Christos Georghiou – Fotolia.com_
WARNING – THIS POST HAS POSSIBLE TRIGGERS.
After a tough week with a lot of down time lost to pain of various sorts – as much mental as physical – I’ve been trying to draw on lessons friends have been sharing with me. They have been describing a deeper sense of who they are through each spell of this illness. And I can see what they mean. Coming out of depression is an experience of renewal, a sudden shift of perspective rendering all that was doomed and dying now reborn, all that was shadowy now brightly lit, all that was sinister now kind and inviting. This world is turned inside out but then comes right again. There is a richness to this experience, as my friends have been telling me, but still each depression is a bitter and savage attack on all I am and try to be. Call it a testing of the life energy.
I can’t relax about it, thinking of the reward of renewal after it is gone, for the simple reason that many I once knew did not pass this test. Some took their lives by overdosing on the very medication that was meant to help them, others used different means, drowning or a gun. Every time I hear of such a horror, I can’t help but feel the fear in myself that I might be seized by a crazed obsession too. I fight that, I have to fight it hard.
Because of that fear, I’ve stayed away from writing about suicide, but it’s important to start facing this demon. I’ve been thinking today of a boy I knew a long time ago. He was bright, witty, a star in his classes at a summer school where I met him. Often he would wander off by himself to think about things, all the while swinging out his yoyo in sharp loops. He was good with that yoyo, but whenever I saw him occupied with his thoughts like that it never occurred to me that he could be in trouble. Everybody liked him, and we all thought he’d go home to finish out a successful high school career, then go on from there to some good life. But it never happened. His dark spells caught him too young, and he killed himself a few months after the end of the summer. Newspaper accounts painted a picture of a tortured family life. My way of remembering him was to write this:
His watching of the toy’s shadow
on the streaked barn wood
as the circle rolled and recoiled
on string had purpose.
The fat disc of the shadow
yoyo surging to its bounds
entertained and sharpened
his needle thoughts.
He himself seemed a shadow on string
and funny as a flat
mannequin looping a toy
in relief, in relief.
Daily he watched his influence at work
that man, that woman,
parents of violence who would be one
if not for his poison.
One night the screaming couldn’t stop,
and he acted fast to end all sound.
The trouble in his blood
he let free
by rifle shot, his clean
instrument of frenzy,
as he cried, wondering where
is the life, how does it fit
into red fluid, perishing,
the poison perishing too.
This kid was torn apart in the midst of his parents’ endless fighting. Of course, they could not believe he blamed himself for what they went through and were in total shock at his suicide. Every one of us feels the loss of a gifted young person to suicide, and I have seen the dreadful suffering it brings to parents. It seems so inexplicable each time it happens, but I know from my own deep depression that deaath can seem like the obvious solution when the depressed mind is telling you over and over again that you are a stain on the world and should be removed. That’s what I fight, as hard I fight anything in this world.
Writing about such terrible events is difficult but helps me get my own imagination back into the light of day. It may well be that plunging into those places of pain and thinking about how others have lost themselves there helps steady my feelings. It becomes possible to think ahead, even before my feelings can go there, to the lifting of the dangerous gloom and the renewal that will follow.
For many, it is faith in God that keeps them focused on recovery. There is a story at My Depression Connection of a teenage girl who conceived of her depression as a case of possession by evil spirits. With the help of her father, she drove them out of her body and recovered completely. She could hardly believe it herself, but clearly her Christian faith is deep and strong enough to become a powerful ally in fighting back against this illness.
I will start writing more about how my sense of spirituality helps me avoid the life-threatening danger of extreme depression. I hope too that you can share here a story of what saves you from the worst extremes and reminds you that life remains a good and powerful thing.