WOW! Can I just start by saying I may be your biggest fan? I’ve followed your column in the newspaper for years. The piece you wrote last week, about therapeutic gardening – that was genius. I bought a small bonsai tree for my office at work, so fingers crossed. I’ve read everything you’ve written. I’ve listened to you tell wives to leave their husbands, give new mothers breastfeeding advice, and help siblings reconcile their differences. I’ve read every book you’ve recommended. I even follow your Facebook page. I love “Ask Sandy!” I even had a shirt made with that phrase on it, but I was too embarrassed to wear it in public. I keep it in the drawer in case I ever get the chance to meet you in person. I genuinely believe every piece of advice you’ve written. Like I said before, I think I’m your biggest fan – hands down.
But, now I’m having my own problem, and I need advice. No one will listen to me anymore. All my friends are tired of me. My mom hangs up the phone mid-sentence, swearing up and down that the call “dropped.” I can’t talk to my husband, because, well, he doesn’t want to hear it, either. I feel completely isolated from everyone around me, so I’m reaching out to YOU. I just know you’ll be able to help me or point me in the right direction. I’ve never done this before, so please be patient with me. It took a lot of courage to write to my favorite advice columnist and tell her I was the one who needed the help instead of just reading about it. So, here goes nothing!
I killed our cat two months ago. Yikes. I know that probably sounds bad, but – hear me out – she was an old cat. She limped and scooted around. She was going blind (I think). She didn’t “meow” anymore – it was more like a cry of pain. I felt so bad watching her struggle around the house, and I just wanted to help her. So, one morning while I was drinking coffee, I saw her limp into the kitchen to get her food, and she tripped over her own feet. Can you believe that? A cat tripping over its own feet? She tried to get back up, but she just kept falling down. I think her legs gave out. Anyway, I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t watch her suffer. So, I waited until she finally ate some food, and I smothered her with a pillow when she laid down afterwards. It wasn’t hard. It felt good, honestly. It felt like I was giving her relief, you know?
My husband came in – mid-murder – and started freaking out. I tried to tell him that it was the right thing to do, but he loved that cat. She was twelve-years-old, I think. He pushed me off of her, but it was too late. She was already dead. I told him we could bury her in a nice shoebox with one of his t-shirts, but that didn’t seem to help. He carried her off, crying like a baby, and I went back to my coffee and your column, of course.
After the burial, he told me I was crazy – like totally, bat-shit (language, oops) crazy. He said I needed help, which seemed a little harsh considering I had just put his beloved cat out of her misery, but whatever. He slept on the couch for two weeks (ugh!) before finally coming back to bed with me. But he doesn’t hold me anymore. He sort of sleeps off to the side, so we don’t touch. I tried to have sex with him, but he turned me down – said he had a “headache.”
So, after the cat-fiasco, I reached out to therapy – per his suggestion. I thought if he saw I was trying, he would get over this whole thing and realize that he was being preposterous. The cat was half-dead anyway. I met with the lady a few times, and she was super sweet. But, she wore too much perfume. It was overpowering. She gave me a hug after asking a few questions and said, “Honey, I think you’re depressed.” Depressed. What a word to use! I was so mad, I pushed her off of me and stormed out. She was a total quack. I’m not depressed.
Anyhow, I told my friends about what happened – the cat AND the therapy – and they said the same thing! Can you believe it?! They said I’m morbid. They said I’m apathetic. They said I’m avoidant. They were using all of these big, textbook words like doctors. They work in an office with me. We’re on the same level. They had no right to say that stuff to me – to me. Sandy, I’m going to be honest with you, I love my friends, but they’re not exactly pinnacles of emotional health. Linda (can I use her real name?) complains nonstop about her husband. Marcy drinks martinis like water. Crystal would eat her weight in nachos and spaghetti if we let her. Maybe after you help me, you can help them.
So, since I couldn’t talk to my husband and I couldn’t talk to my friends, I started “googling” depression. I know – bad idea. Those people are bleak. I’m NOT bleak. I’m vibrant. I wear pink almost every day. I love music, and I sing in my car on the way to work. I don’t oversleep. I don’t cy all the time. I don’t feel hopeless. I mean, if we’re going by textbook definitions here, I’d say I’m about as un-depressed as they come. In a moment of sheer insanity, I decided to call my mom (insert eye-roll here).
