On Depression…

I wrote this several years ago, but am posting it here because reading it recently helped a friend of mine work on her own demons….

I’m depressed. We hear people say that all the time. I didn’t get the promotion; my wife forgot our anniversary; why does this always happen to me? And while these things may be important to the affected persons, they are mostly trivial in the larger scheme of things. I’ve often spoken of being depressed, mostly about what were really minor disappointments. And of course, we’ve all known someone who spoke of being depressed, and how it affected them so strongly, and oh, you can’t understand how I’m feeling. Yeah, we tell ourselves, they just need to tough it out; they’re such wimps. I’ve said it, and thought it of people I knew. I want to apologize to all those forgotten souls for ever feeling superior to them, for ever thinking that they were weak, for ever turning my back on them when they may have been asking for help, for someone to understand what they were going through, or for validation that it may be real and not something they were making up in their heads.

I’m depressed.

For the past few years, I’ve not been feeling myself. It started, I think with an ongoing situation with my daughter, but who really knows? That particular hell still continues and, of course, seems like it will never go away. My father and I had always been very close, in a head-butting father and son kind of way. And although it was only rarely mentioned, and that mostly in recent years, I knew he loved me and would always be there for me, and I hope, I believe, that he knew I felt the same. He’s not here for me anymore, although I find myself talking to him now more than ever. After a long illness, the severity of which he kept mostly hidden from us all, he died in his sleep three days before Christmas. I had been expecting it, been waiting for the phone call; someday. I didn’t really think it would have that much of an affect on me and at first it didn’t seem to. We had addressed the issues between us the year before and both felt better for it. Our conversations were easier. “I love you, Son” ended most phone calls. I could probably count on one hand the times I had heard that growing up. Well, I was wrong. Not only did it affect me; it devastated me. It chopped my legs out from under me as I watched my world come crashing down. It’s been five months and I still don’t understand this at all.

It seems things that never used to bother me were now having an impact I couldn’t quite comprehend; and wasn’t actually sure I wanted to. It’ll go away. It didn’t. It doesn’t. It grows, feeding on your insecurities, about life, about relationships, about yourself. Once established, it continues growing, feeding, telling you lies, making you believe in it so deeply that nothing, nothing will ever make it go away. It is omnipotent; it is your master, your poison, a blanket to pull over yourself to avoid having to actually live your life. It doesn’t make sense. It is so hard to discuss depression, especially an entrenched, severe depression with someone who has never gone through it. They may be sympathetic, supporting, caring, and always, always there for you. But, they can never really know. They can never really understand. There is no way to adequately describe it. I’m happy and excited one minute, get up to get a drink of water, and halfway to the kitchen feel like the only thing in the world I want to do right now, the only thing that makes sense to do right now, is sit down on the floor and cry. How do you make someone who hasn’t experienced those feelings understand? I don’t know. I wish I did. How can you describe how it feels to see a long dark tunnel with only a small speck of light showing at the end that you want to reach more than anything in the world, but knowing that you never will, realizing that it’s not even worth the bother of trying; so why try? Why set yourself up for even more disappointment, more darkness, more despair? For even more validation that your situation is indeed hopeless. I can say this very thing to someone, but it lacks so much in the telling. I can’t paint a dark enough picture to describe the sense of hopelessness, to describe why for no reason at all tears well up and don’t want to stop; to share the complete lack of caring about any of this. It just is, and always will be. Why fight it? Why get up today? Why bother doing anything at all? And the weird thing is…no one knows. Everyone thinks I’m fine, happy, living life to the fullest, enjoying everything the world has to offer, because that’s who I was, and I cling to the illusion, for the sake of my loved ones even more than for myself. No one knows because I won’t let them know. I can’t let them know. I can’t let them see me like this, weak and helpless and without hope. I won’t let them even try to understand what it’s like every single day fighting, with all the strength I can muster, to get out from under that blanket, but knowing that I can’t do it no matter how hard I try, so why try? I can’t let anyone see, or know that sometimes it is so dark that I’d consider doing anything, anything to be able to stand in the sunlight once again. Even if that means leaving this existence for another, hopefully better one where the darkness can’t follow. Where the darkness can’t shut out the light, where the chance for happiness exists again. It’s got to be better than this, right?

