Joan's Blog

"Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat"
Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 12, 2011 7:43AM


Rate: 76 Flag

I hear his ragged fingernails scratching at the door. I know they are dirty. Bits of his last host are deeply imbedded underneath them. He wants me to answer the door. He tries the bell. He knocks. I hear him breathing on the other side. I tell him he's got it all wrong. 

I'm not depressed, I tell him. I'm sad. I'm disappointed. There's a difference. He doesn't take no for an answer. Prime target, he thinks. Easy to pull under.  

He knows he's been let in before. He remembers a whole series written about him.  He remembers I gave him a name. "Uninvited Guest." He knows he's been let in before. 

He likes spending time with my husband. He sits next to him on the leather couch and helps him with his crossword puzzle. My husband does his crossword puzzle in pen. The Strong Silent Type is one of his biggest challenges. They have an ongoing thing, he and my husband. They sit quietly together.

When he came for my girl, I railed and raged against him. He was relentless. Two years later, he taps at her window with his raggedy nail. He always has one eye on her. But she almost never looks up.

This time the tap on the door is for me. He knows I'm not easy. I went with him once. When my mother died. I went with him for a while. He found me in that crumpled heap under the covers and made himself at home right next to it.  He knew it was more than mourning a death. It was mourning a life. He had so much to feed on. Mother disowns daughter! Daughter has beloved child! Mother dies without meeting/acknowleging beloved child! Mother dies. Daughter goes to the dark place.  Years of sad come bubbling up to the surface. 

Those were good years for him. He had so much to work with.

Today I sit on the leather couch. I hear his ragged fingernails scratching at the door.

I remind him we only had a one time thing. I'm a glass half-full kind of person. It was only that one time. It was only that one time I let you pull me under. Held me under. I won't go back there. That black abyss. That place with no air. That place where I couldn't remember how to breathe.

I'm not going with you.  

I am firm. 

He is patient.



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So honest. Sounds like you had good reason to be depressed that first time. And how fortunate that you're a glass half full type of person.
This gave me chills, especially the line about having one eye on your daughter. This is so true, scary, sad. Fight it, girl!
How cool to make a character out depression, to give it a face and dirty fingernails. Like you, I went with him once during my divorce. Whenever sadness arrives, I always fear a return visit, but he doesn't seem to come by anymore. Perhaps when sorrow is embraced and held and accepted, loved even for the richness of it, depression figures you're taken and passes you by.
Gads. Potent. Your Spirit is Mighty!
I can only respect that you all do heal.
I can also to sense your struggling too.
Struggling to transcend Evil is nobility.

I don't need to know the every detail.
Thanks for sharing. Rise above Evil.

You can email this on private OS PM?
I bet Barack Obama can relate too.
Kook hop over to The White House.
The Deranged are rotten nuts head.
Depraved gather in chicken coops.

They eventually reveal inner Evil.
Before the Evil folk croak? Pan.
Panic is Nature's Visitation.
The Evil "human" Freaks.
They Hop alone in Bed.
Then they Poop Bile.
Nature lay them Flat.
Panic envelopes Kooks.
Barack Obama Knows.
The Evil Hop a Gate.
The Kook go Crazy.
Kook draws a Line.
The pencil thin line.
Evil Fool drew line.
A Hitler Mustache.
I an thinking ref:
I am recalling.
I went to a T-
Party one day.
I saw posters with:
Pencil line on upper lip.
T-Pees poops sure hate.
Evil incarnates the fool.
I attended one tea-party.
I discerned? OY Kooky!
Thanks Joan H. Bless.
Curse Evil. Bless Good.
This gets sent to cosmos.
This too will pass away.
Agree in full with Angela and Jaime. Tremendous piece.
Great free association. Strange I used the same form today...Be strong with him. It's your life, not his...
Angela, thank you for reading and commenting.

Jaime, thanks for coming by~

greenheron, yes. He lost quite a bit of his power here... :)

Art, you make me smile. I love what you've written here.

Mary, I appreciate that. Many thanks.

