About recovering from depression and suicide.

remembering to create

day zero

For years I lied.  Everyday, to everyone, I told a lie.  A deep, pervasive, insidious lie that tainted all my life, my hopes, my plans.  It blighted and consumed every aspect of my life.

I told one lie for seventeen and a half years.  I lived it, in spite of so much evidence that it was false.  I was married for just over 19 years; do you count the time you are separated, if not then it was almost 19 years.

I told myself that in spite of the problems we had, that it was a happy marriage.  People who did not know us well assumed it was too.  Apparently the divorce did not come as much of a surprise to people who knew us.  It seems that what came as a surprise was that I was not the one who initiated it and that we had lasted as long as we did.  This is the power of a lie.

This lie was just one of many I was living.  (I can just hear my ex now… and she is neither wrong nor right, such are people)  Some of the lies, I’m still living.  A list?  Well, here’s a partial of the more socially acceptable ones…
1) I am basically a happy person; 2) I’m a horrible writer; 3) I’m a horrible artist; 4) I have a good opinion of myself; 5) I am solely responsible for the ruin of my marriage; 6) I had a happy childhood.
I know my ex would never believe that I think #5, but it is true.  I do blame myself, completely.  I ‘know’ it to be true, and try to compensate.  I also know it is not true as nothing is ever that simple; we both lied to ourselves and each other.

These lies, these self-delusions are just part of what led to my suiciding.  Several times.  Why?

Why?  Why did, and do, I buy into them?  Part of it is neuro-chemical, part is habit, part is believing what others have told me, and, oh my, how many other factors can I list?  In the end, though, I must bear the ultimate responsibility.

I am fully aware, and have been, of my depression.  I was fully aware, on one level, of the falsity of my marriage after that first year and a half.  I know I am a talented artist and writer.  I know I have low self-esteem (see depression).  I know my childhood was not happy.  But being oblivious is so easy.

I lived in that warm, comfortable oblivion.  I let myself allow depression to take hold of me.  I did not seek help before, during, or after my suicides.  And, actually, after one suicidal ideation episode, it was my ex who encouraged me to get help.  Well, threatened me more than encouraged me, but I did get help, so that is forgivable, I think.

But (it is always there, isn’t it?), nothing like that can last long.  Reality crashed the party, put cigarette butts in the fish tank, smeared cake on the ceiling, and set fire to the couch.

See, when she told me she was divorcing me, I went into an auto-pilot mode.  I agreed to things that are going to end up damaging my life further, I made poor decisions for my future, forgot to trust my instincts, and went into a numbed emotional state.  I don’t think anybody noticed because of the worst decision I made; I isolated from my family and friends.  No-one I was around for the next year actually knew me.

I could not afford either good insurance coverage, a therapist, nor my meds.  That last did not seem to be a real problem, because long before I ran out they stopped working.  And the only therapists I would have been able to go to, well, it would have been public assistance therapists, and they are way overworked.

The house of cards started falling apart.  First the meds stopped working, then a person I thought was a friend turned out not to be with a vengeance.  I hit a creative wall at a million miles per hour and now had no expressive outlet.  I lost my job and could not get another one.  My plans for Father’s Day a year ago got nuked with no warning, no negotiation.  I stayed alone in my apartment for days on end, money was running out, my lease was ending.  I had nothing to live for anymore.

I had no desire to live of my own and it seemed to me that no-one else had any constructive use for me either.  Everything was gone.  I had nothing, not even emptiness.  Not even oblivion.

and the evening and the morning were before…

day one

I committed suicide on Monday, August 3, 2009 at around 11 p.m. Mountain Time.

I woke up around 1 a.m. with a severe headache and an exploded “Force-flex” garbage bag around my head. Then the thought “great, something else I have failed at…” crept across my mind like a vengeful snail.

So, I sat. For around 60 hours, I sat and did nothing. I mean nothing, absolutely nothing but sat. No thoughts, no actions…

Thursday morning a sound occurred. Then another sound, or series of sounds. It took a while, but central data processing finally woke up, identified the sounds, and translated them. Something about police, my mother, and a welfare check.

