For women of a certain age, it is unacceptable to be sad. There is an entire laundry list of suitable credentials a woman of a certain age might hold: CEO, wife, mother, professor, marathon winner. However, “depressed” is not one of them.
When I was 17, I tried to kill myself for the first time. I took into my own hands decisions better left to God. I was a human being thinking only of herself, my brain blooming on precise pain points and dimming everything else, every loved one receding as across an ocean, shrinking to tiny waving arms, out of hearing.
The Horse Latitudes are where Spanish equines came to die. They are regions located 30 degrees north and south of the equator. Seventeenth century sailors traveling to the West Indies would dump dead and dying horses here into the ocean before reaching land to unload the weight burden of their ships.
Unlike ships, human beings carry around excessive weight in their heart for their whole lives. For women of a certain age combating depression, this weight anchors you. You are tethered to pain. It is something you simply cannot pick up and dump off the starboard. It is immobile, a fixed mass that you continually have to gulp down, day after day after fucking day.
But what is the emotion felt after depression? What is beyond the stratosphere of sadness? When you have lived with something for five, 10, 20 years and it has become your norm, what feelings lie beyond the boundary?
For me, it is apathy. A deep, permeating lethargy toward life. It is the knowledge that morning after morning after morning, I will wake up and not be okay. The weight of dead horses will be waiting, unable to be unloaded by men, medication, meditation.
I will drive to work. I will go grocery shopping. I will go to the gym. I will feed the cat. I will put on the façade of a woman of a certain age because it is unacceptable to be depressed. It is unacceptable to discuss your dead horse weight. It is unacceptable to fall apart.
I will sink into an exhaustive existence. I will try to save myself from myself, self soothe, self care. I will try to break myself open, dig the rot out with my own two hands. I will pay a person to listen to my problems, to offer delicate suggestions about antipsychotics and exercise and exposure therapy and the benefits of sunlight.
But when you have lived with something for five, 10, 20 years, you have to cut it out at the root, threatening your foundation. How do you evacuate yourself from yourself? When the dead horses of your heart are all you have ever known, won’t it leave you empty? A husk?
This is the chance you take when you burn your house down, when you get off of the ship and sink your boots into the sand of a new world. It is turning over the underbelly of the rock to stare up at the sun, exposing the maggots beneath. It is shoveling out the dead horse carcasses one by one by one, until the hold of your heart is empty. It is dropping this deadweight into the ocean.