Patrick, I think there really is a point where he loses his ability to dig his nails in...
I once had the same visitor at my door. Fortunately, he was around only for about a year and then he left. I hope he never returns....
Holy kadiddlehopper! This is a marriage of Poe and Bach and H, the best writing of yours I have read, Joanie. You've punched this one, screaming thru the air over the outfield fence. This...gasp. Wow. That SOB's scratched at my door a time or two, now that you mention it. Woooo. This sketch comes horribly alive in its dreadful shades of pulsing dark. An icy gale force blast of gloom, with only the indomitable glow or your amazing heart to keep it at bay. I am struck breathless with awe. I shall leave now before someone calls 911.
I flagged this because, altho roosters have no concept of depression, I wanted to get Emily's attention the quickest way I could imagine to urge her to put this on the cover. If she doesn't then maybe we will see the very first case of fowl depression. Not sure anybody wants to see that.
This is very poignant, Joan. (I swear I'd never use that horrid-sounding word, but it works here.) You are so strong.
Patricia, I hope he never comes to your door again too.

Matt, you are too kind, but you do make me laugh out loud.

You too, Chicken Maaaan.
Only that one time...
Mine keeps pulling me under all the time.
F---ing vampire. It can't get in unless you invite it. Keep the door locked. I sport the garlic necklace myself.
You describe the struggle so well. I remember this...or a similar one from you. Possibly one of the first posts I read from you. I was impressed then and now at the power you have with words and the strength you have as a person.
Wow. That last line just packs so much power in three words. This is gutsy writing.

Stay firm.
This was sooo wonderfully done. You have the upper hand , you know about him now.r
And you are a very strong and brave person, you see the enemy and understand. I am glad you can fight him. It is everything to resist. Well written. I know this beast.
He really is patient, isn't he? I really like this framing device.

My demon is anxiety, and you've got me wondering what he looks like.
great piece, Joan. He's visited me about a dozen times ,and I'm also a glass half full gal. Yesterday, I found out I hava a vitamin D deficiency(WTF) and that I can maybe chase off this uninvited guest,this time around, with a vitamin supplement. This made me very hopeful.
Miriam, poignant is one of my favorite words! Many thanks for reading.

Linda, it's so good to see you. Huggggggggggggs back.

Linnn, he is a vampire of sorts. I never thought of that image, but I really like it.

Mime, I invented the "Uninvited Guest" a couple of years ago when he first knocked on our door. He has little power over me now. I think it's okay to be sad and disappointed. But it makes him lurk a little... :)

Kristina, many thanks for reading.

hugs, me~ exactly. I can spot him lurking a mile away. Thank you for such kind words.

Sheila, thank you for stopping by.

Jeanette, I will have to think about the image I have for Anxiety. I'm surprised it never occurred to me to think about one for him, since he has been my nemesis since childhood. Do you have an image for him?
fernsy, I almost missed you! Yes! Vitamin D! I know it's not the answer to everything but I make my whole family take 1000 mgs a day. xoxo
This is incredibly well written and absolutely eerie. Say strong, Joan!
Gorgeous piece, nasty opponent. I know that rat bastard. He got me good once, too. But he is like every other cowardly bully. He backs down when his potential host stands up to his stinky-breathed face. Kick his booty, my friend.

Joanie, There is so much joy in your photo posts lately I would have never guessed but "he" with the ragged fingernails is such a sneaky, nasty bastard. You have the ability to uplift others, that alone may deter him. Whatever the case -- keep writing. This is excellent.
My beloved has lived w this, too. Courage you have, friend. r.
Magnificent piece. You could be writing about many things, but we know what you're talking about isn't a person. Rated!
So well-done.I think this is an amazing piece about depression, not only for those who have and who are suffering from it, but also for those who've never experienced it (lucky @$#%'s!), to help them understand what it's like. Keep fighting, Joan.
Excellently done. That's where I've been lately - barricaded and hiding from him ... I'd never met him before recently, but I have to say, the ragged fingernail tapping on the glass - brilliant!
EP! Yay. Rooster can crow again.
one of the most compelling pieces i've read here in quite a while...i think we all have to find the strength to bolt the door from the insidious uninvited guests in our lives...rated
The mind is a powerful ally when we're concious. You are more than self-aware. Fantastic writing.
Patient and univited--so true. Excellent description.
He is the Anti-Santa, isn't he? He can be everywhere at once, and not just one night a year.

