This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala has been meeting people via Craigslist and documenting their stories for nearly two years. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.
I’m in my apartment for 95% of my life. I only go out for food and medicine, and that’s only if I can’t get it delivered, or if I need it urgently. I shop for the whole month, so I usually end up having around 85 bags, all in all. I’ve had my car for nine years, and it only has about 40,000 miles on it. I’ve done the math, and that amounts to about twelve miles a day. On days that I don’t feel well, that’s definitely an overestimate.
I wash my clothes once or twice a year. This year, I’ve only showered twice. The longest I’ve ever gone without a shower is 96 days. I’m not really concerned about whether I smell, because I’m seldom around people. If company ever finds me, I keep my distance. But that’s rare, you know. The only person that’s come to see me in the last few years has been my landlord (to pick up checks), and the delivery guy (to drop of food, and pick up checks). Basically, all I’m good for is the money.
My biggest everyday concern is whether I have enough to eat, and whether today is the day I will be found dead in my apartment. I don’t have cats, so at least I know I won’t be partially eaten when I’m found. That may sound morbid, but it’s a practical concern for someone like me. I don’t have a maid because I don’t want anyone coming in to see the state of the apartment. I try to clean up after myself, but that’s difficult seeing as my condition is oftentimes debilitating.
I only eat off of paper plates and plastic cups. I try to reuse as much as I can, but I realize it’s wasteful. I don’t know what to do—if I used real plates, I don’t think I’d ever get around to washing them. Sometimes, I’ll go months without taking out the garbage, which is useful because I need all the Gatorade bottles I can get.
When I go out to shop, I usually buy the 32-ounce bottles of Gatorade that I then line up by my bed. Once I’m done drinking the Gatorade, I pee in the bottles so that I don’t have to get out of bed. Sometimes, I’m so depressed that I don’t get out of bed for weeks on end and when I feel better, I notice that I’ve gotten bedsores.
It was during one of the long stretches of depression that I ran out of free bottles, so I ended up peeing in a half-full orange-flavored bottle. Needless to say, I forgot about it the next day, and it took two full gulps for me to realize that I was drinking my own piss. Which—when you really think about it, is kind of funny. Or at least I thought it was.
I wasn’t always like this. I mean, I was married and I had children, but over the years I was just defeated by depression. My depression was left undiagnosed for too long, and when it was, it wasn’t treated well, so the way I look at it is: it was allowed to fester inside me. I jettisoned parts of my life that I could no longer deal with—that took too much time or effort—and eventually I was left with the basic necessities. I don’t have any responsibilities anymore. I took care of my family financially, I’m self-sufficient, and I’m not doing anyone any harm.
So I suppose I’m just waiting around to die. All the men in my family passed away before the age of 62 of a heart attack, and I’m 65, so… I have a funeral plan that’s all paid for, I have an executor to my will, and I save a little bit of money every month so that I can leave my kids something when I go.
I take a fistful of pills for depression and for bipolar disorder—they basically bury my sex drive under 6 feet of concrete, but Viagra still overrides them, sometimes. There’s a woman I know who also struggles with depression, and she’s on a lot of medicine, too. She comes over every once in a while. We make the most out of it. We get out of it what we can.
In terms of indulgences, let’s see…I have a pair of furry slippers that I love. I spend all day in those slippers, and the soles are coming off, but they’re mine and I love them. I’m on eBay a lot. I buy myself things that make me briefly feel better—mostly collectibles that aren’t worth anything. I sell some stuff too, but that requires a lot of effort so mostly I end up piling things up in a corner somewhere.
I don’t think I’m a hoarder. I’m not a hoarder. It’s hard to get around my apartment because there’s lots of garbage that I don’t throw out fast enough, but that’s not because I want to keep it. I mostly just can’t get up the courage to go down to the dumpster.
I haven’t seen my daughter in over ten years. I call her on the phone about once a year; I used to call more but she told me to stop, so now we try to email about once a month. She’s limited me to once a month and I can only send her funny things that I find on the Internet. I haven’t seen my son or spoken to him in over two years. Last time we spoke, he told me that he doesn’t have room in his life for negative people and negative relationships.
But I like myself and how I do things, I guess. Life is easier now that I’ve accepted my disease. I can’t beat it, so I’ve adapted to it.