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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Lies We Are Told

“Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

It’s interesting where you get your inspiration to write sometimes. I recently read a few words of truth; ugly, ugly truth; and it moved me to get serious for a moment. Those words were just tucked into a sentence, a third-hand telling of tragedy that brought a message.

“…depression tells you terrible lies and that you can’t fight those lies alone”. Thank you, Bloggess. I’m going to tell you a few things that not a lot of people know, so that we can fight our lies together.

You see, I have danced with the devil. I am so very lucky that my depression was tied to very concrete physical things, to a long enduring situation that ruled my life for a time. I got to magically get better one day, which is something that I am truly, truly thankful for. Most don’t get that chance.

“So, when are you two having kids?”

Do you know how irritating an innocuous question can become? Do you understand that a simple thing can be a doorway to hell? I do. Wifefish does. And frankly, I’d be willing to wager that most of the people you know have been there at some time or another, or will be before they shuffle off the mortal coil. We’re all going to go through moments when what is simple to most becomes pure hell for us.

In our case, the problem was infertility. To put it bluntly, my balls are broken. I have some perfect swimmers, but I have about five of them. You need five million or so. Each time. I won’t go into the details, but suffice to say that I’m not directly contributing to the gene pool.

We tried for years. YEARS. And while it was great fun to try over and over, the lack of being fruitful and multiplying started to become a bit of an issue. And people would ask, again and again, when we were going to have kids. The answer changed over the years, from “Later”, to “anytime now”, to “I’m going to the doctor soon”, to “you asked that last week, fucknut. When are you going to pull your head out of your ass?”

Please. Stop. Fucking. Talking.

When I finally did go to the doctor, it was to that crushing news, that I had a problem. This didn’t assail my manhood, I didn’t and don’t feel like less of a man. And frankly, that stereotype is bullshit…we men are more than our dicks. But it pissed me off, and it crushed me in ways that I still find myself healing from at times.

To shorten this long tale, Wifefish and I talked, analyzed other people’s stories, and charted a path for ourselves. We decided to pursue adoption, rather than try for any medical procedures. That shit is expensive, to the tune of about $26,000 for a 30 percent chance of conception. Folks, I play poker. I would, and did, fold that hand.

Wifefish and I were strong for each other over the next few years. But we would fall at times. Someone we knew would get pregnant, and we wanted so badly to feel good for them. But the filet mignon can taste like ash, at times. So it was with our joy for those who were just doing the most natural thing you can do. It tasted of ash.

And that’s when the lies started.

Smoky, my friend, you are entering a world of pain.”

A little voice pipes up inside when depression comes to call. You don’t realize it’s there, but it is. Soft, insidious, and in a very twisted way, seductive. You ignore it at first, because you recognize that it isn’t you. It says things you don’t want to hear, but that start to sound right. Because the voice of depression is like fucking Goebbels, and it’s going to repeat that big lie over and over and over, as annoying as Cotton Eye Joe on endless repeat.

I started to hear the inner monologue…you know, the one that tells you not to bang that hooker…except it started saying things like “you’re not good enough”. Not that clearly, of course. It starts by just questioning things. “Why me?” you ask. “Why me indeed?” it echoes, and you think that’s you. It sounds like you. Weeks later, it has you crying in the night because it’s convinced you that the gods hate you, and that everything is pointless.

And believe me gang, I tried over and again to rise above it. I firmly told myself stories of all the times I’ve landed on my feet, and of all the blessings I possessed. And then I’d pass a billboard for a birthing center, and the picture of a baby I couldn’t have would be there. And then someone would ask…”When are you two having kids?” Did you know that homicide is frowned upon in all 50 states? Fortunately, I do know that…saved quite a few lives in those days, I’m sure.

I had a horrible moment when someone I knew, someone who I deem to be incredibly stupid (and with good reason), became pregnant. That was the ultimate insult…that I could not do so simple a thing as to create a child…but the universe chose her over Wifefish and I. That was the day that I decided I hated the gods. And the voice told me that I was right. That little lying fucker inside, the voice of depression…it told me to feel that way, that the universe hated me right back.

On the rock of Wifefish’s love, I broke asunder that night. I cried as I have only rarely done in my adult life, and I despised myself for feeling this way. The lies continued, and the liar had learned to speak with my voice. It told me I didn’t deserve her, or any of my other blessings. But I could look at her, and the voice of depression would be stilled, and I could do the same for her…be her rock. Being her rock let me ignore the voice of the liar.

So how’s the adoption going?”

So the liar gets a new question to play with. “We’re still waiting” is all you can answer, because that’s all you’re doing. Waiting to be selected. Waiting to be good enough. Waiting to be the one. The liar gets excited every time you get a phone call.

I developed a very, very thick skin while we walked down the adoption road. The upside of it, I suppose, was that I could tell myself that eventually, it would happen. I knew this. And yet, the liar ignored that inconvenient fact like it was a hobo asking for loose change. It started telling me all the horrible things I deserved, and each hardship that seemed like nothing more than a roadbump to the normal people around me was like a kick to the broken balls for me. It was my just punishment from the universe for being me, and the voice of the liar, in my own voice, just kept telling me so.