Good work, here, Joan.
So he's there? Maybe now I can get the grass cut, weeds pulled and kitchen cleaned this weekend. Please keep teasing him, would you - just for a couple days so I can get something done?
Wow. What a brilliant piece of writing here.
Such imagery.
Get the F*** away from Joan's home, you hear, you insidious creature?
Her smile is just too....valued.

I know of what you speak.
My strong silent man's Achilles' heel.
Love the title. Excellent writing. Grimace is another villain.
Just brilliant. I'd say more but you said it all. Superbly. Well, okay, I'll say one thing: this should be required reading for all who live with those he's claimed... and for his victims too. Create more survivors like you.
What a creative way to express depression. I love the use of metaphor.
Congrats on the EP!
Oh Joanie. This is amazing. He scratched at my door too--I let him in twice. The only times in my life I've lost weight without trying, because I couldn't bear to eat. Or do anything else. It's the weight loss diet of hopelessness I wouldn't wish on anyone. Thanks for writing an amazing piece.
Stay firm. You can outlast him, and if you feel you can't, there are weapons you can use against him. He doesn't come around here no more, not since I showed him what's what. (I hope he doesn't read this and take that as an invitation to try again...There is always that fear.)
Pranay, thank you for coming by!

Lezlie, your comment made me laugh out loud. I appreciate that!

Scarlett, first I have to say how much I love your new avatar. What a gorgeous eye! Thank you for your beautiful comment.

Jonathan, it's hard on everyone, isn't it? Thank you for coming by. I wish her well.

Christina, many thanks!

Alysa, thank you for such kind words. I appreciate them.
absolutely the BEST piece you have ever written, recognized for its universal truth, ah, the black, dark abyss. I have been there once and I will not go again.
This is so good I'm left speechless.

That bastard Uninvited Guest keeps hanging around my door too.
This is so beautifully done Joanie. "He is patient." Yes indeed.
I remember your first story and how strong the feelings were in it. You have done it again...I sometimes hear him knocking on my door and think of you and how you see him and it
gives me someone to fight against.
The first time I met Uninvited, I was a teenager and I thought it meant I was a real writer -- I was proud of it. But it got old pretty fast. I discovered I write better when I don't let him in. He hasn't been around for years -- I hope I've become deaf to his scratching. He has nothing to offer. Very well written!
We have been side by side lately. He scares the shit out of me. Sorry Joan for the language. He smells really bad too. I smell him before I see him.
Fantastic writing and so scarily close to home. ( i left a comment earlier and it's gone.. OS magic POOF)
wow...the art of life and the art of writing all in one moment in my day. Thank you.
Blue, thanks~ I always imagine his crooked finger scratching and tapping...

Matt, I always appreciate your support!

mistercomedy, many thanks.

Mary, thank you for reading. I always appreciate your comments!
Shuddering! He visited me once too. May he never return!
sophieh, I'm glad to see you!

MOC, and he doesn't care if you've been naughty or nice, either!

nerd cred, I cannot possibly entertain him for the weekend. He is a real buzz kill.

JT, he likes the challenge of the strong ones... thanks for such kind words.

Belinda, thank you

Algis, "wow" is a good thing, I hope.

Sally, you brighten up the whole day. xo

Susie, thank you!

froggy, "the weight loss diet of hopelessness." Oh, I understand that. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Bell, the door is bolted. xo

Bea, I'm so glad you liked this. Glad he only came to your door once.
"Do you have an image for him?"

