“I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.” ― Sylvia Plath
“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.” ― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” -J.K. Rowling
“I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top.” – John Keats
Writers lead a lonely life. For all the social media in the world, with its cute kitten pictures and funny memes, we live inside our head and sometimes, that’s where the darkest shadows wait. They stay hidden until we’re at our most vulnerable and they pounce, dragging our mind deeper into a void where there is no light, no hope. Just darkness and pure, unadulterated hopelessness. There’s no way out and it slowly smothers you. It drains everything from a person. There’s no desire to get out of the house and be among people. There’s no thought about personal grooming. There’s nothing but the count of each breath and how hard it is to make that effort. Getting out of bed is a monumental task worthy of the highest honor – when and if it’s achieved.
Why is depression so common among writers and other creative types? Sylvia Plath, Agatha Christie, Edgar Degas, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Paul Gauguin, Ernest Hemingway, John Keats, Mozart, Edgar Allan Poe, J.K. Rowling, J.D. Salinger, Amy Tan, Vincent Van Gogh… these are just a few of the names that represent some of our great artistic works and yet they all have something in common – depression. Why is this? I’m not saying I’m great or putting myself into this illustrious category, but I’m a writer and I deal with depression – like so many others. When people ask how you are, you tell them you’re good, you’re fine – anything to stop the suspicion of darkness that has taken hold. Did you know that Rowling’s experience with depression is what inspired her idea for dementors? How horrible, yet perfect, a hell is that?
When I talk about depression, I’m not talking about the Facebook statuses like “I’m so depressed.” No. I’m talking about the ones who never say a word about it, because they’ve learned better. There are some who’ve turned their illness into a kind of joke, but it’s only a means of survival. True depression is something I’d never wish on anyone. It’s 11:35 at night right now. I haven’t gotten out of my pajamas from last night. I don’t care right now. Getting laundry done is right up there with running a 100 mile marathon. In other words, it’s not going to happen.
I used to have a friend who could talk me to the point where I could see the glimmer of daylight, but not anymore, I’m on my own. My son is the only reason I get up in the morning and plaster on a smile, but even he can see through it. He knows. I’ve told him about it. It’s frustrating for him to not be able to help, but he also sees that I’m trying, because I talk about it. We talk about it a lot, because I don’t ever want to lie to him. He’s too precious to me.
For all the people who say they’re there, if you need them. Are they really? How often do you vent to people about the darkness swirling inside your head? You don’t. You have to be careful and you learn that quickly. The deeper you sink, the more you keep it to yourself. It’s only at the surface do you reach out and ask for help – as ambiguous as it may be.
Right now, I’m hanging onto the anchor that is my son and the story I’ve written. I love it so much, but I’m stuck. I’m not sure what my next step is. I was so happy when I was writing it, but now that it’s done (though it needs work), I’m drifting. My mind is full of the next adventure to go on, but I have to finish this one first. I keep reminding myself to have faith that this one is really and truly good enough, but that’s when doubt creeps in.
Why do I find the only time I feel normal is when I’m writing? Why does the real world feel like a passing irritation and my made up world feel like home? Perhaps the made-up world is under my control while the real world keeps dishing heartache and hurt.
It’s not fun having a depressed friend. I don’t ask more from my friends, because it’s up to me and me alone to find the light. It’s just me and my mind. Why is it like this? I ask myself so many questions. I wonder why my mind sabotages me like this. I don’t know. I’ll survive, just like always. I’ll be here in two weeks posting, just like always. No need to worry or start suggesting the help available. I know. I’ve been down that road. However, for those who find themselves sinking into the black oblivion, please know you’re not alone. I don’t know how to help, but sometimes it just feels a little better to know there are others like you. Don’t stop reaching out. Don’t stop trying. Find something that gives you hope. Seek out your anchor and hold on tight. It’s there. When you’re sure of your grip, start following the rope until you reach the surface – no matter how many times you slide back down and have to start again. You can do it.