WTF? I’m not on welfare. OK, must unbend legs and bifurcate to the door.

More sounds, non-threatening coming from beyond a door. I opened it and there were two hominids on the other side insisting on coming in to my apartment and giving me a welfare check.

Things are confusing from there on; I remember them putting my shoes on me because my hands were cuffed. I rode in the police car to somewhere, I went where they put me, I sat where they put me, I answered questions I think. I had no volition, I just did what they had me do.

Some one brought copious amounts of food, but I was not hungry; I had no reason to be hungry, I was dead, or would soon be, I hoped. I lay on the soft area I was on, curled in to a fetal position to minimize contact with the world I wanted to reject. The world that was too painful to endure any longer.

A woman came in, she was gentle and did not insist on anything. She said things to me, asked me questions, I think. She said something about helping me. Upon reflection now, it was like a spark onto semi-dry tinder. It prompted a response from me, one not in mere answer to a question.

“Do you really think I can be helped?”

“Yes, I think we can help you help yourself.”

I had to absorb this. She went away saying something about eating. So I did. Everything. A lunch and a dinner. I began to register my surroundings, but only the floor, I did not want to see anyone, anything.
She came back, and we went up an elevator to a place where other things happened involving my weight, my height, and pressure on my upper arm… oh, yeah, blood pressure, blood oxy levels, temperature.

I was given more food which I ate all of. It began to register that I had not eaten in several days. I began to feel my body absorbing nutrients, reveling in the taste and strength flowing into it. My mind turned from it though, not trusting what was happening, knowing that I was here because I trusted and loved and was betrayed.

I looked only at the floor. A swirling, almost non-descript mix of mute green, purple, and orange. I saw feet pass as my peripheral registered shapes moving by. I kept myself in a fog to not know who was there, what was there. I came to stop and sit in a room with a box that was making shapes and sounds… a television.

Other… people? were sitting around, watching it. I sat and stared at the box, the tv, so I would not have to see or hear the other people. The shapes and sounds had no meaning for me… no trace remained in my mind; I did not want a trace, I wanted to just sit and die…

“What did you do to get here”, one of the shapes, one of the people? near me asked.

I looked up. It flooded into me again. I felt. I felt all of it. All of the sadness, the depression, the despair. WHY WAS I STILL ALIVE, IS THIS HELL? I could not stop crying, I went away, I followed my own scent to a place where I could curl up into my own world again, where no one could hurt me, where I could stay until I died.

and evening and morning were the first day…

day two

My first thought upon waking was “oh… i’m alive, damn”, *sigh*. So I got out of bed, and wandered down the hall to get breakfast. I was stopped along the way to let people get my vitals: blood pressure, blood oxy, temperature, and pulse. I wandered away from there and was then caught up in the tide of people getting their breakfast trays.

After I ate, the flow carried me away and into a room where we sat around a large table. Some papers were passed around, some one talked telling us to fill them out. ‘What makes me most sad is _______’, ‘I feel most complete when _______’, ‘When I am sad I like to _______’, ‘I am happy when _______’; there were others along that line.

It was too much. Everything reminded me of why I was there. Reminded me of everything that hurt, that burned my soul, that I had lost and made me empty, worthless, hopeless, dead.

I smelt my way back to my cave, my refuge. I curled into a fetal mass around my pain, trying to wash it away from me with my tears as it ripped me apart yet again. Pain swallowed me like a tourist in a piranha maelstrom. Bits of me were flensed and devoured; I sank into the depths, away from life and light.

A hand touched my shoulder. A simple, open hand touch of the fingers, very light on me, no pressure, no demand, nothing but the touch of another. “Are you okay? Do you need anything?” “go away.” “Okay, but I will be back to check on you.” “go away.”

time passed in waves of roiling grief and anguish

“Gor, it is lunch time. Come on, let’s get something to eat,” said a gentle voice. “no, please” “Would you like me to bring your tray here and we can eat here?” “go away… i’m not hungry” “Okay. There are more sessions after lunch, and there are people out here who are worried about you and would like to see you. They want to make sure you are alright.” “no, please, i can’t” “Well, okay, I’ll be back later to check on you.” “whatever”

time passed away with everything i loved, needed, built my life, my soul around
all gone…

i still don’t know why i got up later comfortably wrapped in a fetal ball of nothing they were gone… my son, my… my… wife, my ex-wife, my art, my muse, my love and forever… gone, lost, why am i not dead… just let me stop and die… please… please?