A friend of mine killed himself 10 years ago. I’ll never forgive him for it. Went home for lunch, walked outside his house into the woods and shot himself. The note said that he was fairly certain that his wife had been having an affair for awhile, that he couldn’t live with that, but wanted her to be happy, and taken care of. One thing about being in the Air Force, $250,000 worth of life insurance is a nice chunk of change. That’s all he thought he had to give her anymore. I had known him for several years. We were stationed together in Panama, and at that time were stationed together in Arizona. We worked in Air Force Intelligence. We were the elite. No brag, just fact, as the line goes. He was an Airborne Mission Supervisor, respected and liked by we, his peers, all the way to Air Force Intelligence Command Headquarters staff. I worked very closely with him. I was his Intelligence Analyst in the air and on the ground. I talked to him an hour before he killed himself; he was laughing and joking as he usually was. We made plans to get together the next day, Saturday, for lunch and maybe to go for a hike in the desert… I found out the next morning when our former Commander from our days in Panama, and who was now at headquarters level, called me and asked me if I had known anything. I hadn’t had a clue. None of us did. We all wondered why he hadn’t talked to one of us; it’s a very close, tight knit command. We were all stunned. How could something like this have happened? To him? He was one of the good guys, at the top of his field. His name came up in briefings, his reputation as one of the best was more than deserved; he was. He had friends all around him. Why hadn’t he talked to someone? Why hadn’t he talked to me? I didn’t understand, then. Now I do. You can’t…Depression is such an ugly, all-powerful, all-consuming Demon that it’s no use talking about it. It won’t do any good anyway, so why even bring it up. Why burden your family and your friends with it? Why bring them into the Demon’s reach? Why acknowledge that he even exists by talking about it? It’s a hopeless situation, so why try to hope?

I got lucky. My wife gradually noticed that something was wrong, but couldn’t quite figure out what. I was no help – – – “Nothing’s wrong, Sweetheart. I’m fine, just tired”. I couldn’t let the Demon get close to her. I needed to protect her, keep her safe. I was wrong.

The medication seems to be helping; although it’s too early to be sure. My therapist (there’s words I never thought I’d utter) is wonderful, a truly genuine, caring individual. I think it’s going to help. Plus, I’ve been facing the Demon, as well as some of the damage he’s caused, and that seems to be helping. I’ve realized that although he has a very strong hold on me, and doesn’t have any intention of letting go; there are hints of weakness there if you look close enough. My wife, my meds, and my therapist are helping me start to look in the right places. Are helping me want to start looking, and fighting. But, the darkness is still there, is just as strong, and has just as much a hold on me as it ever did…now, however, I’m beginning to believe in hope once more.

…and when the sky grows dark, whether from storm or depression —- I grab lightning from the sky to light my path, and wander evermore…

20040526


Addendum … 20050224

Most of a year has passed since the Demon faced the light for the first time. It hasn’t been an easy journey to get to this point, but it has most definitely been a worthwhile struggle. A year of searching; for answers, for questions, for remnants of who I used to be, and wished to be once more. A mostly successful passage of time in which I’ve learned many things I used to know, but had forgotten. And, I learned many new things; about myself, about the world around me, and about the Demon that still lurks in the darkness. He’s really not as powerful as he wants you to believe. But, I can still see his eyes glowing in the dark corners if I look. I try not to look; to not even acknowledge that he exists still inside me. I can feel his grip upon me if I give it half a chance. I try not to. It’s much better if he stays back in the darkness, away from me, away from those I care about, but where I can watch him and keep him bound. He doesn’t like it there, powerless, striving ever to come forth and reveal himself again. But I can name him now, so his power over me has diminished to a mere shadow of its former self. Knowledge and understanding have given me the weapons I need to drive him away. From being the controlled, I have become the controller. From being the vanquished, I have become the conqueror. I like it much better this way.

A lot of searching inside myself has gone on these past months. I wouldn’t have been able to find my way back without the support and guidance that seemed to materialize all around me when I needed it. Amazed, because I had all but come to the conclusion that such things no longer existed for me; that I was in this fight by myself, with no allies to help. Amazed, because there it was; I only had to ask.

My wife gave me a Christmas card that really opened my eyes, and made things so clear for me. It read, “Merry Christmas! Welcome back, I’ve missed you.” Wow! I really was a long way from where I’m meant to be. I’ve only recently begun to realize just how far I had strayed.

My therapist and I have had many discussions about a very simple idea that had eluded me for a very long time. It’s okay to feel bad about something without having to feel guilty about it. I had been beating myself up because I couldn’t change certain situations, and feeling guilty because somehow it had to have been my fault. It wasn’t. I can see that now, and although there are still twinges of guilt, I can consciously look at things and separate the guilt from simply feeling bad. Sometimes things just happen, and despite all efforts to the contrary, they simply can’t be changed. Life will be life.