I said, “Mom, am I depressed?” And she said, “Debbie, remember the incident?” And I said, “No, what are you talking about?” And, apparently, there was an incident when I was in college. I don’t remember it, so she might be lying – she does like to exaggerate. But, she said I tried to kill myself. No big deal – I don’t want to freak you out or anything. I just cut my wrists in the bathtub (which would explain the scars), and my roommate found me and called an ambulance. They stitched me up, good as new, and put me on “suicide watch.” I don’t remember any of this, but she said I spent three days in the hospital in a psych ward. They let me go, and I went back to school and took my final exam. Like I said, no big deal.
I don’t think one suicide attempt really qualifies anyone as “depressed,” but that was her story and she’s sticking to it. She said they tried to encourage me to talk to someone, but I refused – I wanted to go take my exam. A college education is very important. You know that. And, I guess, there was the whole “dog thing.” Barely worth noting, but I killed my boyfriend’s dog. He barked a lot – a whole lot. I didn’t, like, snap his neck or anything. I fed him some rat poison and let it happen naturally. When he asked me what happened later, I told him the truth. I mean, lying is bad, right? Depressed people lie. So, that was the end of our relationship – and the end of the noise complaints, thank you very much.
I guess I should also tell you about the “episode.” Let me preface this by saying, I work a very demanding job. I sometimes stay until eight or nine o’clock at night to keep up with the paperwork and odds-and-ends that have to be done. So, sometimes I get a little tired. Who wouldn’t? Well, one morning we were in a staff meeting, and I had stayed extra late the night before – which should have been a pat on the back, am I right? They were going on and on about people being behind and needing to catch up, and I started to doze off. I mean, I wasn’t one of the people who needed to catch up. I shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
My boss, an angry, overweight lady who chain smokes menthol cigarettes, snapped her fingers at me to wake me up, and I “lost it,” which seems bad, but I was tired. Anyway, I went into a whole speech about “killing” everyone in the office and stamping envelopes in their “blood.” I may have also told my boss that if she laid off of the potato chips, her husband might actually touch her at night. The details are a little fuzzy – I mean, I was exhausted, and this lady was snapping her fingers in my face. How would you have reacted? They sent me home, I took a nap, met with HR the next morning – water under the bridge. I mean, sure, they look at me a little funny, but that’s okay. I still have my friends, even if they don’t want to listen to me right now.
And, well, this is going to sound really bad, but I promise it’s really not as big of a deal as everyone else made it out to be. I was banned from Kroger – the one on the good side of town – for pushing an old lady down. But she was moving so slow, and I was in such a hurry. She was standing there, in the middle of the aisle no less, staring at the canned foods and picking them up and putting them back. I mean, how hard is it to pick out a can of green beans? I said “excuse me” at least five or six times, but I don’t think she heard me – or, more likely, she didn’t care. So, I walked up to her and pushed her down. She had a cane, and, once it lost its balance, she went tumbling down. They called an ambulance – I mean, really? An ambulance? No one saw what happened (except maybe the security camera, but those are notoriously grainy anyway), and she was a little confused from hitting her head on the shelf. I said it was an “accident,” but it definitely wasn’t. I think they knew that – hence the ban. People have to be more considerate of others. What is the world coming to?
My husband – we’ve been married for five years, by the way – never really worried about the “depression” thing until I killed the cat. Before that, he was infatuated with me. We were a “cutesy” couple, kind of like the couple from your column three weeks ago! We had a very regular, maybe even a little excessive, sex life. We went on dates to fancy restaurants. We even read books together – out loud, like little kids. It was fun. I guess it’s a good thing he doesn’t know about his mother.
I didn’t kill her or anything! I’m not a monster. But, she’s a real drag, Sandy. I wish you could meet her. She just nags all the time. She was the worst part of the whole “marriage” thing. It’s ridiculous the way marriage does that – just slaps together two families, no matter how ill-fitted they are. There should be a way to revise that. Maybe you can come up with something. So, the monster-in-law (get it?) invited us over for dinner one evening right after we had gotten married. She wanted to hear about the honeymoon – the less explicit parts – and see the pictures. It felt very…what’s the word…stupid. I mean, why should she care? She had a honeymoon – she knows what goes on. We went to the mountains, not Spain. It just felt like a real mood-killer.
