The Face of DepressionPosted: July 26, 2011
To say that I’m surprised how well yesterday’s post was received would be an understatement. My intention was nothing more than to enlighten all of you as to why I hadn’t been posting, and to remind you that if any of you are dealing with something similar it’s okay to take care of yourselves because you’re important. What I didn’t expect was that so many of you seem to understand exactly where I’m coming from, and several say that they just didn’t know how to put it into words. Depression is ugly, and the only way to explain to someone healthy how incapacitating it can be is to make sure they understand just how ugly it can get. I’ve had many…MANY…days, weeks, sometimes even months of ugliness, but none so great as after my best friend took her life. Without going into detail about the fits of rage and crying spells I experienced, drunken stupors, ways I contemplated taking my life so that those I felt who had ignored my cries for help would be startled when they found me, I’m simply going to post a day out of my life I wrote in my journal during one of those bleak periods. I posted this January 12th of this year right after I started my blog, to show that I had indeed made great strides compared to where I had been exactly one year to the day before. This is a repost. This was right out of my journal from January 12th, 2010. This is my way of telling all of you that you are not alone.
It’s January 12, 2010. I sit here with the heaviness of my life weighing upon me on yet another day, and get that sinking feeling of hopelessness as I know there is little, if anything, I can do to change the circumstances that bind me in this depression. Haven’t I tried? Have I? Or have I just talked about trying, never seeming to find a suitable way out? I suppose if anyone is reading this you know I found a way, and you know what it was. To date I know of no other beyond just giving up on this life that was never much of a life anyway.
I have no strength left. I am weak. I admit it. I question when this loss happened as I have always thought myself very strong. Given the circumstances I suppose it was inevitable. I am not unbreakable. I am not without feeling. I am in fact my own worst critic. A critic who doesn’t need those around who claim they love her to yet belittle her further. But as if self-punishment wasn’t enough, I have a fan base that picks up the beat when I slack on myself. People who say they love and support me, but whose love seems to come at a greater price than I am willing to pay.
Why is it that way? Why is it that there are those who offer their help, but then act angry after giving it as if you insisted they come to your aid? They throw it in your face, or worse yet act as if they are entitled to judge and advise you simply because you accepted the hand-up. Do they not realize that you are already feeling a failure for having to accept the hand-up in the first place? They lay yet more demands and guilt on you by putting you in a position by having to feel so grateful and obligated to them. I fear nothing is unconditional anymore.
I miss my Beth. I am disheartened that she was the only person I ever had in my life whose love for me was completely unconditional, and that now she is gone and I am alone. Hers was a friendship that spanned nearly three decades. Three decades of laughter and pain, children, divorces, ups and downs, and secrets. The latter we shared that I knew would never be repeated to another living soul. She was always there if I needed her, without judgment, without strings. The like of which I cannot even find within my own family. Hers was a forever love. Not a love that stopped when her heart did, but a love that was so strong it enables my heart to now beat for hers.
I now have to choose to live everyday. Not just what I will wear, or how I will spend my day, but also whether I want to continue inhabiting this body and life that seems to have given me so little. I force myself to get out of bed, to drink that first cup of coffee, and then make the decision that today is not the day to die. The rest it seems falls into place after. But even then I find myself merely going through the motions as if hanging out at the snack bar killing time while waiting for a train that will take me to my true destination. Never quite living; just breathing and taking up space. I suppose to others it seems as if all is well, because I am continuing to go through the motions of daily life, but even this is a façade. It’s easy to continue a routine long after your mind stops functioning. And I don’t know why it’s so hard to make that final decision just to let my mind, body, and soul go, given that there is no life to speak of. Perhaps it’s guilt at knowing that my children will have to live with the pain, as I have had to live with the pain of Beth’s suicide. Perhaps because there’s a wisp of hope left that I unconsciously haven’t been able to tap into that says my life isn’t finished and there’s more to be done. I don’t know. I only know that everyday I give myself a reason to get out of bed and drink that first cup.
Every significant relationship I’ve ever had, from being a wife to a friend, my life has always been the sideshow to someone else’s main attraction. My needs never important or interesting enough for anyone to take seriously or focus on, but merely give a passing glance to because I happen to be present. And I alone allowed it. I know that now. I allowed myself to be put in a position where I was never taken seriously. I allowed myself to always be the Barney Fife to someone’s Andy. More or less a joke, as I see it now. Like an anorexic dying from lack of nutrition right before everyone’s eyes, I too have been deteriorating from the inside out, but no one is looking because they are blinded by their own selfishness. What will it take for me to finally have a voice? I wonder. Will it come after my voice has long been quieted? When I am no longer around, will those who have turned a deaf ear to my cries suddenly take notice of what had been happening all along? Then I assume, and only then, will they whisper to one another that they should have seen the signs because they had been there all along. But of course, none of that will matter then, and to ease the guilt that they will be feeling they will pull out of their pockets crumbs of moments that they had tried to talk to me or help me out. None of which ever amounted to the slice of life that I so desperately needed to nourish me. I wonder then, who will ache the most? Who will actually step up and admit they hadn’t done enough? I doubt anyone that I have in my life at present. Could any of them face the horror that they had stood blindly by and watched my demise? I think not. I know I couldn’t admit that I hadn’t done enough if I were to watch someone slowly slip away and hadn’t done anything to stop them. I know that because I can’t admit it now.
