In my head this week bleeds together into one very long, dark, night. I’ve spent most of it in bed, quietly battling various levels of despair and suicidal thoughts. I promise, I’m fine. This is the shape depression takes for me.
I’ve always personified depression in my imagination as a living puddle of sticky dark goo, with properties of very slow moving quicksand, and a small voice that says unkind things. The more I try to fight my way out the more exhausted and entangled I become. Sometimes it’s best to just lay still until he gives me up again.
I took a shower today for the first time all week and I felt okay again. It makes me think that maybe negative emotions can be washed away like dirt. But I think the grim builds back up more quickly than I can wash it away right now.
In the brief moments that I have been out of bed I have been in my car. That’s my real home, my real safe place. I’ve been driving around to no where, interacting with nobody, and hoping my precious car doesn’t break down. She needs a lot work. She probably doesn’t need the abuse of the highway at high speeds but I think she knows it’s the only thing that helps me heal so she is hanging in there like a trusted steed.
I started listening to an audio book about recovery from psychological abuse. There is just something about my current situation that makes me need it. Bad memories keep hitting me like a tsunami sized waves. I am at the mercy of the tides. Demons I thought I had long ago defeated have been emerging from every dark corner of my mind and heart. They’re stronger now. They’ve adapted. They know all my weaknesses and I am too tired to even hold up my sword.
I keep thinking about all the hard work I did to become a human I loved and was proud of and I feel those demons look at me with mocking smiles. I can hear them whisper from every angle “silly girl… you were just pretending. The real you is miserable. Everyone knows it. Give up.” And I am so tired, I think I believe them.
Before the world shut down I was in the beginning stages of a start over moment. I had burned down every bit of my life with the intent to clear away the wreckage and rebuild. Now I feel like I’m standing still in the smoldering ruin and the whole world around me is burning. What is the point at poking at my rubble when there are so many fires raging? I’m just kicking pebbles.
This is the first time in my entire life I can’t fix things with sheer willpower. This is the first time in my life I can’t climb out of my depression goo, pick up my sword, and come out of the smoke victorious simply because I had the will to do so. This time nothing is in my control.
We are all experiencing history and we are all experiencing it in such different ways. I envy the people who wake up every day and have the ability to pretend they’re fine and happy. Maybe they aren’t pretending… if so I envy them even more.
I definitely have my happy moments too. I have small sparks of joy and contentment but I feel like a butterfly in a cocoon. I am ready to emerge into a new shape, new person, new adventure and instead I have to stay inside. I keep wondering how long a butterfly can stay in a cocoon and survive.
Humans aren’t meant for isolation. I am so proud to see so many groups come together the best they can in this difficult time. Some people, like me, we don’t have great support groups. Maybe some of us worked too hard and didn’t make friends, maybe some of us are bad at keeping friends, and maybe some of us just have demons telling us we are alone when we are not.
Humans with mental health issues are definitely not meant for isolation. So many people are suffering right now and if you are suffering I want you to know you are not alone. I also want you to know you are not weak. Your pain does not define you. Sadness is not who you are. Your emotions are simply visitors, sometimes they riot and rage but they are simply visitors. They are not who you are. And if anyone makes you feel as though you aren’t good enough because you are in pain you have my permission to kick them in the balls when the earth reopens.
To everyone who is also battling demons. I want to tell you that you are truly a Knight. Maybe you don’t feel like it right now. Maybe you think your armor is rusted and your weapons are blunt but none of that matters. A knight’s strength comes from the light in their heart and the spark they ignite with hope. On your darkest days please hold on. Because although my spark is small right now, I know it can and will eventually be a raging fire again. If you feel tossed by tsunami sized waves remember that in between waves you CAN catch a breath and continue on. It may feel impossible but I believe in you. And if the sticky dark goo has you, it’s okay to sleep and cry and eat Cheetos until he lets you go again.
Whatever battle you are waging. You will win. Just hang on.
Jenny I loved your post, and your photographs. I have demons too, and although I am lucky enough to be “isolating” with two other humans, the demons still speak to me even when I’m not alone. Keep making art. That is a thing that always seems to help. And keep driving fast (but not too fast – apparently speeding tickets are being issued in record numbers). Know that it’s okay that the demons don’t go away, I am much older than you and have learned that over time. Sometimes they hide for a while but they always come out when given an opportunity. You can and you will defeat them again and again, and in the process you will do wonderful things. Please just keep swimming.
Jenny Thank you for writing so bravely and honestly about the fight. Mine are called gremlins and they fuck with me and my head. When the gremlins are running the show, the loneliness can be unbearable. I, too, get stuck in my bed, in my head, in my grief and feel grateful for thee glimpses of joy and pleasure. You are not alone and your light will return as I imagine it has before. Reach out any time if you want another to talk to. Nina firstname.lastname@example.org
Your ability to recognize your spark and hold on solidly to the knowledge that it will grow into a raging fire again – this is a powerful visual image and one that works for me, too. There is truth and pain and hope in the story you share here, and you have expressed your journey eloquently in both word and image. I’ve lived through depression with people with I love dearly and through anxiety that sometimes keeps my world small and my heart gripped by fear. I’m with Barbara, keep making art, it helps us to move through anything. Many thanks for sharing your heart with great sincerity.
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