But i did get up. My body walked down the hall again. i sat somewhere. Things happened around me, but a gentle voice echoed in my skull. The voice that told me people cared. The voice did not ask anything of me, did not want me to do anything except to be. Be here. Be alive.

i sat in a session. i do not remember what it was about, or what happened. i remember the depression, the sadness, the anger, the mania, the voices that spoke endings and loss. It was almost too much, piranhas stripping joy, love, happiness from my morose skeleton… let me die… let me stop… stop…

But as I sat in the session, the voice spoke. It spoke different words, it seemed to be talking about it’s own depression, it’s own attempt to die, to stop… i… I brought my eyes up and looked at the voice. It was my room mate. He had tried to die too. Someone else spoke of dying, of despair, of loss. I was in a room of those who knew. Who had taken that step, who had tried to stop and not be. Those who had seen nothing and found it within themselves to not be any more.

I saw people. I sat among them. They asked nothing of me.

I listened, I tried to speak, I do not know now what, if anything, I said or what the session was about. It was, is, not important; but I sat there with my peers and heard myself from other perspectives, other words, other pains.

The session ended. We dispersed into the halls and other areas. I sat and saw a young woman, a Waterhouse Ophelia with rich waves of auburn, warm alabaster skin, and deep pale blue echoes of pain and betrayal. She was coloring, away in her own world, away from the pain, the fear, the betrayal, the others. A child violently wrenched from delight into despair trying to stay where she could be happy, free, alive again.

Another came up to her, touched her shoulder. She froze, ready to kill, ready to run, ready to die. Everything drained from her face; a mask came over her, draped the world behind a grey mist.

“Don’t touch me,” she said in dead tones, “I have anger management problems. I do not like to be touched.” There was no threat, no emotion, almost as though she had generated it from a computer, and played the file to warn people that this was not a good idea. Nothing about her threatened; her body was a taut, still immoveable mass.

The other removed her hand, and backed slowly away. By the time she found her own voice, Ophelia was already back in her own world, the threat to her safety, to the last shreds of self had receded. She resumed laying down patches of color, small oblongs progressing subtly from shade to shade, hue to hue, tone to tone.

I felt the need to protect her, to keep her safe. I wanted, in that moment, to destroy what had stolen her peace, what had taken delight from her to replace it with pain. She looked up at me then. I do not know why she did, but I saw in her eyes that she would never be wholly free from it, that she would have that pain, that crippling memory the rest of her life. Nothing could eradicate it, nothing could replace it, but she would endure however she could if she could. In her I saw an island refuge, tall enough to be touched by light, but eternally isolated in the worst of the abyss. Only wings would save her, only her desire to fly if she could ever come to trust it.

and the evening and the morning were the second day.

day three

I woke up to find myself alive yet again. I was not particularly happy to do so, but well, as long as I’m here…
The walk down the hall, vital signs, breakfast. New faces, old faces, I still had trouble looking up, but I did see more faces. I talked to more people. I recognized faces again. Faces everywhere, too many, too many, too many.
Sit down, close eyes, just sit for a minute, time passes and then I can open my eyes and eat. Watch the food, watch the fork and spoon, take a bite, bring it up, chew and swallow, just repeat that over and over until it is gone. People talk, I answer, but nothing takes hold for long.
I catch a flash of burning auburn hair as Ophelia moves through the room. I recognize a woman who had kept talking about chicken enchiladas, and a young man who rapped a mighty rap the night before, distracting those who were watching television. He has a gift for iambs and meter; his best work is in pentameter, another Shakespeare in a different medium and time, perhaps.
I noticed the slash scars from the rascettes up his arm to the hollow of muscle just below the arm pit. They were nearly identical in size, maybe three inches long and about a quarter inch wide, and fairly evenly spaced about an inch apart. I did not stare at the pale marks, but guessed there were around thirty of them.
He moved slightly, and I saw he had a matched set. Our eyes locked briefly and he told me about standing in the wind, his blood seeping down his arm to scatter in the wind. His eyes glazed with the blue of the sky, teasingly inviting, yet closed down and remote; china eyes, seemingly strong, but easily shattered. I was caught in his spell as he wove his rap about wanting to die.

