Today, I Need To Talk About My Depression

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This morning, Autumn sun shines through the north-facing window as magpies gather on the grass and call to one another with their indignant warbles. I gaze out the window and watch as geese stroll in their clumsy line to the fruit trees down the hill, while the hum of the dishwasher and the crackle of the 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 my 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, and leaves me powerless to fight against the weight of it.

Rich Larson wrote an article this week in response to the death of Chris Cornell, in trying to understand why this particular loss has affected him so much. He writes,

“…his is the death that bothers me the most. As I’ve been thinking about this, I’m realizing that it’s both a personal and a generational thing. Cornell had a long struggle with depression. As have I… we talk about it as a demon or a monster. It’s a dark shadow that shows itself at any point in time without warning. It surrounds us, isolates us, and quiets us… You might think grunge is about anger, but that’s not completely true. Yes, it can sound that way, but it’s really about depression and cynicism. Those two go hand-in-hand, along with their nasty little sister, anxiety. When the three of them get going, they just eat hope as quickly as it can be summoned. That leaves despair and despair is exhausting, not just for those who experience it, but for the people around it as well. So we keep it to ourselves because we don’t want to be a burden… depression makes you feel totally alone. You hit the breaking point, and then, like Chris Cornell, you die alone in the bathroom…”

We speak words like shock and tragedy and loss and try to make sense of why a man who had the adoration of the world upon him would take his own life, alone, in a hotel bathroom. There is such suddenness to it, such harsh abruptness, as if it should have been a decision he made on a drug-induced irrational whim. And maybe we would understand it more if it were, and maybe it would seem more palatable to our tongues to blame drugs than to have to face the fact we are no less immune to being caught in the clutches of darkness as he was. As anybody is. Maybe it’s just too real to those of us who don’t have to try as hard as everyone else to make sense of it all.

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 I’m tired of fighting this and I don’t want to fight this anymore. 

These are words I wrote.

Not years ago or months ago or in some other lifetime.

These are words I wrote two days ago.

Two. Days. Ago.

I read these words back now and in all honesty, I’m scared by them. By how powerless 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 heaviness of these words we cannot fight against them any longer.

The days that led up to the 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 carry in my soul. I simply do not have the capability to love others when my heart is so numb I can’t even feel it beat inside my own chest. 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 two days ago, you wouldn’t 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 the way my smile didn’t reach my eyes.

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 loathed 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.

Until eventually, we have fought on our own and in silence for so long our bones ache and our shoulders slump and we are too tired to even lift our heads and we take our own life in a hotel bathroom.

Depression doesn’t play favourites. It doesn’t discriminate. It is you. It is me. It is Chris Cornell. 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.

Image courtesy ivona.bigmir.net 

Tell Me, Can You Still Love Me Then?

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But tell me,
Can you still love me
When the bitter winds
That rise from the south
Steal away the vivid colour 
You have come to admire
And I am left only bleak
Grey and stripped bare
Before your wondrous gaze 

But tell me,
Can you still love me
When I am without life
Under your warm hands
When you dig far below
The outside of my skin
And stumble upon roots
Tangled, twisted, wayward
Between dark layers of my soul

But tell me,
Can you still love me
When you find me there
At home in the darkness
Of my anguish and secrets
Of my loneliness and rage
When these unholy hands
Hold tight the black earth
And I kiss both life and death

But tell me,
Can you still love me
When there is just echo
Of the winter in my bones
And I lay silent, unmoved
By your whisper upon me
Instead lulled by the sound
Of gales that rush toward me
With their loneliness and despair

But tell me,
Can you still love me
When the winds won’t end
And I am the barren hope
Of Spring, kept out of reach
When I am broken by winter
And too cold to speak words
Of how I need your love the most
Tell me, can you still love me then?

~ © Kathy Parker ~

Image courtesy fotolog.com

The Path Of The Survivor

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There is a path we take.

It is not a journey forward, but one that leads us back.

