I am opening up a secret part of me. I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life. Depression and anxiety are two emotions we keep to ourselves. They are unseen, there are no obvious scars, the outward signs are easy to mask. Put on a smile, make a joke, and no one really knows the black cloud that hangs over your heart.
Looking back, I know what set me off the first time. I felt totally inadequate on my 18th birthday. I had graduated and was engaged to my high school sweetheart. But there was something more, something I was destined to do that would never happen if I didn’t move on. The restlessness and fear of hurting my fiancé were warring in my head. How selfish of me to suddenly dash his dreams and take flight? How could I live with myself if I didn’t take that step out of my perfectly planned life?
I slashed my wrists in frustration. I hated myself and my inability to make everyone happy. Sitting on the side of the bathtub, I watched the blood flow and felt nothing. Like a scene in a movie, I was sitting beside myself, observing this wretched girl give up on herself. Suddenly, I was back in my body. The amount of blood was scary and I realized that giving up on me was the last step, if I didn’t call for help, life would end and I would have never allowed myself a chance to grow and be someone. No one could fix this but me.
There are thousands of self-help books and theories. Some folks turn to religion or drink and drugs. Some merely attempt to ignore or shake off the feelings of desperation, thinking it will pass if they just reach a goal; a new home, a car, a marriage. It’s a fine line between ignoring and obsessing about the dark feelings.
Coming face to face with your mortality is sometimes enough to bring on the depths. Realizing you haven’t righted wrongs, explored horizons due to fear of failure, or accomplished what you thought you should have, to be whole at this point in your life.
Each time depression sits like a vulture on the doorstep of my mind, I find a different way to deal with it. The most powerful journey I took was when I lost my brother. One night, my husband sat me down in the middle of the living room floor. He sat behind me and told me there was a deep hole in the floor that held all my despair. He spoke softly, urging me on, as I slowly approached that dark well and eventually looked into the depths. I walked down the sides of the hole in my mind, realized it was empty, and walked back out to the light.
There is no panacea, no magic drug or play-acting that will work in every instance. Sometimes just sitting next to the feeling, letting it seep into your senses, acknowledging its existence, will show you how to get to the other side. Recognizing it is a human condition, it will lift with time if you don’t suppress it. I try to create a picture in my mind of the light and the strength I will have when I overcome the dark.