My life has gotten better over the past year, in so many ways. For one, I once more feel free. I no longer feel like I’m watching things go by from inside a cage. I laugh more, I play more, I find joy in the simplest things. Like I used to. Life holds itself before me for the taking, beckoning me to become part of it; not, as before, to be something I yearned for, but knew I’d never be able to have. I’m inside looking out instead of outside looking in, which is a very different thing than looking out at life from within the Demon’s chamber.

I guess the best way I can describe it is that before, I felt that I was traveling through a dark tunnel with no chance of finding light at its end. Now, I’m bathed in light, and hardly notice as I pass the occasional dark doorway along the way that leads to what I know is the tunnel where I spent so much time believing that this light no longer existed, not daring to hope that someway, someday, I’d be able to escape. God, what a difference a year makes.

Thank you to all who showed me that the light was still here, and who gave me the strength and the desire to reach for it. As much as those few words can never express to you what a difference you’ve made in my life, please know that you are forever in my heart.

A! Elbereth! Gilthoniel!

elen sila lumenn omentilmo

Questions?

    

     Occasionally, when I’m at a loss of what to do, I wander off towards my woods, seeking the answers from them that I can get nowhere else.  Sitting in a secluded glade, leaning back against a pine, I watch the patterns of light and shadow on the ground.  I marvel at the way they change as the wind blows through the treetops.  The silence is broken once in a while by a bird scolding a supposed intruder.  Across from me, a deer steals from cover, appearing suddenly, as if by magic, to drink from a nearby stream.  The day gradually wears on and the air becomes cool and heavy.  Sadly, I get up to leave, my mind calm and my body relaxed.  Once again, I’ve gotten my answers.  But, as is usual, I’m not sure I know the questions.

The Journey

The Journey

Part I

There I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden a horse with wings came along. Now these were not just ordinary wings of feathers, but beautiful, glowing, iridescent wings of the finest, most sheer gossamer. Well anyway, this horse, she never did mention her name, started to speak but then stopped, as if confused. I could very well understand her feeling that way, as I was pretty much confused at the time myself. I mean, winged-horses almost never wander this far south and west, being as they are, creatures of the northern latitudes. Anyway, after a moment or two while she gathered her thoughts; at least I suppose that’s what she was doing, so little research has been done in the area of silent pauses by winged horses; she spoke. And this is what she had to say to me. “Life can be a very effectual barrier to learning, or it can be a gateway to unimagined experiences. It can be a meager existence, or can be a beautiful, exciting journey of unlimited pleasures.” Having told me this, she stepped closer and nuzzled my hand, my right hand, with her nose. It was warm and soft, and being rather partial to things both warm, and soft; especially when possessing wings of gossamer; I gently rubbed her nose, scratched her chin, and stroked the side of her neck while I pondered her words to me. A second or two later, I didn’t actually keep count, as we passed through the violet of a rainbow on our way to someplace else, I realized that too many ponder too long about too much and that my friend, for she was, had offered me a chance to feel. A chance not to be taken lightly, and especially not to be pondered. Which I guess is why I’m nestled on the back of a gossamer-winged horse; enjoying the sensation of being alive, and the capacity to feel.

Part II

My thoughts are of solitude; so all encompassing that it turns upon itself and becomes my companion. A gentle breeze stirs the hair framing my face, and sets the leaves to conversing among themselves in a language not comprehended by men, but nevertheless soothing their weary, longing souls. The wind carries with it the faint scent of spruce, mixed with the damp odor of decaying plant life which carpets the ground at my feet. Such a contrast, one bright and pungent; the other, deep and musty. About me, a grove of birch; above me, a deep blue sky with billowy clouds of the purest white; to my left, a small brook, playing its sweet melody among the rocks; to my right, and slightly behind, a beautiful, gossamer-winged horse, grazing upon the tender grasses growing among the birch.