We had a couple of really close brushes with being selected, but they didn’t pan out. And both times, the liar had an absolute field day. I would sit at my desk some days, staring at my screen, no will remaining to make a sales call. I wouldn’t even click on the internet, I would just stare at the screen as if it would reveal to me some universal truth I’d been missing. It never did. The liar started to tell me I sucked at my job, too. Work on the nursery stopped, the door left closed for weeks. The liar told me it was a wasted room.

That was about the time I started to hear the subtle difference in the liar’s voice. It wasn’t me after all. It was depression, and it had me by the short and curlies. I made a choice to start leaning on some friends. And that choice got me through some pretty heinous shit. I considered therapy for a bit, but realized that my liar was tied to a single situation. I knew that mine was temporary. I can’t express how thankful I am for that simple fact, the light at the end of the tunnel was truly what allowed me to learn to ignore the liar. Had it not been for that knowledge, I would definitely have entered therapy…when it gets that bad, you must have help.

My story has a happy ending, thankfully. Eventually, we met Little Danger and brought him home. People stopped asking stupid questions. The liar left in a huff, and I honestly haven’t seen it around. But I remember it. I remember the lies it would tell, and if I’m ever hearing them again, I’ll make sure to lean on friends and family, shamelessly.

I wonder what it must be like for those who suffer with no light at the end of the tunnel. And to be honest, I don’t want to know. Not first hand. My dance with that devil was plenty enough for me, thank you.

I did learn this, though. Lean on them. Open up to them. They will not forsake you. They may disappoint at times, but they won’t run screaming. They are those who love you, even when the liar tells you they hate your guts.

We are not what depression tells us we are. We are shards of divinity, perfect in our imperfection, walking around with too much time on our hands. We are something more, and we have love to guide us.

But the first time I hear “So when are you having another one”, my answer is going to be delivered by emu death squad.


  1. This could have been written by my husband or I, it hits that close to home. Our story is slightly different, but the sentiments are exactly the same. Every single time another baby is announced in our circle of friends, we go through various stages of grief and have to endure the endless "so when are you guys going to grow up and have kids?" questions. It has made us bitter bitter people, and we know it has.

    Sometimes (all right, most of the time) people can't understand why we just aren't so f'ing happy for them, and aren't exhibiting the expected amount of joy at every single thing related to their child, that it can/does/has ruined relationships. It's hard to be in the presence of something you want without feeling incredible pain and misery. We see this aspect of life we want to partake in but aren't in the damn club. We turn on the tv and it is full of people who we think don't deserve the children they have, who don't seem to care about them as much as you would, who seem to throw it in your face that they are giving up their lives as they knew it to raise a family because it is "the most important thing a couple will ever do", and we feel like utter failures. And I want to beat those people's faces in with my remote control.

    I still don't know if we will ever raise children together, and we continue to deal with all that brings, but I can't begin to tell you how much of a relief it is to read that other people go through the exact same emotions. Logically, we know there must be, but to be able to read them and know that we aren't alone is....a relief. It's comforting. Thank you for sharing.

  2. @Angel: And they will never understand. But here's the good news. We get a cure. When I held Little Danger for the first time, every last second of it was suddenly worth it, and I felt it falling off of me like water after a swim. Really freaking cold water, but water nonetheless. Know that you are not failures. There is nothing wrong with you for feeling this way. That is the truth, and you can use it to tell your depression to fuck right off.

    Whatever the source of depression, we have to lean on loved ones, even if they just don't get it...they don't have to get it to love us back. We can also lean on strangers over this magic series of tubes we call the internet.

  3. Man...that sucks. I guess I'm lucky to be fertile, huh? Good thing it all ended well.

  4. I love a fairytale ending. Although raising a child is no fairytale, it is worth the wait.
    This was a fabulous write, Danger Boy. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is spectacular. Raw and real - that's where you belong, that where you shine. ;)

  5. First off I have to say that my husband and I love your blog.
    Secondly this made me cry for a few reasons. How I can relate to some of it and the wonderful happy ending.
    While we were lucky and able to find a solution to our infertility fairly quickly I know the annoyance of the constant questions and the difficulty to being happy for those that it just happens for.
    The day I heard about Little Danger I cried, since you and wifefish mean so much to me I was filled with joy. Though far away you were and are always in my thoughts.
    You have a wonderful way with words and I thank you for sharing. I love all three of you, and I cannot wait to meet Little Danger.

  6. Having gone through fertility issues with MrsJester, I can feel part of your pain, my friend. I'm glad it all worked out in the end. Hopefully, one of these days, we'll get a chance to meet Little Danger, before he grows up into Big Danger.

  7. I randomly found your blog through the Very Serious forum from Hyperbole and a Half.

    I'm not married; I'm in school, so kids are way off in the distant future for me. But what you wrote about depression? It's true.

    I was recently diagnosed with depression after a friend finally convinced me to go get checked out. Depression DOES tell you horrible lies. I've been listening to them for so long that it almost feels a part of me.

    I guess I just wanted to say that reading this entry made me remember that depression. Isn't. Me.

    Thanks. Your understanding of the despair that comes with depression struck a chord (imnottheonlyone). I've been going to therapy, but you reminded me that I need to lean on my friends. My family. They don't have to understand in order to love me.


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