Then the wind ceased, and broke off in the middle of his rap, his eyes briefly more vulnerable as he moved on to a sit by the window. My food was gone, other people at the table were getting up, how did I get here? A wave of sadness washed over me, tumbling my soul onto a sidewalk of tortured flames and turtles.
I got up and put my tray in the food cart, an imposing mobile metal structure. It looked like a professional kitchen freezer on wheels. There were three doors that opened to reveal racks designed so that the trays could be slid in and out. I thought it was a really smart design as you could safely transport many meal trays through the jungle maze of the hospital. I stood there, waiting my turn to slid my tray of trash in.
Knives, why were we allowed knives? They weren’t plastic either. I think we were not seen as being an immediate risk to ourselves or each other. But the thought occurred to me that I could, if I chose, go ahead and succeed at this last thing. This very last thing that I had not accomplished.
I slid the tray in with all of the silver on it and wandered away to the patio. Several times during the course of our days, we would get outside breaks. The patio was just big enough that you could sit by yourself, or walk around, or just stand or sit and talk or stare at the sky.

In session, we talked about the importance of our medications. Not only is it important to take the meds, but just as important is to understand how they affect us, and what side effects may be occurring. I had been on a regimen of sertraline before my scrip and finances ran out. I was in the 0.01% whose libido did not lower, but the opposite. Ramping up was like a slow climb through a 24/7 mellow acid trip.
I was, at the time, totally aware of my reactions and the side effects. But now, I was not on meds and they were telling me all about it again. Be aware was the message; be aware of the effects, the side effects, the possible interactions with foods and other medications. Learn what your medications do, how they work, why they work. What to avoid, what can help. Above all, do not skip a dose and make sure you follow the instructions about what to do if you do miss a dose.
The haze rolled in, blotting out my mind and covering everything in maple syrup.
I was back outside, talking to my roommate about motorcycles, handsful of pills, and alcohol. He tried to do a Death Ride but woke up in an ER and they shipped him here. Then I was sitting in the session room again, talking about coping with depression and anger and all sorts of fun stuff.
Why did we come to this? Why are we so hurt by life that we want to give up? And worse, why do we actively try and stop our life-cycles? Why can’t we stop hurting and just laugh? Why do we draw in and retreat, refusing to ask for help or even just tell some one we are sad?
Safety plan? OK, don’t handle knives by the blade, try to keep staples out of the food, don’t poke your fingers into 1) electric sockets, 2) tiger cages, 3) pirahna tanks, or 4) accountancy firms. Did I miss anything? Oh, yeah, never, ever get between a child and it’s mother.
It turns out they want me to be aware of my behaviour. They think it would be good to identify what throws me into depression and what I can do about it, what helps bring me out of depression, what helps keep me out of it. Cognitive Behavioural psychology. It is in some senses like a leper’s VSE (look it up, it will mean more to you then, trust me) for your brain.
Some of us are just well off enough to be able to function “normally”, but we are still at risk. We have to be aware at all times of what is happening to us emotionally. We can not relax our vigilance because when we do we are prone to being found floating face down, or similar.
I found myself sitting there. One of the women had come in because of suicide. Her son had died, her husband had withdrawn, and she had found the easy release of alcohol. But things just got to be too much, emotional isolation had escalated into the desire to stop, to let go, to go away from pain permanently. I don’t know what her method was, it does not matter. But she tried to leave. I tried to leave. So many of us tried to leave. I left again.
I was sitting in the dining area, a tray of food in front of me. French fries. Golden and just salty enough, mmmmmm.
Time dilates and contracts, we flow though a duct of perceptions and non-sensate action, we reach for another chance, another way to make sense of nothing that can be made sense of. Spicy feelings hellishly flow like spiky flames of hot fur. The french fries carry me to dinner, chocolate milk and two small eclairs turn my ragged head into smooth bliss.
The want to play pictionary, I can not draw, but when Ophelia does I know what she is drawing before you she gets very far. My head has no meaning any more, and time dies in a pool of nocturnal oblivion.