So, we’re there, having dinner. The woman can’t cook a roast to save her life, let me tell you. And, she mentions grandkids – I mean, really? We had just gotten married. Who in their right mind thinks about children that early? We had things to do, people to see, places to visit. We didn’t have time to start thinking about settling that far down. But, she was relentless. We sat there, awkwardly, while she talked to us about the “joys” of parenthood, about the “responsibility” we had to continue the bloodline. The bloodline? Are we medieval?
I was starting to get angry, and I asked her to stop bringing it up. I excused myself from the table, and I took my dishes to the sink. I was going to wash them – I’m very helpful – but I overheard her starting to whisper to my husband. She was saying downright awful things. She said I wasn’t the woman she had pictured for her son, that I gave her a bad feeling. She asked him about the scars on my wrists. She asked him what he saw in me – which was the final straw.
We were rounding out the night with a few cocktails, and, since I used to bartend in college, I offered to mix up the drinks for everyone. My husband only drinks bourbon and coke – easy and smooth, just like him. His mother, on the other hand, asked for a lemon-drop martini. Can you believe that? The idea came to me after we’d all had a few – meaning, I had to make at least four of those things. I slipped the Visine out of my purse and put a few drops in her drink. I heard it caused diarrhea, which seemed like exactly what she deserved. I thought it would be instantaneous, so I waited impatiently as she gulped her drink down. Nothing happened. So, I put a few more in the next one. And a few more in the one after that.
She was hospitalized that night – seizures, vomiting, the whole nine yards. I disposed of the Visine in her bathroom, so, when the toxicology report revealed a high dose of the chemical in her system, I told them that she was an attention-seeker. Always had been. I said she probably drank it herself, hoping to get sympathy from her son. They didn’t dig too deeply into it. Old ladies really do try to cling onto their sons for dear life - you’ve written about it before. And, I think she learned her lesson because she doesn’t invite us over anymore. I mean, she still invites him, but now I get to stay home. I think that’s a win, don’t you?
I guess what I’m trying to ask you is – what book do you recommend for this? I mean, I’m not going back to therapy. I went to the bookstore yesterday and wandered into the self-help aisle. It’s a little overwhelming – I’m sure you know that. And, honestly, when I read a few excerpts from them, I have to tell you, it all sounded like bullshit (excuse my language, Sandy, I’m just a little frustrated). The whole “you are amazing” and “find your worth” and “build yourself up” thing – it just seems a little forced and unrealistic.
Everyone isn’t amazing. I’ve met some bad people. And, this may be controversial so you don’t have to post this part, I don’t think everyone should be encouraged to think the world is a better place with them in it. I mean, sure, their family and friends might miss them, but strangers commit suicide all the time – some good, some bad – and I don’t think it really matters. If every sad teenager bought into the idea that they shouldn’t kill themselves, there’d be a lot more school shootings, right? Because depression – that’s incurable. You can’t just take a pill or a shot for that. I read it even SHRINKS your brain! There’s a reason they used to lock those people up in asylums, you know? They’re tainted.And, they shouldn’t be encouraged to keep living – keep going, keep swimming – because, well, they’re never going to get better. I say, let them do it. Maybe the suicide hotline should look more like someone bringing you a gun when you call from the “edge,” instead of someone encouraging you to step back.
Most of the books I saw there had the same motto – you are smart, you are brilliant, you are a light, and the world is better with you in it. I can’t read something I don’t believe in – you of all people can understand that. I need a book - something short because I don’t have a lot of time - that tells it like it is. I just couldn’t find one. I mean, is there a book that goes something like “you’re not depressed, everyone around you is just being dramatic, and you should be allowed cut your wrists one time and it’s okay to kill old cats, poison loud dogs, yell at your boss, push down slow old ladies, and slip your mother-in-law eye drops when she’s being a bitch?” (sorry, language again)
You’re an intelligent lady. You’ve probably read hundreds of books. I just need a suggestion. And, like I said in the beginning, I’m your biggest fan. I know you have something special, just for me, if you really think about it. So, take your time responding. I’ll be looking for my letter in your next column! I might clip it out, make copies, and laminate them for my scrapbook. Or, print it on another t-shirt that I can’t wear because I’ll be too embarrassed. I hope you’re having a good day. Oh, and I hope this wasn’t too far out of line. I know it’s a little longer than you usually publish, so feel free to trim it down if you need to. I won’t mind.
Shipwrecked in the Self-Help Aisle
(I hope you found that as catchy as I did)