Maybe that’s why I am where I am today, because of the guilt I feel over the loss of Beth’s life. I question myself daily whether I had failed to see signs that might have been there—or more importantly, weren’t. I battle with my conscience as to whether I should’ve done more. I had tried to reach her by email after my phone had been disconnected, but she didn’t respond. I’d assumed things were going well, she was simply too busy, and she would get back with me when time was more convenient. Shouldn’t I have known when several months passed by with no word that something was amiss? But the last time I had seen her all seemed well, and I didn’t want to trouble her with my problems. She seemed so happy that things were going well for me when my husband and I first purchased the house. She’d come in town for a weekend, I’d finally gotten the chance to introduce him to her, and she looked at him as if he were my Prince Charming and all the bad times, years of heartache, were finally behind me; all the years that she had to come to my aid. She too, seemed genuinely happy in her marriage, and even commented how fortunate we both were to have finally found happiness. I hadn’t wanted to spoil that. Knowing her empathetic nature, how could I tell her that my life again was spinning out of control and ruin her happiness? Funny, but I guess she was feeling the same way; probably believing that things were going so good for me that she didn’t want to throw a wrench in it. So the two of us, it seems, while trying to protect the other, made grave mistakes at both of our expense. I, wanting to protect her, chose not to intrude upon her life, thinking that all was well. She, wanting to protect me, didn’t reach out to the one person who had always been able to comfort and save her from herself. I live with this knowledge now; beating myself up daily for not getting into my car and driving the seven hours to confront her as to why she hadn’t responded to my emails. I should’ve known something was amiss. I could’ve saved her.
I could have saved her. I could have saved her. That thought resonates in my mind daily and is always followed by, If only I had done this or that differently. Each new day that I begin with that first cup of coffee I choose to pour is a reminder that she no longer has the luxury of that choice. The reality haunts me, drives me to the brink of insanity some days, and leaves the taste of that coffee bitter like salt in my mouth, and twists in my insides. I am angry that I now have to make the choice to live, because of the thoughtless choice she made to die. Am angry that I can no longer just get up and breathe each day, taking the days events in stride and for granted like everyone else around me seems to do. Angrier yet, that I question everyone’s motives who say they love me, and expect so much more out of them since she’s passed. So angry I could scream that it takes so damn much out of me now just to love someone, anyone, especially myself. I am angry at everyone and everything; committed now it seems to finding answers that elude me in order that my mind might be at peace. These questions I have that are too numerous to mention, that I know have no logical answers. I struggle to accept that which I don’t understand, and wrestle constantly with how to allow her to be at peace in death, while trying to keep her alive in my life. The real irony, I guess, in that her death stole my life, and now I am dead inside.
I want to live again in spite of the unanswered questions. I want to be able to enjoy my life, knowing that is what she would want. I need to keep her memory alive in order to be able to do so, but others won’t let me. Whether it is that they have my best interest in mind, or simply don’t want to have to deal with it, they need me to be silent on the subject and will me to forget about her. Their ignorance at my need to talk about it keeps me sick. Unable to bring her up, sharing with them my pain and sadness, she remains trapped in the dark recesses of my mind, almost like a dirty secret that no one wants to talk about. Living with that is the hardest part of all. I need to talk. I need to tell everyone and anyone that will listen how amazing she was and what an impact her life and death had on my life. In hiding her memory and all the things she meant to me, I might as well die. I can only vaguely recall a time before she wasn’t in my life, and to not acknowledge her now is to say that I too no longer exist; that thirty years of my life never happened. But it had, and she was a large part of it. How do they expect me to honor her memory if they want me to forget? And I live to honor it. I wonder every day if this gift for words that she always believed God had given me, could be used somehow to honor her. But in order for it to do so I would have to put words to paper. Unfortunately, these words that fall so freely from my lips and mind, I don’t believe anyone would care to hear or read. I don’t believe in myself. Perhaps the greatest irony of all, is that the one person that could build my confidence enough to complete this task if she were here, is the one person that is now gone that I wish to do the task for. I fear all these thoughts will forever be trapped in my mind because of this.
I was in a terrible place when I wrote that entry in my personal journal 18 months ago. I didn’t want to live; I couldn’t bring myself to take my own life, and existed like a ghost for many months. This particular lengthy bout with depression had a trigger: The suicide of my lifelong best friend. Many bouts have not. The clinically depressed don’t need triggers to set them off. In fact, it’s safer to assume that we are depressed most of the time, and any triggers we have are ones that occasionally make us happy. Sadly, that seems to be the case for me anyway. I finally had to accept that not everyone was going to understand this pain, and because they couldn’t weren’t going to take it seriously. I chose to blog because I was tired of living alone with it. I had no idea, however, that I would be in such good company, and that there would be so many of you out there living alone with it too. Well, we’re no longer alone. We now have each other.