and the evening and the morning were the third day.

day four

I was getting tired of waking up. Nothing was right, my brain was not mine. All of this was just too much. Much too much. The walk down the hall, the vitals being taken, breakfast. It all blurred in my head like bad mustard and ketchup, not making any sense but just being dealt with.

I could not stop thinking about what others were talking about. I kept focusing on them so I would not have to deal with the harsh realities of my subjective truths. I talked for them so I would not hear myself. I cracked jokes, made pithy comments, shared my insights, anything to stop hearing the screaming in my own head. The scream of the mother outside of the building where her children are being burned to death. The man in the apartment building across the way who was torturing himself with guilt because he wanted his 23 year old son’s girlfriend. The man who was starving and just wanted anything to eat, so desperate he got his gun out and thought about bread and how no one had to get hurt. The girl with blood running down her thighs, crying, hoping, alone and hurt.

Focus on the moment, they tell me. Be mindful of the present. Hic et nunc. I had no present, I had no place. Home was gone, washed away by the winter winds of a Kansas summer. Brooklyn had come and gone, Ohio, Florida, Connecticut, Indiana, Virginia; all gone, destroyed with one word, never to be seen or heard or felt again. I could not die, but neither could I live. Stuck, like Muhammad’s coffin, but without the Grace of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate.

The day passed in a random series of events. Nothing meaningful, or not meaningful. I was a pinball in the machine, being flipped and bounced around. Playing pool (boing), outside (flip), another session (ting, ting, ting!), lunch (bounce between three bumpers until suddenly getting flipped back to the springshooter), going outside (ta-ching, bing-boing), just racking up points for some scoreboard until I rocketed between the exit bumpers and found myself sitting with everyone else in two groups of chairs facing each other across a string strung from one side of the room to the other about head height.

After discussing team names, we played balloon volleyball. No butts out of the chairs, if a balloon went under the ‘net’ it was a point unless the team it was travelling towards touched it – then it was still in play. We kept at it, bouncing the balloon, smacking it for ‘spikes’. It seemed to me that the ones who had the most emotional trouble were actually the ones with the best ability. Ophelia made many saves and was very good at getting the balloon to the strongest players on her team.
The team I was on won. But our victory was not a victory against, but for. I did not feel the need to “lord it over” the players on the other team. I think I would have been just as happy… strange, to think of being happy… anyway, just as happy as if they had won.

Then it all came back. The pain, the loneliness, the fear, the loss, despair. Depression reared up within me, claiming my life, my happiness, my achievements. I had to cry, I could not cry. I could not be happy, I had to be depressed. The fog rolled in and covered me in a blanket of nothingness, seeking to cut me off from myself.
Chains enveloped me, strangled my heart, my soul, my toes. Everything shattered into a million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, googleplex shards of whole grain soup and wilted lettuce. People began to run backwards into the futures, seeing what has been, not what will be. The carpet ran up my legs and swallowed air from a thousand days of mad sanity. The voices cried, died, sighed.
Food was on the fork nearing my mouth. Lasagna. It was okay, I was no longer running. I ate, I responded to others’ queries, statements, interjections. I could no longer hold back what I thought. I said things, I do not know what. People smiled though.