We, she and I, have just arrived, say two days ago, at this quiet glade from a whirlwind journey through colors and sensations unimaginable. I being told this was to completely overwhelm my senses, leaving them clear, and uncluttered, to enjoy what new things we find. The horse; I need to pause momentarily to explain something of names. One’s name, not that by which we openly call ourselves, but rather one’s true name, is a very private thing. It contains a very special magic, one’s personal magic. According to many ancient legends, of varying source, if a being possesses your name they hold a certain power over you, and can wield it against you, or, at the very least, your power is useless against them. So…you can se that to give up one’s name is not a light undertaking. Through our so far brief, but intimate friendship, my winged companion and I have developed a strong trust in each other, and one morning, as we reveled in the rising of the sun, she honored me with the gift of her name. Knowing that this gift could only be truly appreciated by a like gesture, and secure in our friendship, I presented her with my own. I have her name, but the purposes of this journal, as a name should never be used for such as this, and should only be revealed by its owner, I will call her Beauty. The name brings to mind fairy tales and other remembrances of a more innocent time of life, and while doing her no great justice, does her no injustice. Also, she expressed a liking for it. Who be I to go against the wishes of a gossamer-winged horse. To continue; Beauty brought me to this place to meet another friend, someone whom could accompany us and provide insight on the experiences we meet. When I asked whom, she replied that she wasn’t sure, but that in our meeting we would know. So here we have been for a week now, I believe; enjoying our time among the trees. Basking in the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of this place. I have been many times in similar glades, but have been a very long time away from being able to enjoy one like I am now. The lessons, being explained by my companion; ones I used to know quite well, used to live by daily, but over time, and through responsibility to other, more mundane purposes, have faded; allow me to feel once again the many presences that exist in a magical place like a birch woods. I wait, with no sense of waiting, for the arrival of our new friend; turn and stroke the side of my winged Beauty, feeling her warmth; lean back against a tree and spend the next few hours watching a hawk soar about the sky, until, with the brook singing me a lullaby, and a gentle breeze to blanket me, I sleep upon the grass, content.

Part III

The Wolf slipped silently through the trees, his every movement calculated and precise. His keen senses giving him total awareness of his surroundings as he stealthily advanced towards the small opening in the grove. A moment more and his prey will be in sight. Three moments more until razor-sharp fangs close upon my pants leg, and I am forcefully shaken awake. My involuntary alarm instantly turning to joy as I look deep into the yellow eyes of the wolf and see upon his face a grin as huge as is wolfly possible. Just my luck, a smart aleck wolf for a friend. How did I know this was a friend? Ahh, Beauty said that in our meeting we would know. I looked upon this fellow; huge, covered with a heavy coat of long, dark fur, capable of killing me, or anything else it might desire, in a blink of the eye, and saw – no, understood is a better word, an incredible zest for life. This wolf lives to live. Life is an adventure. An incredible journey. Somehow this sounds familiar. My lessons embodied in the persona of… a wolf. Why doesn’t this surprise me?

Part IV

The noise is incessant; the view ever changing… The melodies and harmonies of this place take me to a place I’ve never been before. Somewhere in the back of my mind, somewhere deep inside of me, I hope that I’ll again know the feeling this place has given me; understanding that I’ll occasionally misplace it; worried that I may lose it entirely. So many obstacles stand in the way; so much of life turns us away from the path we know is ours to walk. Sometimes it is such a struggle to even remember that such paths exist. They become faded memories, fragments of dreams that sometimes force their way into our waking hours, hopefully reminding us, if only for that brief moment, that we do have options, that there exists a truth that only needs us to search in order to find it. Searching for such a thing is what led us here, Beauty and I. The cascade before me springs forth from the top of the ledge above and crashes its way down to the stream flowing at my feet. I feel the spray on my face; it refreshes me on a level I can’t describe, nor want to. The noise, as I mentioned, is incessant, never ending, monotonous in its variety. It drowns out all other sound, replacing it with a thundering roar, so loud, so powerful, that I feel it in the ground upon which I stand. I feel the sound even more than I hear it. It is such an awe-inspiring sensation! I watch the water make its way down the side of the mountain, and realize that there is not the one waterfall before me, but hundreds of waterfalls, each finding its own way along the ledges and crevices it confronts; small leaps adding to the larger. At first I saw only the whole; and it alone would be enough to satisfy the soul. But as I looked closer, I noticed the myriad of cascades that make up the main. I see more and more the longer I search. I’m sure that if I were to stand in this same spot for a week, I would still not see all there is here. It is enough, however, just knowing that a place like this exists. That sometimes we find somewhere to go when we need a certain quietness, that only somewhere such as this place, with its overwhelming noise, can provide. Why a place such as this allows me such a feeling of peace, a sense of tranquility, and belonging remains a mystery to me. I believe it must be one of those secret languages the earth has, a language we can only hear subconsciously, a language that speaks to a certain need we all have within us. A need to feel, to discover, to belong to something as lasting as this waterfall before me. A shaft of sunlight makes its way through the trees, illuminating a section of the stream, creating a rainbow in the mist that envelops us. My heart is full, my soul tranquil for the first time in days, and my need is now only to remain here as long as I can, taking in all this place has to offer. Beauty nuzzles my shoulder; her way of letting me know the feeling is real, a truth to hold onto. A truth to keep always within, even during those times when it seems to be just fragments of a dream. I wrap my arms around her neck, and together we stand here, learning, feeling, dreaming, absorbing as much of this wondrous place as we can. I feel so alive…

To be continued…