Rotten Vegetables of Hope

Last night I cleaned out our fridge, a task I've been dreading and avoiding for some time, which made it particularly daunting.

I moved swiftly, trying not to think, shoving shriveled red and orange peppers into a garbage bag. I I shoved a package of pale ground turkey and a clamshell of already-cut and now softening butternut squash in the bag, too.

It felt late at night, though it was only eight. Henrietta was winding down, and I was sweaty from cleaning my kitchen while dancing and listening to Taylor Swift. The energy I had begun with had gone, and the mean voice in my head began to turn on me. What a shameful waste of money, the voice said. Look at this nearly full garbage bag full of rotten food! What a failure you are, what a loser. Who do you think you're kidding?

I stood up and shook my head.


Just after the end of classes, about a month ago, I entered the deepest bout of depression I've ever experienced. I don't know how much I'll end up saying on here, but I will say it was terrifying. I will say that I narrowly avoided spending Christmas in the psych ward, though now I think I really should have spent time there. I will say that I'm lucky to be alive. I never tried to hurt myself, but I thought about it constantly, and I needed a lot of help.


I'm lucky to be alive, I said to myself, standing in front of my refrigerator, bag of rotten vegetables at my feet. I thought of the shriveled peppers, the bright colors, the way I felt when I bought them at Costco just before I got sick: hopeful. There's a certain hope involved in buying large quantities of vegetables, is there not? I had felt hopeful then, and I decided to feel hopeful last night. I was there, and I almost wasn't. I was there to clear out my fridge, there to see the colors of the peppers and to consider a dubious head of lettuce. I was there to take what was old and let it go, exposing clear shelves and bright lights, hopeful for more, lucky.

I took out the bag to the trash. The night was cool and Southern. A car approached from the street opposite, shining headlights on me, and I wondered how I looked to someone who didn't know me. Like a mother, like I'm tired, like I'm not entirely better yet, but I'm getting more so, like I had a bag of trash, and I knew where to go.


Ah, Deja, I just want to say that you are strong, brave, brilliant, and beautiful. And I also want to say that I have been in that dark place. My "sickest I've ever been" was in September, where I wanted to be done so badly that I did spend some time in the psych ward. The months/weeks leading up to it were the most difficult of my life, hands down. The time in the hospital was the most horrifying thing I can imagine, yet it turned things around so I could start to dig out. I'm still digging but at least when I can't dig anymore, it's temporary instead of final feeling. I'm so sorry things have been so ridiculously hard. You're not alone (even though it feels that way). I think you are one of the loveliest people I know. I hope that you will continue to feel better, a little at a time. You're very loved.
Genevieve Beck said…
I wish I had something profound to say. I love you and I'm glad things are looking up. I think cleaning out the fridge sounded like a triumphal, cathartic task. :)
belann said…
It is difficult to read this and realize as a mother there was nothing I could really do to help, except pray. I continue my prayers for a full recovery. You have so much to give the world.
Grace said…
Oh girl, I'm glad you're feeling better. December was a hard month for me too. I thought it would be a magical month but it was stressful and exhausting. The other day I thought to pray for something that I hadn't before - to be satisfied. That thought has brought some peace into my mind and life. Love to you and your southern life! I am jealous.
Giuli said…
Oh my goodness Deja! The last time that I responded to a post on your blog, it sounded strange to myself but I posted it anyway. I was worried that it revealed that I was standing on the edge of what I now realize was horrible mental illness. I have since fallen into the abyss, and crazy pills have helped me slightly scratch my way out of the black hole. The weeks and weeks since Halloween have seen me coming time and time again to your blog to read your passages on depression, your eloquent words giving me a way to wrap my head around this desperate experience. I had no idea that you were fighting the same demons, struggling like me. Depression puts a mushy fog around my brain and I become inexpressibly stupid and hard on myself. Ironically, some of my most real and touching moments with my baby have been as he's clutching my hand during a spiraling panic attack, when the waves and waves of despair crash and pull me under. I come out of it to see his beautiful, calm blue eyes and chubby smile. And I'm okay. And then I hug him and say over and over, I'm sorry im sorry, it's not your fault. I really wanted you and I would do this again and again to have you. Postpartum depression makes it seem like it is Jebs fault, somehow. It's my dumb body's fault. I hate not being in control of myself! I love you Dej! We are giuli to make it, with lots of love and drugs and help from the pros.
You are lovely. I aim to be more like you. December was tough for me. In my head I kept hearing the line from Lord of the Rings "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." I'm so sorry you suffer. I love you. The Lord loves you. Thank you for so honestly sharing your life with the world. I send you a kiss on top of your cute curls- MWAH!
Deja said…
Thank you, all of you. Your comments are all so precious to me.

Anne Marie, thank you for sharing your experience. I have such respect for your going to the hospital. It sounds like it was the right move.

And Guili, I sure love you. Hang in there, okay? Thank you for all of your articulate and sweet comments.
Amara said…
What I said (before it was sucked into the blogspot black hole), was that I don't know how you do it- take your fridge, and show your mind. I really like how you show how empty places can be despair or hope to be filled. Here's my wish that you are filled with whatever you need. One of my favorite things in the world is to talk to you, I'd love to any time if you feel up to it.
Jenny said…
Oh Deja! My heart is breaking :( :( :( I just got your email too. I will write you back soon. But for now please know that you'll be in my prayers tonight.
Lots of hugs from Tucson.
Thinking of you!
Elise said…
I'm just catching up on blogs. And I'm too late to this one. But I want to say that I love you. I love you so much.

And I need you here.

I should tell you that last week I read your draft version (because I still have it from our Portfolio Class) of "Eating Lunch in Trafalgar Square..." to my homeschool co-op? They loved it. It's still one of my all-time favorite poems because it encapsulates this thing about you which I think is amazing: you see life at an angle which makes the world suddenly smaller and bigger and more beautiful and more happy and more meaningful.

And you bring that view to every word you touch. And when I'm done reading you, I'm wearing Deja glasses for a little while, and the world seems richer.

So I need you.

And I love you. Did I say that?

The end.
Tara said…
I'm so sorry you had (and no doubt still are) going through that, Deja. You have such an amazing way of putting things. I so admire your courage and strength. * Also, I throw away at least half of the vegetables I buy... *

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