Back to the places we were first broken.

Back to the places we fear the most.

We resist it, fight it.

But on that path lies a trail of broken pieces. Splintered fragments of ourselves we left behind when they were too sharp to hold and cut us open. Back then we didn’t know how to stop the bleeding. So we left the pieces, scattered on the path, and continued on our journey.

Removed from the pain, but separated from ourselves.

But now, we must go back for those pieces.

For this is how we put ourselves back together.

This is how we become whole.

We gather the pieces we abandoned, and place them inside us where they always belonged.

Find courage, dear one, and tread upon the path. Pick up the broken pieces and hold them close. Remember the way they once cut your hands, yet no longer do, for now your hands are stronger and your skin is thicker and though scarred, you no longer bleed.

Feel the weight of the pieces in your hands and notice you are strong enough to carry that weight now. Turn them over, adjust them, move them, line them up. Make sense of them. Place them side by side. Repair them. Restore them. See the way they come together with cracks and lines and faults and imperfect edges that will never fit like they used to.

But see how they are once more made whole.

This is how broken things mend.

How broken people mend.

In flawed perfection.

It was never your fault you were so broken. It was never your fault you left so much of yourself behind. But now is the time to go back and pick up the pieces. Do not fear the path. You know the way, you have walked it before. It is your path. And these are your pieces. They belong to you. Pick them up and put them back together and place them inside your chest. Allow them to make you whole again as you were always meant to be.

Broken no more.

For this, dear one, is the path of the survivor.

Image courtesy http://www.butifldisaster.wordpress.com

I Wonder If You Knew Back Then

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I wonder if you knew back then
That grief would have a name
And it would taste like me
Bitter, like the dregs
Of pitch black coffee
I left upon your lips

I wonder if you knew back then
That you would have to bury
Me, in the splintered coffin
Built inside your mind
Knowing I carry heartbeat
Still, just no longer yours

I wonder if you knew back then
That ghosts are not people
But memories that stain
Endless, like faded nicotine
Under cracked fingers
Never scrubbed away

I wonder if you knew back then
Of the sound loneliness makes
The hollow scratching that
Claws inside your chest
Tearing flesh from bone
And me from you

I wonder if you knew back then
That I was made from the grit
Woven through tangled earth
And the salt flung across
Tempestuous ocean
Wild and unafraid

I wonder if you could have known
Of all you would come to lose
The day my worth was found
I wonder if you will ever know
You did not break me, my love
You saved me.

Image courtesy Dreamfootage

Foolish Girl, You Are Not Foolish At All

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Foolish girl,

You turn away from the world because you believe the mistakes you have made are tattooed all over your body and that is all the world can see; marks of shame you cannot wipe clean no matter how many years you scrub your skin until no more blood can seep from your pores still stained with filth and sin.

You turn away from the world because you believe you are defined by your past, by the choices you made when there were no other choices; that you are bound to the girl you once were by the invisible ropes still tied around your hands and feet, held in place by words of shame that will never deliver you from their grasp.

You turn away from the world because you believe you are not deserving to hold your head high and look it in the eye; that you carry a scarlet letter upon your forehead that will blind those who dare to look your way, and you cannot stand to see the way they turn their face from your tainted humanity.

You forget, foolish girl.

You forget what you have survived.

You forget you fought alone against the world when your hands were too small to defeat the weight of it, and so you took it on as your own even though it almost crushed you.

You forget you were betrayed by those who should have protected you and so you barricaded yourself behind hard edges and sharp corners and promised to never trust or need another again.

You forget the way love was shown as abuse and abuse was shown as love and the shame you were forced to carry because of the way you longed to be loved even when that looked like abuse.

You forget you sat alone in a room filled with despair as your hands shook and blood trailed down your wrist and in that moment when you could have chosen death, you chose life.

You forget you have every reason to be hard, but you choose to remain soft. You have every reason to hate, but you choose to show mercy. You have every reason to cast judgment, but you choose to speak grace. You have every reason to fuck this world the way it has fucked you, but you choose to heal it instead.

