My sweet love, the Viking, brought me coffee this morning even though it made him late to work because he knows I’ve been struggling this week.
I fell asleep last night before even eating dinner, fully dressed, worn out from hours of crying. Every other evening this week has looked much the same, while my partner holds me close and his shirt soaks up my tears. He brings me Aleve when the dehydration and stress from crying give me splitting headaches. He brings a glass of water and an anti-anxiety pill when I shake uncontrollably and hyperventilate. Some nights, like last night, he eats dinner alone because I am too engrossed in holding my mind at bay, battling at the edge of despair. He is brave, he is patient, he is kind to me, and I am blessed. So why share the misery when the good outweighs the bad?
I rarely write when I’m in the midst of a depressive episode because I’m usually too exhausted, too uninspired, and too guilt-ridden to share my petty sorrows. The depression I live with is not uncommon and sometimes I even believe that it isn’t shameful, any more than any other chronic disease is shameful, but I am ashamed that I cannot control my own mind when it spirals into darkness. I am ashamed to come across as melodramatic and self-obsessed, but sometimes I need to write to escape from my own head. Sometimes I need you, my friends, to share with me, so I feel a little less alone.
I’ve lived long enough now to see the backside of many depressive episodes. The cycle repeats, not always with regularity but with certitude. I feel it coming in the tightness that constricts my throat like a boa constrictor wrapping around my neck. Panic, never far, is my dogged shadow. Tears come easily and over the smallest of slights. I am feeble and emotionally fragile. I feel helpless and dull, waiting for the inevitable. I can quantify it, now that I’ve lived with it long enough. Assuming an average of one episode per month, beginning when I was perhaps ten or eleven (before I even had a word for depression), each lasting around a week, I have spent approximately 216 weeks, or four years, of my life in suicidal anguish. 1,512 days and counting. I can measure its beginning and know that it will end, but in the midst of the storm that is little comfort. I know that this, too, shall pass, but I dread the next. During the worst moments, I see my life stretching before me to the horizon, like the ocean, with depression piling up like wave atop wave, roaring towards me, and I wonder if I will survive the next inevitable crash. I wonder when one wave will be too much and will sweep me out to sea to drown. I know that what I feel now will end, but not for long. It’s debilitating. Sometimes I ask myself, why continue when the mental anguish all but extinguishes the remnants of life I cling to? But, in truth, I have more than enough reason to carry on.
I wait out the storm and emerge after bathing my skin in saltwater from hyperventilating, uncontrollable sobs that wrack my body so hard my stomach aches and my throat is sore. I am dehydrated from weeping and my eyelids feel like sandpaper.
I will make it through, as I always have before. And I have a partner who helps carry me through the darkness. I have a good life, a wonderful partner, caring friends and family whom I love dearly. I breathe in the rain-fresh air this morning in my own sun-soaked backyard, and, for the moment, forget to fear the future. I am blessed, I will endure.
To those who love and support someone with depression or other mental illness, know this: you are valued beyond measure.
Please don’t mistake depression for ingratitude.