After I first “beat” depression, I liked to tell people that no matter how bad things seem, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I had survived the suicide attempts, I had stopped hurting myself, I had even sought help and gotten medication. I was a survivor.
And maybe that is how it works for some people. In fact, I hope/wish that’s how it works for most people who have ever had to live with depression.
Unfortunately, it appears that is not how it works for me. It seems that my life will be a constant battle to keep my head above water, only sometimes the water is calm and the weather is nice, and other times the seas are stormier than anything even Melville could imagine.
The first medication I was put on was like a life boat, and I thought it was bringing me to dry land, but it gradually filled with water until I was swimming again.
The next medication was a life ring that sharks found delicious and I found all too temporary.
Therapy is great for swimming lessons, but it doesn’t really get me closer to the mainland.
And so, if I really think about it, I can’t remember the last time I actually wanted to be alive. I can think of lots of times I didn’t, and even more when I didn’t care either way. My life, for years now, has been a series of efforts to do what people do, hoping that would result in my feeling what people feel, but existing in this world is hard. I realize now that I never really expected to still be here; I didn’t plan this far ahead! So I’ll keep groping around in the dark until I find the next right thing for me to do, and maybe eventually I won’t have to try so hard to be alive.
I’m only now realizing that I may never reach land again, and I’m struggling to come to terms with living my life at sea. It all feels so unfair, watching the world dance on land above me, while far too many of my friends and I strive to stay afloat. But then, I’m a straight white educated male in America, born into a family in a comfortable economic position, and that’s the ultimate unfair advantage. That makes it awfully hard to feel sorry for myself.
Along those lines, I’ve been wrestling lately with how to explain my actions (or inactions) and attitudes that – to me at least – are clear results of my illness. It feels like bringing up my diagnosis is just an excuse, a “get out of jail free card” to justify my being a lazy asshole. Depending on how hard I think about it I either feel like even more of an asshole or I feel stupid for thinking people wouldn’t understand.
After these mental gymnastics to orient my depression and self in time and in relation to society, I no longer know what I would tell a younger person just starting out their fight. I would love to tell them it gets better, but I don’t believe that anymore. The fight doesn’t necessarily end, you won’t necessarily ever want to be alive, and the hardest part isn’t necessarily behind you.
So I guess just buckle up, and, well not enjoy per se, but tolerate, maybe, the ride?