This morning, Autumn sun filters through the window as magpies gather on the grass and call to one another with their song. I gaze outside and watch as geese stroll in their clumsy line while only the hum of dishwasher and crackle of fire compete with the silence of the house. There is life and movement and sound, and I am present and grounded in this moment.
It’s difficult on days like this, when I feel so stable, so balanced, to imagine I can be anything other than this. It’s easy to believe I can, and will, always stay in this place of lucid rationality. But I have battled on the frontline of depression for long enough now to accept its relentless stealth, the way it rests in my blind spot and edges in without a sound when I am unprepared and least aware. The way it leaves me powerless to fight against the heaviness of its grasp.
I don’t know how to get away from it, from the darkness that falls upon me. I scratch and claw at it, but it lands and it lands and it lands and I am smothered by it until there is no more light but suddenly the darkness is no more my enemy, it is no longer feared, I welcome it and embrace it and tell it to make its home here for I too am darkness and cannot — do not want to — fight this anymore.
I stumbled upon these words in a journal the other day; words I wrote in the midst of my worst depression a number of years ago now. I read them back and in all honesty, I’m scared by them. By how trapped I felt under the weight of darkness. By how hard it was for me to fight against it.
It’s difficult to articulate what goes on in these moments of despair. People, in their ignorance, often talk of suicide being selfish. Yet I’m quite sure the heart of those who take their own lives all beat to the same conviction: they’d be better off without me. These are not self-indulgent words spoken in the hope of attention and appeasement, but words that rise from the darkest corners of the soul and fill bodies and rush through veins and sit upon bones until we become so laden with the crushing weight of these words we cannot fight against them any longer.
The days that led up to those words I wrote were filled with darkness, heaviness, bleakness, numbness, hopelessness. I felt like failure. I felt like inadequacy. I felt I could do nothing right, that nothing I did was good enough. I felt I was letting everyone down, that I couldn’t keep up, that I was a disappointment to those around me.
Mostly, I felt consumed by my own self-loathing. Because in my times of darkness, I cannot love the way others need me to love them. This is part of my brokenness, part of my PTSD, part of the unhealed wounds I still carry from childhood trauma. I simply do not have the capability to love others when my heart becomes so numb. I have nothing. I see the way those who love me are hurt by this. They think this is a choice I make; to not love. They have no idea of the pain and grief it causes me. They blame me, and I blame me, and I am left even more isolated and alone in the ways they will never – could never – understand my heart.
And in these times of darkness, it only seems logical that others would be better off without me. That those who love me would never have to suffer a love that is often only returned with ambivalence at best. That I would never have to look into the eyes of those around me and see my own failure and disappointment reflected back at me. That I would no longer hurt those who least deserve it, because I am incapable of being anything other than a broken, f*cked up mess.
Of course, none of this is rational. But it never is.
And the thing is, if you’d seen me during that time of deep depression, you would never have known. Maybe I’d have seemed a little distant, a little distracted. Not quite myself. I’d likely have still smiled as we said hello, only to look away a little too fast before you noticed anything was amiss.
Depression is something we don’t talk about. It’s something we pretend isn’t a thing, at least not one we suffer with. We say words like fine and good and okay as a shield to deflect any possible further questions that might expose our shame. Because secretly, we lug around the stigma that something is wrong with us, and our worst fear is that someone will see our depression, and confirm our fears are right.
We carry the burden on our own because we fear the weight of it, and are loathe to break the back of another by asking their help to carry it too. We fear being misunderstood, being seen as self-indulgent or self-pitying. We fear the risk of vulnerability in the face of potential dismiss or disregard. We fear we are just too much. Too much emotion, too much pain, too much sadness, too much darkness. Too much trouble.
They’d be better off without me.
Depression doesn’t play favourites. It doesn’t discriminate. It is you. It is me. It is insidious and we cannot take it upon ourselves to assume who we think should or shouldn’t suffer this relentless darkness. It cannot be hoped away, prayed away, sent away with token words and a pat on the back.
What it needs is to be understood.
To know depression is not failure. To know it is not weakness. To know there is no fault and no blame. To know how strong we really are to continue the fight when every breath is a battle won. To know we are doing the best we can, and that will always be enough.
To know, most importantly, we are never alone.
You are never alone.