Sometimes a fat grin streaks across my face at the thought that I default to “happy.” My depression has only been in remission for about two years, and I’m still incredulous. I think I try to kill off all this bliss with alcohol. I’m just not used to it.
When I was still recovering from my depression, I used a 10 finger system to indicate my emotional stability to my dad. 10 fingers would represent the kind of happiness my Pollyanna mother achieves daily. 1 signified abject misery. He’d hold up his fingers and I’d mirror with mine less a digit or two, and he wouldn’t have to ask me how I was doing. That question was met with a blank stare, a grunt, a painful sigh. I rarely presented above a 5.
So, without further ado, let me present my 5 levels of hungover:
5 Fingers – Not too bad, not too good
Bleh. Everything is Bleh. I think I used up all my dopamine last night. After a cold root beer I’m mostly healed.
4 Fingers – I feel blue, but I cling to a shred of optimism
I pick through boxes of microwave meals and look for something with a high caloric content, like pizza. I need something fatty to absorb my suffering.
3 Fingers – My happiness was a red balloon and it escaped into the endless sky
This one lingers, even past dinnertime. It’s almost enjoyable, because it gives me an excuse to complain all day. I tell everyone I see that I’m hungover. PITY ME.
2 Fingers – I wish I could sleep all day, but I’m in too much pain to sleep
I’m so desperate for relief that I resort to watching television. But then everything is too loud so I sit in a dark room. Everything is too dark so I move to a dimly lit room. My blood is uncomfortable.
1 Finger – Suicidal
I keep a running monologue in my mind to distract me from the horrible feeling that my organs will slide out of my body. I can’t even choke down mac n’ cheese, so I sip a can of Jumex (25% juice, 75% sugar water) and contemplate sobbing. But that’s too much effort and requires too much liquid that I don’t have in my dried up face so I stare stoically at the cluttered coffee table and feel sorry for myself.
So I wake up with yet another hangover and wonder why I do this to myself. It’s not just about having fun. I was having fun at swig three. I didn’t need to polish off that pint of Jim Beam (don’t worry, I had helpers). I really do think I need the hangover in a way. It helps me remember the sadness buried under the fog of memory, and continue to value the happiness that I have earned. In other words, life is pretty great if the worst thing I have to deal with are my gnarly hangovers.