You forget you have survived what most people never could.

Foolish girl, you are not foolish at all.

You are a warrior.

You are strength. You are bravery. You are courage. You are hope. You are light. You are truth. You are love. You are survival. You are kindness. You are wisdom. You are redemption. You are transformation. You are revolution.

And most of all, you are worthy.

To love, and to be loved.

You just need to believe it.

~ © Kathy Parker ~

Image courtesy usadress.info

This Is Survival. Sometimes It Isn’t Pretty.

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This is survival. Sometimes it isn’t pretty.

I wrote these words to my friend, Antanika, in response to the courageous and honest words she shared on her Facebook page last night.

They haven’t left my mind since.

Antanika is a survivor, and one of the bravest warriors I know. I can’t tell you how in awe of her I am. She takes her pain, her trauma, the things she has suffered, and she looks them square in the eye, unabashed. She says them out loud. She fights them head on. Me? I dance around words like sexual abuse, molestation, rape, violation, assault. The words are too stark, there is nothing to hide behind when I say these words out loud. Instead I find ways to make them sound poetic, romantic even, as if that somehow softens them or lessens the pain and destruction they have caused in my life. When really, I’m just too scared and ashamed to admit how unhealed I actually am.

I don’t know how healed those who have suffered these traumas ever become. Some days I feel more held together than others. Most days I won’t admit how close to unhinged I truly am. I do know the word survivor has been glorified into an image I feel I cannot do justice to. Because unless survival is found in a bottle of wine, then I’m not doing it very well.

Most people drink to forget.

I don’t drink to forget.

I drink to feel.

Because I’m desperate to feel.

Something. Anything.

Because the harsh truth is, I don’t know how to feel anymore. In the stark, sober light of day, there is only numbness. Disassociation. Detachment. I have drifted oceans away from my soul and can no longer recognise the sound of my own heartbeat. I want to feel, and I can’t. I want to submerge in the depth of my emotions, and I don’t know how. My heart is in lockdown, protected by strongholds I once needed but now do not know how to tear down. All I know is only when I drink, do I feel. Only on those nights do I find reprieve from the soul-destroying numbness that falls upon me like a blanket of fog I cannot get out from underneath of. Here, in the night, with alcohol in my veins, I am raw emotion, I am honest truth, I am the uncontained force of grief and loss and love and beauty and desire and hope and anger and hatred that rages through my anaesthetised soul and wakes it from its godforsaken sleep.

There are better ways to make it through. Right now, I am not capable of them. I drink because I cannot survive in the numbness. But I cannot survive in the fullness of my pain either. This is a paradox most cannot understand, except those who walk the path of the survivor.

I like to think that sometimes survival looks beautiful on me, that sometimes it is strength and courage and battle scars etched upon my skin for every war I have fought and won; battle scars that glisten in the sun as I stand upon mountaintops and look back at how far I have climbed along trails I never should have survived with the odds so damn against me.

But I know too, sometimes survival is anything but pretty.

It’s too much alcohol and words haemorrhaged on a page. It’s 3am bloodshed and battle and demons slayed. It’s torrents of rage unleashed upon the things we remember even though we chose to forget. It’s war fought in silence and tears, in fury and defeat. It’s weeping and howling and desiring and longing and seething and wanting and healing and feeling. For God’s sake, feeling.

It’s rebellion against the deadness that blankets our soul.

It’s anarchy against the numbness our hearts cannot escape.

It’s not pretty.

But it’s how we survive, today, until we can survive better tomorrow.

The point is, we’re surviving.

And sometimes that’s all that really matters.

