On Depression

Depression is insidious. It is the low background hum that turns into a deafening roar in the quiet moments. It is pervasive. It is omnipresent. It’s the voice in your mind that says things far worse than anyone else can say.

For most, depression is the source of all other problems. From depression grows anxiety, and the unhealthy coping mechanisms that it requires. As a bad night of sleep can ruin a day, so to can depression ruin a life.

I can’t know what other people experience, but I like to imagine I’m not alone. In my case, depression really set in as a result of failure, more specifically, failing to meet the expectations of others. And with failure came a feeling of worthlessness, a feeling so overpowering that it felt like gravity became stronger and made movement impossible. It seemed that life was impossible. In my darkest days, I would collapse on the couch or the floor and imagine myself as a straw man in a storm. The world would do with me as it would, tear me apart slowly, until there was nothing left for Death to take.

The rawness of those feelings, of accepting vulnerability, changed the color of life. It turned me into a survivor. A man hardened against the storm, with a diminished ability to feel and hope. It also made others who weren’t so hardened seem pathetic and naive by comparison. But there was also the secret hope that I could drop the mental armor and live life newly.

Adolescence brought a new wave of pain to the fold. Social barriers went up, and an identity took shape as an outsider looking in. There was a pervasive feeling of being wretched, like being a product thrown in the reject pile on the factory floor. In adolescence, a new flavor of failure arose, that of being unloved. In a human life, love comes in waves. And as familial love recedes, and loses its intensity, romantic love sweeps in to take its place. But that’s not always the case.

This feeling of being left out, left behind, continued in romantic circles as well. I often felt that I was left with all the pieces of a bike, but had no manual to put it all together. I had stray pieces of a greater whole, but no guidance, no concept of how it all works. Seeing happy couples was and continues to be a Rorschach test for my emotional state. Seeing happiness in others magnifies the absence of it in myself. But other times, I pity them, because I see them on the edge of the abyss, about to dive in. Love is a fragile thing, and I often see the insecurity in the eyes and body language of lovers.

Depression causes retreat. To sleep, to the shower. To the comfortable places where isolation is assured, and appearance counts for nothing. The world is confusing and scary, and it demands so much. Being intelligent isn’t enough. You have to be empathetic, socially aware, you have to have good taste, instinct, sense of your surroundings. You need intuition, a sense of self, a sense of humor. Charisma. Confidence. Talent. The list goes on so long as to be overwhelming. Depression is defeat in the face of a challenge too big to take on. It’s a way of saying “I’m not good enough,” which leaves most feeling valueless. It is an unfortunate trap of the mind, using one failure to predict all others. Suddenly, saying “I’m not good at anything,” becomes “I’m not good at everything.” Two very different concepts that are indistinguishable in a depressed mind. But we always save the best lies for ourselves, don’t we?

And from retreating in the face of the insurmountable, we form our own prisons. We build walls. And what was once a suit of armor is now a fortress. Life is constant assault, and we must protect ourselves. But by blocking the negative emotions, we block the positive ones too. And so we rot in the prisons of our own design. Some convince themselves that they’re better off, but they’ll always peek through the window at a life they wish they could live.

There are two doors out. The front door leads to a retread of everything that led to the prison. The back door is something far more terrifying, but ever tempting. The door is marked “suicide.”

Thoughts of suicide are like a cold body of water. Sticking your hand in the water is difficult at first, chilling, and uncomfortable. But every time you put your hand back in, it gets a litter warmer, a little easier. That’s how it goes. Once considered, every difficult experience leads you back to it. And that’s the terrible voice inside your head, repeating things like “it’d solve everything, it’d be so easy, you can finally rest.” Things that would terrify and traumatize us if it came from anyone else. But for some reason, it’s okay to say it to ourselves.

The days pass, the trauma passes. Depression fades, like an old song. It leaves a few marks, some physical, most mental. But depression wanes in the face of distraction. And with age comes clarity. But it’s never really gone, just waiting in the background. Waiting for the terrible days ahead where the facade gets stripped away, and the darkness rises to the surface.

There is a fear there, a fear of experiencing too much that it’ll bring it all back. The solution is to live life softly. To reduce the stimuli, and peak at life through the blinds. To always have a road back, and to never risk too much.

To be continued.

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