What keeps coming to mind when I envision anxiety is a kind of evil, demented clown. Kind of like Pennywise from Stephen King's "It".
so glad this was editor picked!
Wow, Joanie, so powerful. Stand strong!
Joan, dear god, I am swept away by this. I've met the bastard and yes, he is patient, but once sent away it becomes easier to keep him out. Brilliant, stunning, there really aren't words adequate for this.
An eerie and accurate description and a well-deserved EP. Rated.
So much sadness yet so much strength and determination in this piece.
The bastard--lately he keeps trying the lock at my place. Laughs at my efforts to keep him out.

Great image of what depression looks like
Oh, Joanie. You're on to him, though. Vigilance will prevail.

Also, you can try Lupin's solution with the Boggarts, and think of something ridiculous whenever you feel him nearby. You might think of Bea's dino . . .
Cranky, bolt the door. xo

BSB, he is patient and cunning. But fortunately we can learn how to outsmart him.

Ll2, I'm so glad that helps. Thank you for coming by.

geezerchick, yes, I remember being a teenager and thinking that dark and brooding meant more creative. As an adult, I am amazed how stuck I become when I am not happy. It's as if the darkness blocks off any creativity I might have...

Rita, "I smell him before I see him." I know just what you mean. Like a bad smelling vapor, he tries to seep under the door sometimes. Hang in there dear Rita, okay? Summer is still here... xoxo

Laura, thank you! And you're welcome.
I used to take little three or four day vacations with him. We just dropped out together for awhile into the quiet grey. Sometimes I miss him but I know he is dangerous.
I firmly agree with your stand. Rated with a Jali Smile. :-)
So true, so true. I've heard him at my door as well and sometimes its so hard to resist.
Mine moved in years ago. I might mind less if he paid rent.
Brilliant metaphor. Really well done.
I know that creep. He's come here before, looking for easy pickings. And finding them.
Well, we all know this guy...he gets around. My mother was chronically depressed all her life....I was diagnosed with depression at 20. Three nervous breakdowns later, I decided that maybe the doctor wasn't that far off the truth....but where is the line between depression an anxiety? I think that anxiety often triggers depression. The news certainly does. The media does too. And let's not mention the economy. Psychologists have noted that depression and anxiety decrease during war, but not so much lately, now that we are in the permanent war economy.

Other things that help: fish oil helps tremendously. Ginko Biloba (off label). L-theanine does wonders. Breathing helps most of all.

Keep breathing.
Is it acceptable to find one of your most terrifying posts to also be one of my favorites - writing wise, of course? I doubt there is a soul who reads this who will not be moved and immediately identify with your challenge. That tenacious beast comes for everyone at some point. Hold your ground. Oh, and one thing it loathes is laughter. Knock, knock....:)) I love ya, Joanie!
I know the same stalker... and I want to hang this up in my room. Joan, you are a delight to read!
He is black vapor, swirling and whirling and wanting to envelop. He is ephemeral but when he grabs on, he so firmly roots me to the ground I cannot function. I think you have captured the realtionship perfectly. Great post.
Sparse and beautiful. I hope you can continue the fight against the man with raggedy nails. -R
I hate that guy. He shows up on my doorstep/under my bed/in my backseat periodically, too.

The personification is so effective, and affecting, Joan. I've heard depression described a number of ways over the years . . . rarely with so much impact. I can't help but think that if I didn't understand depression, I would understand it better having read your pieces on it.
I've already rated and commented, but I came back because I was so glad to see this amazingly written piece featured prominently on the front page. Posts like this one make me want to give up ever trying to write about serious topics, because you've set the bar so high.
I wish I didn't understand at all. Thinking of you, Joan. Thinking of us all, perhaps.
I know him well. We take some of his power away when we learn to see him. I wrote this some years ago, hope you don't mind if I share.