Image courtesy Martin Driver  

Arisen

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“You’re safe with me,” you say
As I gaze at fault lines
Mapped upon your heart
Desperate to believe you
I pretend not to see
And look away

“I love you,” you whisper
And I unpack worn bags
And make you my home
Not yet wise enough to know
Your love would always come
At a cost

I tiptoe around the cracks
Of our distorted foundations
And try not to notice the
Tremors that rattle my bones
As you kiss weak excuses
Upon my lips

The walls close in around us
I suffocate under the weight
Of their intimidating stare
They watch, and follow
And scorn their judgement
Except, the walls are you
Held by mistrust

The air seeps with tension
As cold as your touch
Even though hot anger
Simmers fire in your veins
Tectonic plates shift, and rage
Pours onto me

“Who is he?” you ask
You never did understand me
For there is no other
But you erupt, violent,
The unredeemable earthquake
That destroys us

But I arise the tsunami
Carried on the force
Of my own glorious strength
And all that remains of you
Is the memory I once held
Washed away evermore.

~ © Kathy Parker \\ Paul Kohn ~

Image courtesy http://www.ransomedheart.com

Freedom


I will hurl expectation to the oceans of burden you drown beneath 

I will untie my hands from the duty you enslave your heart to 

I will dance upon graves of the buried obligation you die below

I will howl truths upon the mountains you lack courage to tread 

I will sprint breathless toward the deliverance you turn away from 

I will tear apart the walls of the prison you call protection 

I will revel in the abundance of life you deny yourself 

The life you denied me

For I understand now it was not 

My freedom you so feared

But your own. 

~ © Kathy Parker ~ 

Image courtesy deviantart.com

I Want You To Wake With Me

I want you to wake with me

In the place where salt air

Floats through our open window

And soaks into our thirsty skin

The place where our minds

Are as tangled together

As our bodies

Beneath the worn sheets

Where I find refuge in 

The tremble of your breath

Against mine

 
I want you to wake with me 

In the place where clocks

Do not exist, and time

Steals naught away

 
The place where fear

Loses grip on my heart

With each moment 

Your ravenous hands

Take grip of my flesh 

No longer falling away

But complete

 
I want you to wake with me 

In the place where the pieces 

Of our glorious madness

At once  make perfect sense

 
The place where you

Will trace gentle lines 

Over the scars I hide 

And I will kiss healing

Into the wounds you deny

And our skin will weep 

No more

 
I want you to wake with me

In the place we will never leave  

And here we will make our home

Here we will stay. 

~ © Kathy Parker ~

 
Image courtesy of theproblemwithdating.com 

Dear Man Who Loves The Woman Who Has Been To Hell And Back

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Dear Man Who Loves The Woman Who Has Been To Hell and Back,

Last year I published the article, How To Love A Woman Who Has Been To Hell and Back. This article has since been republished on more websites than I could even tell you. It has been shared hundreds of thousands of times all around the world, and has received millions of views. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of messages I’ve received from women who have thanked me for giving them the words they could never say.

But in the last while, my inbox has also been filled with messages from men such as you. Men who are trying to love the woman who has been to hell and back, but are struggling. Men who are doing the best they can, but are hurting. Men who are trying to understand more, do better, love harder, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the pain and exhaustion. Men who are confused, unsure, lost, and in need of answers.

Dear man, the fact that you love your woman so much that you are willing to read an article to understand her more is a truly wonderful thing. That you would message me in the hope of knowing how to love her better is admirable. Men like you are rare, precious, and so appreciated. The world needs more men like you. Men who are strong, brave, resilient, determined, loyal, and willing to love at a high cost because you understand the worth of the woman you hold in your arms. You are a testament to the masculine heart that encompasses both strength and gentleness, fierceness and kindness. Hearts like yours are worthy of respect, and I give thanks that you have chosen to love the woman in your life with such determination, commitment and resolve.

I understand how hard it is to love a woman who has been to hell and back.

Because the thing is, this woman carries in her heart a lifetime of pain that you didn’t cause. You didn’t inflict this pain on her. You didn’t hurt her. You didn’t damage her heart. You aren’t the reason she cannot fully love or trust.

