The Nothingness

Depression isn’t an overwhelming sadness.

It’s an overwhelming nothingness.

I just read the news about Cheryl Wu’s death. A tweet with “fuck cancer” caught my eye at first. Yes, I’d thought. Fuck cancer.

Another young, talented person taken by this fucking disease? I’d thought.


It was a different disease.

Cheryl took her own life.

I didn’t know Cheryl, but I know some of her friends and coworkers. And I know that depression and anxiety and self-doubt and admitting to all of these are a systematic problem in our industry, and our world.

I know because I’ve been there.

I was depressed this past spring. I was depressed the spring before that, and the one before that, too. It started the spring after my daughter turned a year old. She’ll be eight in a few weeks.

I noticed the pattern only recently.

Since I’ve been aware of it, I’ve taken measures. Made plans. Ate good food. Intentionally found something to look forward to. Made happy lists. Surrounded myself with friends, new and old.

And each spring, it’s come back more intensely, like a shade drawn down across my mind, lowered slowly in early March, blackened by May, and suddenly pulled up mid-July, rolling into itself, cord and all, flapping and revealing that bright sun that everyone else has been enjoying.

And with that, it’s gone.

Last year I tried to write about it. I started draft after draft.

There’s one from February, with a numbered list of things I was going to do to prevent it. There’s one from June, nearly incoherent, written at the height of my drinking. The drafts are full of analogies. Reading them now, I know I was trying to find a way to say what I couldn’t when the Nothingness was there.

I remember thinking that there are some people in this world who are excited about their jobs. People who have goals and are doing things to meet them. People who exercise. People who never stop at McDonald’s. People who get out and enjoy the sunshine. People who don’t oversleep and feed their kids Lunchables.

I remember thinking that there are some people in this world who wake up and are excited to see their children and lovers and siblings and spouses and parents.

I remember thinking that there are some people in this world who actually want to wake up at all.

If you find yourself with the shade of Nothingness drawn, please reach out. There’s someone out there who will help you open it. Maybe it’s a friend; maybe it’s someone whose support will surprise you.

We’re approaching another spring. This year, I’m hoping, will be different. I’m trying, but I know I can’t be sure.

And I know you can’t be sure, either.

What I do know, though, is that we’re not alone.

This is dedicated the memory of a woman loved and admired by so many. This is dedicated to Cheryl Wu.

You can donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in remembrance of her.

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