The following piece was written a few years ago as an attempt to explain to loved ones what depression is. I have been suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder since I was 11 years old and Severe Anxiety since I was 19. I have been blessed with caring group of health professionals who have assisted me with developing the cognitive tools to overcome these bouts of mental illness and fully function in society. If you or someone you love suffers from mental illness of any sort, I hope these words bring a better understanding to you.
Normally I would not share something so personal… yet I realize it does little good if nobody reads it. Also, the wild rose inspired me: by having the strength to grow anywhere and still be beautiful.
Light Beyond The Hollow Point Of Darkness
There are words: a multitude of words for everything in our universe, every texture, every smell, every sound, all we see, as well as that which we do not see. I respect that we must understand the power words possess and recognize that once released a word cannot be taken back. There are times, sadly so, that words become insignificant manmade definitions. This seems a contradictory statement, yet this is the paradox of words. Sometimes a word or an assemblage of words falls short of justifying an experience. I often think that if I were a better writer I could create a sentence capable of breathing life into an experience in such a way that everyone who read this sentence would feel exactly the same. Given that our differences, our experiences, and our environments influence the way we feel, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to find words that can unify the way in which we are affected by what we hear, or by what we read. This inability to understand the point of view of our brothers and sisters has brought great discord to our world.
Anguish is a word which brings to human understanding feelings of dark torment, the presence of profound despair, yet “anguish” fails to define depression completely, for that matter the word “depression” fails to define depression, or rather the state of emotion which has been neatly placed into the box marked “DEPRESSION”. I’ve spent countless hours, weeks, months, living in this box labeled with a word that does not come close to explaining what is inside. Over the course of two decades I’ve learned to define depression clinically, poetically, and visually; unfortunately all variations on the theme fall short of capturing what it truly feels like. Words have failed me, or I have failed words; either way it is wearisome to have spent such an abundance of time in a place and thus far be unable to define it with clarity others can understand. It’s as if I’ve spent thousands of hours watching a painting unfold before my very eyes, I’ve studied the position of every brush stroke to the point I could identify a forgery in a seconds glance, and yet I cant elucidate what I’ve seen. I’ve tried to replicate the painting with carefully selected words but everybody who reads these words visualizes a different painting, one sees a painting that is uninteresting, to another it is ugly, the next person sees dark beauty. I do not contend that depression is beautiful, however, the truths which enslave us can set us free if we learn to honor them, to honor ourselves; therein lies the beauty.
Let me attempt to paint for you this place I go:
There is an endless maze of murky catacombs residing in the dark uncharted recesses of my mind. The thickness of the air constricts the breath of my spirit, I can’t distinguish heat from cold here, flowers are without scent, ice-cream no longer tastes sweet, food is merely ingested as a means of survival, every colour has bled into one creating a gray haze which clouds my vision, my physical senses are numb, yet debilitating emotional pain permeates every pore; I have never felt so deeply alone as I do inside this mausoleum. Through tunnel upon tunnel I wander gloomy corridors in search of an exit only to find locked door after locked door. The walls seem to be closing in, the ceiling descending with each step taken until I can no longer walk upright; sinking to my knees I crawl, dragging the weight of unending sadness. I claw my way forward until the shadows are too much to endure: the weight of the human realm too much to carry. I lay there in a strangle hold of fear and anguish; rocking feverishly in attempt to comfort my soul, barely breathing, the sorrow is indefinable. I know I have arrived in depression, or perhaps it has arrived in me; regardless, I know we are together again in the place of eternal seconds.
I am empty in this place, I have nothing to give to another, and I have nothing left for my self, the pendulum constantly swinging back and forth between agonizing sadness and lifeless indifference. Motionless days are the most difficult; their lack of momentum makes me feel that I am steadily loosing ground. Desperate thoughts cycle endlessly through my mind, at my worst a voice speaks to me telling me I am still in control, that I can end this sadness at will. There is a simple solution: “Just kill yourself. End it now, it would be so easy.” I am horrified to hear a voice that sounds like my own inner voice giving me such hopeless instruction. It becomes a battle of biblical proportions: good vs. evil “I will not kill myself… just shut up!” In these instances I fear that “crazy” is winning, rational thoughts struggle to survive, to solve a riddle that is always different, to find the trap door to freedom; like Alice down the rabbit hole I cant find my way out. Yet unlike Alice, I never pass anyone in the hall, depression is an individual prison; those who suffer do so alone, suffocating in their own bodies, separate from all others trapped in similar circumstance.
I have slow danced with madness for more hours than I care to recall. It holds close to your breast like a toxic lover, moving through you leading you powerlessly to places you wish to never go. I don’t know if you caught a glimpse of depression in these paragraphs, I felt traces in every sentence; but fear that literary description will never truly voice the silent screams ravaging the core of what one becomes in that awful place where the spirit dies in small doses. Blots of ink on a page do not shed uncontrollable tears or beg to God for deliverance “Lord, please teach me how to be brave!” Paintings and poetry serve only to capture slivers of what this all-encompassing state of being feels like from the inside; conceivably, it is impossible to whittle down to a tangible format, still, in attempt to foster understanding, I try to define it. Of these things I am certain: after moving through depression and arriving back among the living I will always remember, vividly, how it feels to be lost in profound aloneness: to be trapped in the most hollow point of darkness. Predominant to these dark memories, I will remain forever grateful for the small miracles surrounding me daily, illness has given me a greater respect for the fragility of life; it has taught me to appreciate joy and honor my own truth.
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