But you are the one she pushes away. You are the one who tries to get close to her, to love her, but fails. You are the one she won’t turn to when she’s in pain, the one she won’t talk to when she feels alone, the one she won’t draw near to when she needs someone the most.

You are the one she hurts, because she is hurting.

And you don’t deserve that.

I know what that does to your heart. I know of the times you are so damn frustrated at not knowing what to do. I know you feel like no matter how much you love her, it will never be enough. I know you are exhausted at times, and are not sure how much more you can take of this storm. I know you feel confused and sometimes none of it makes sense and you lay awake at night and wonder if it’s worth it.

But the thing is, you’re still there.

You’re still there because something tells you this is worth it.

It’s difficult for me to tell you how to best love the woman who has been to hell and back. No situation is ever the same, and I have not the mind and heart of a man in your shoes.

But this is what I can tell you.

My original article was not written to condone abuse of any kind. Our society is vocal when it comes to domestic violence where women are the victims, but far less vocal to speak of men who are abused by women. It’s real, and it happens, and I understand how my article may have been interpreted in this respect and how that may have confused and upset you. But abuse is never okay, no matter from a man to a woman, or a woman to a man.

There is a difference between a woman who is hurting and inadvertently hurts others as she works through her pain, and a woman who justifies hurting others because she has been hurt, so that makes it okay. There is a difference between a woman who is willing to acknowledge that she has hurt others, who seeks forgiveness and redemption, and who strives to do better, and a woman who plays the victim card, blames others, and does not seek to change her ways but expects others to be her punching bag. There is a difference between a woman who struggles to love but does her best to give all she can to the relationship, and one who merely expects, takes, and gives nothing in return.

I know sometimes the lines can seem blurred, and because of this you struggle to know whether to stay or leave. But you are not obligated or responsible to stay there in the face of abuse. You must still, always, protect your heart. The woman who has been to hell and back needs to be responsible for her own healing. It’s not an easy journey, nor a fast one. There are many hard days, many times she will get stuck and not know the way forward. But the important thing to consider is that she is trying – for herself, for you, for your relationship.

No-one can tell you whether to stay or leave, only you can determine what you see in her heart, whether you see growth and change and promise, or whether you merely feel like her doormat. To love a woman who has been to hell and back is not easy. But it should never mean abuse, lack of respect, lack of boundaries, or that you become a scapegoat for someone who is unwilling to heal. This is something you must be able to understand the difference between in order to answer the question of whether you should stay or leave.

I can tell you that you are not responsible for fixing her, nor does she want you to. Men are fixers, and I understand it’s in your nature to want to make this better; make her better. But this is her journey. This is her pain. Her healing will not be pretty. At times she will be the hurricane and you will need to be the storm shelter – let her rage, let her anger and her fury and her pain unleash from her heart, let the weight of the trauma she has stored in her body for so many years come undone. Don’t fight it, don’t stop it, don’t fix it. Just be that safe place for her to come home to when the storm ends and the tears begin. You cannot fix her, you can only love her.

I can tell you the woman who has been to hell and back has a story written on her heart. A story which says everyone who should have protected her, didn’t. Everyone she trusted, hurt her. Everyone she loved, left her. She waits for you to continue the story, to be the next person to reject her, abandon her, hurt her. She expects it. She thinks it’s only a matter of time. And this is why she pushes you away, hurts you, leaves you, when you have only ever loved her. She doesn’t believe she is worthy of a love like yours, and believes it’s only a matter of time until you realise this too.

You asked me what it means to love harder.

It means you will need to be better than anyone else at love. It means you will need to love with more strength, more patience, more grace, more determination, more understanding, more perseverance. It means you will need to love her more than anyone else has before or will again. It means you will need to love her until she understands what love is, and believes in a love she’s never known.

It means you will need to love her hard enough to be the one to re-write the story on her heart.

But dear man, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t everything she needs, and didn’t have everything it takes, to love the woman who has been to hell and back.

Image via mustbethistalltoride.com