He paces in the shadows,
wanting in
watching with cold, hollow eyes
for an opening
however small
where he can slip in
and with icy hands
burning on my shoulder
push me down and down
until the weight becomes too much
and I just want to sink
Into the earth
and become a shadow too.
He's been at my door, too. Once he followed me to a party. I admire you for this honest, vivid post.
An amazing piece of writing about a formidable opponent. Funny how those of us who know him well personify depression; Winston Churchill called it his black dog, William Styron called it a wimp (of a word, for such a devastating illness), and now you paint it as an uninvited guest with raggedy fingernails. Your description is by far the scariest, which is fitting. He's a very bad man. (I'm sure you know there's nothing wrong with getting help if the battle becomes uphill; he's hard to fight alone.)
The imagery reminds me of the Dementors from the Harry Potter series, an apt metaphor for depression. Shadowy, hooded creatures reeking of death, hovering, waiting to suck your soul out with their gruesome kiss. As a person who has battled depression most of my life, I can semse that you are truly familar with the beast, not just giving in to temporary sadness or self-pity. I admire your honesty, and your vigilance in protecting your loved ones.
Sorry I haven't gotten back to all the comments yet. I do appreciate you reading and commenting.
@Jeanette~ I have not stopped thinking about my image for anxiety since you mentioned it in your comment. I appreciate you coming back to include yours. I don't find that as easy to put a figure to. But I can't figure out *why.* Perhaps because anxiety is so "all over the place" (for me) I can't describe it's image. Still pondering...
Now I've got "Me and My Shadow" in my head.
[r] relate! obviously many of us do. ty! very masterfully conceived! libby
The "ragged fingernails" grab you at the start, and you can't stop reading. Achingly honest and well read.
I read this a few days ago, but then OS gave a kind of hiccup, so didn't comment...Joanie, this is a great post. Maybe depression is like that, lurking around all or most of us, and we have to protect each other & beat him back. This whole essay is so spooky, and it also seems to be a helpful way to think of depression. Thanks for this!
Gripping--a grip with a tensile force that causes breathlessness, a horrifying grip because it is seductive as well as treacherous, a grip that invades and pillages., that helters and skelters. Powerful, powerful description. You have distilled the essence of what it's like to be in a very dark psychological place.
So fortunate for you that you have met him only once. I remember all too well when he found me under the covers after my first husband died. Unfortunately, there have been other visits from him. An excellent piece. -R-
Hi Joan! This was brilliant as always. Keep the NO Tresspassing signs well. :)
The trench. Gosh, yours is ragged and persistent. Fill that glass- overflow it.

Wonderful depressing allegory. And, the lack of story is the story- is the abyss which I now call "the trench". Its hard. Very hard to talk about and if no one has been there how can they relate?

You did make IT relate-able. Three ways- people. I hate that it gets worse the more you have it.
The trench. Gosh, yours is ragged and persistent. Fill that glass- overflow it.

Wonderful depressing allegory. And, the lack of story is the story- is the abyss which I now call "the trench". Its hard. Very hard to talk about and if no one has been there how can they relate?

You did make IT relate-able. Three ways- people. I hate that it gets worse the more you have it.
Like all have said, this is really terrific writing, not doubt about it.

I thought I was having an long term affair with the a-hole, but he turned out to be your garden variety least that's what he's calling himself now. When I'm really in the convoluted, crying in the trenches, wrapped up in bedsheets state, he calls himself love...but still refuses return mine. How's that for messed up?

Congrats on the well deserved EP. Who says fiction/poetry/prose isn't valued on OS?

Just getting to this now Joan. I like this approach. Similar to scanner's personalizing Mr. Pain. Years back I met a California guy who used the same technique. He said it made him feel that the depression was something other than he himself. And Churchill used to refer to it as a black dog. I really hope it's effective for you.
i call it 'the monster' and do battle with it daily.

i try not to have crosswords and be kind.
joke over laugh now.
Wow, Joan! Terrific story.

I love that you give a body to that devil that is depression. I love that you are stronger than he is, and that you have a choice.

I rate you fabulous!

I just noticed more comments that I never got back to. Thank you so much for reading and commenting... I really appreciate it.
I haven't been able to access OS for days - imagine that! - so I'm just now getting to this astonishing piece. Congrats on the well-deserved EP. Riveting writing.

Keep pushing him away. With both hands. xoxo
You'll wear him down. There are much easier targets. Besides, when you so eloquently tell his secrets you're probably taking all the fun out of his game.