I’m accustomed to being have been removed from me against my will.
Who Are You?
It started back in February, when I was told I had to move out of my house. The landlords hadn’t paid the mortgage in a long, long time and I had three weeks to find a new place. I also had to break that news to four other people who were seriously put out. For years I have always been Nikol With A House. I have always been Nikol Who Hosts Thanksgiving, Nikol Who Throws Parties, Nikol With A Yard. My houses have always been places where people can freely visit; come when they just want to watch tv and eat. My houses are where I made pickles. My houses are places people could stay when they were in town. And now I am Nikol With A Tiny Apartment Next To A Construction Zone and Very Near The Airport.

The depression over the move wouldn’t shake. And as it got worse, I stopped coping with it. So, then came the break-up. For 9 months, I had been Nikol, Matt’s Girlfriend. It was a wonderful time, full of parties and comedy, sleeping next to someone who held me when I had bad dreams. I truly adored him. My kids adored him. Our entire social lives were entwined, and I loved his friends as much as I loved him. He hasn’t spoken to me in some time. He refuses to. And in my current state, it’s far too weird for his friends to speak to me. And now I am Nikol With Abandonment Issues. I am Nikol Who Stays Home. Nikol Who Texts Weird, Sad Shit Late At Night.

Shortly before the break-up, I became suicidal and self-destructive. For months before that, I’d been on the edge of it. I was taking a medication that really messed with my thinking. I overdosed on another medication, and when the overdose didn’t work, I tried to shut down my organs by taking toxic daily doses of over the counter medications for several days until a friend convinced me to go to the hospital. I can hear the world yelling at me. Yes, I know, I have kids. I know I would mess them up and that I’m selfish. I know that once you have kids, you’re supposed to stop feeling depressed or at least have some control over how you handle that depression. I am Nikol Who Is Too Selfish To Think of Her Kids.

I ended up in a mental hospital where medicated bodies shuffled down hallways, only roused by meal trays, med times, and cigarette breaks. I got out after my 72 hour hold, returned home anxious to go to work, and instead got a phone call from HR telling me that I couldn’t return to work without a doctor’s release. I had scheduled an appointment with a new therapist and I was certain I could get the paperwork needed.

I didn’t. My therapist was worried that I would return to work and entirely break down while on the clock, giving them good reason to fire me. At work, HR said that they thought I was making a good decision, which upset me because I didn’t make a decision at all. I felt as angsty as I had as a teenager when I was being moved to a new home. They also told me that I am not allowed to discuss how I am doing with any of my co-workers. My co-workers have been instructed not to talk to me. I am not Nikol the Project Manager. I don’t organize tasks, check in on progress, make choices. I am not even allowed to speak to the people I usually spent most of my time with. I am Nikol Who is Disabled.

Which itself is another kind of nightmare. There have been paperwork mistakes, repeated bungling errors and bureaucratic nonsense, and delays meaning that I have been “disabled” since May 2nd, and have not received a single payment. We are broke, and being poor is expensive. Late bills get late fees. Things get shut off. Food gets scarce and what you eat is the cheapest junk you can buy. I am Nikol Who Can’t Pay Bills, Nikol Who Eats Junk, Nikol Who Feeds Her Kids Canned Soups Even Though The Sodium Content Will Kill Them.

And as for my kids, they’ve got their own problems. While in the past I would’ve just blathered on about that, lately I have come to think that it’s not really my right to tell their stories. As a teenager I deeply resented the adults in my life who would lay out my behaviors to anyone who would listen. And over the last few years I have put the kids’ personal lives on display. I can’t do that to them anymore. Positive attention, right? What I will say is that what they’re going through right now is not lost on me, but I find myself unable to be the mother I should be to them as they struggle. The parental innovation that was once very natural to me isn’t currently within my grasp. In the past, even when I haven’t known if I am doing the right thing, I have at least always done something.

It’s my identity that’s doing the biggest number on me, and the more these changes stack up, the more horrified and anxious I become. I don’t feel proud of this person I am. I’m not strong, fun, funny. I am shrewd and old, anxious and tired. I tell myself I am going to do things. I am going to go for walks, write, go to shows. Instead I pace, cry, mutter to myself. I look in the mirror and feel repulsed. If I go out in public, I feel a profound lack of connection to other people, and that lacking part hurts me deeply because I have always valued my ability to empathize.

I can’t shut down the part of my brain that keeps repeating negative things about who I am. At night I tell myself it’s the new sounds of our neighborhood keeping me awake- airplanes, gun shots, screams. Instead I wake because my brain is convinced that something bad is about to happen. I told my therapist this. He said “All the bad stuff already happened. Relax, relax.”

Writing this makes me feel even more lousy about myself. I feel bored by all of this, and if I shared this I would fully expect to be told to stop being so negative. I should count my blessings and think about people who have it worse. I should. Jesus, I mean, that guy doesn’t have legs, right? Shut up about your shoes, right? I should stop being Nikol Who Is Selfish, and start being Nikol Who Takes Care of Her Responsibilities. I should. But I’m lost, and I don’t yet know what to do about it. And neither do you, even if you think you do.

My therapist keeps telling me that right now, I need to find small ways to be nice to myself. Have you ever tried being nice to someone you hate? He says I am trying to fix too many big things all at once, when I shouldn’t be trying to fix any big things at all. If I try to fix things right now, I’ll simply stay pinned beneath their weight. He says right now the only thing I have to do is survive. That should be easy enough, but I assure you, it’s not, because I haven’t yet figured out if this new Nikol is really that interested in survival.

7 Responses to “Nikol, Who Is Selfish”

  1. Excellent writing.

  2. Depression doesn’t have a goddamn thing to do with gratitude, so at the very least try to go easy on yourself about that part. Any of these issues would be disruptive, at best, for perfectly healthy people. The combination is more than enough to overwhelm anyone.

    I only know you through your web content; we’re not actually friends, though I feel confident we’d become good pals easily enough. Even still, I feel confident that what those around you appreciated about the Nikol you’ve been forced to stop being (Nikol With A House, for instance) wasn’t your ability to be generous – it was your willingness to be generous.

    Incorporating how we think others perceive us into our self-image is normal. Hell, probably unavoidable. But you should be mindful not to exclude the positive things that others see in you. (I may or may not be being hypocritical right now. Let’s not make this about me.) Those traits are innate. They may be hamstrung right now and hard for you to express them, but they’re part of who you are at your core. You’re still Nikol With A Kind Heart and Nikol With An Open Door.

    I totally understand being at the point where it feels pointless to discuss because, really, there’s just nothing to say today that you didn’t say yesterday and how many variations of “I’m sorry”, “*hugs*”, and “Have you tried to…?” can any conversation bear? It feels empty to say these things. Funnily enough, that was something that recently helped drive an extended bout with depression for me; my inability to find a single fucking thing new to say to the people I love who were hurting in myriad ways.

    But even if it is a conversational stalemate, try to remember that the people who care about you haven’t stopped saying these things because they’ve grown impatient with you. Rather, it’s because they’ve already tried those things and for whatever reason, those weren’t the right things to say or do. There comes a point, like in Charades, where blurting out things just to try to stumble onto the right answer feels like it’s only making things harder for someone else who’s trying to concentrate.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see that you at least made yourself honor your commitment to writing. One casualty of my recent depression is that I’ve given up writing and/or blogging. I wish I could have written a piece like this one. I just don’t have it in me anymore, apparently. But then, I already knew you were a better writer than I was ever going to be!

    I’m continuing to root for you, and I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

  3. Nikol Hasler says:

    I think you ought to write something today.

  4. Dan says:

    well…. I really like this article. I identify with its attempts to grasp at identity. I don’t think of you as selfish, but I feel that way about myself. I do worry about being \Dan who doesn’t care enough about his friend Nikol to be there for her.\ Know that I AM here for you, just let me know how I can help. One thing I seem to be learning about depression, and that I DEFINITELY know about you, is that there is no way for me to pull my typical \Dan who comes along and does some grand gesture to compliment someone and make them happy\ schtick. I also know that if you were not around … well, man, someone I barely even know killed themselves two nights ago, and I lost my shit completely. I was late to work, I was about to sob in my kitchen, I am still horrified at all the things that I will never get to hear this person create or do. If it was YOU in that situation, I would probably have to cut off my hands and use my severed arteries as blood pumps to spew a canvas of pain onto my neighbor’s dog. And then you would be responsible for dog art abuse. And THEN you would be \Nikol who is so selfish she doesn’t even care if her friend abuses a dog with his arm stump blood.\ Don’t be that Nikol.

  5. Dan says:

    I am also “Dan who wonders why his quotation marks have been rendered as back slashes in this comment.”

  6. I didn’t write on Friday when you said I should, Nikol, but I finally did write a confessional piece about where I’ve been for the last six months. It isn’t directly addressed to you, but in truth I very much had you in mind along with a couple friends when I wrote it.

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