Fire and wind, pills and pain. I watched TV with the others and thought of chicken enchiladas. We played chess, my roommate, the non-poseur Christian, the Elvis Costello man, and I.
Why can we not believe in ourselves? We can so easily believe in others, but not ourselves. I won each time, not victories of defeating my opponents, but an exchange of thought, of process, of communicating existence.

and evening and morning were the fourth day…

day five

The sun shone on my eyes. My face was warm and comfortable. I lazed up out of sleep and uncurled in a massive stretch. Morning had woken like the first dawn. Cat Stevens?
It was still a wrench to wake up, but I was not completely disappointed. Oh, well. I got out of bed, dressed, and shambled down the hall in search of caffeine. I stopped to let them see if I had blood pressure and a pulse rate, then continued on in search of caffeine and food. The fog lifted as I talked with my psychiatrist and caseworker. They wanted to know how I was doing, were the meds working yet, was I sleeping well. We talked for awhile, before I could articulate that I was not actively suicidal, but passively. That I could just sit and stop, that it was attractive, a comforting thought. I would not seek it out, but I would not prevent it. Dying was better, but I would not deliberately stop living.

Vitals, breakfast, meds. A routine. A comfort. I had thought before coffee, no other god to worship. My Lord Depression rages from his cages, a jealous and vengeful god that eats my joy, my hope, my fear, my anger, my life, my brain, my soul. Eats them, eats me, and shits out a wall, a fog, a barrier to life. Brain on fire, twisted in a wire cage of gleaming nothing, sitting and feeling itself.

I sat in the room, a cold room on a hot day, alone. Where was everyone? Why was everyone not here? The door opened. A ghost of hope, a wisp of wrathful regret, a resentful loss of control, and a wistful wish drifted in, greeting the day with a smile in front of the cowering Lord of Self-Loathing, Lord of Autothanatic Urges, Lord of Depression.

She had a name I did not want to hear, for all that I liked it. She looked like the beautiful daughter of Tommy Lee Jones and Angelina Jolie after she had been stripped of all her joy, her hope, her life, her child. Married to the Lord of Denial, of You Will Deny What I Can Not Face, of Thou Shalt Have No Other Feelings Before Me. I wanted to destroy the bastard for what he was doing to her; tangling her in webs of control, getting her in the system and drugged up so she can not fight, breathe, live as herself, deal with her deep grief, be free.
In chess, you win by eliminating your opponent’s choices, by keeping them reacting to your moves and not allowing them to initiate action. You take control and never surrender it. She had lost initiative, surrendered her life, her self. A hollow beauty, eaten by the soulless wonders of fear and loss. Her pawns were gone, one Bishop wandering in a crazed imitation of the lone Knight who just circled her King. Castled and both Rooks gone; the Queen had been bound and gagged, carted from the board like, well, she herself had been.
The more she spoke, the more I realized that all she really needed was for her husband to just stop running from the close touch of death and acknowledge her pain, to acknowledge his own. It could not be anyone else, due to the trigger of this series of events. But she had been tossed aside like a Raggedy Ann whose stuffing was coming out of the back of her head. Anger was followed closely by its sib, Depression.

I wanted to act. I wanted to hold her, to tell her everything was horrible now, but she could learn to take this depression and incorporate it, become one with it and deny it power. To let her know that she had not done it, yes; it seemed to be impossible and she could not do it, but that was not true; she had merely not done it yet. Simply remove a comma and shift a letter one spot and she could look forward to doing it.
But. But, but, but. It was hopeless. How could I hope to tell her that when I had woken up 6 days ago with an exploded garbage bag on my head? Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Oh, I could teach, but could I lead, or even just walk alongside, those who I hoped to help? I cold not even help myself; I was a lost cause in a sea of fog. And bidden by the dark beckoning beacon of my despair, My Lord of the Pit came forth to bring me to haven.

I found myself once again talking with others, saying things that let them smile as I watched from the pits and longed for the cool green meadows of yesteryears that never existed. I cried, and silently sang to the heavens of hell’s bliss and the tortures of feeling and caring that heaven brought.
As I sat in groups, ate my lunch, felt the sun on my skin, I stood and screamed defiance to the large black clouds that rained down pains of the years and decades, that stuck me time and again for eternity with bolts of self-hatred and the agony of longing. I ran from the hail of words that I had taken to myself, only to hide in a wallow of self pity and loathing. Thronging fogs of those who had wronged me, who I had wronged, who were nothing and everything, rolled across the plains, bringing razors of memory.

Memory. I was blessed with the curse of remembering everything hurtful that I and others had said to each other. I could remember who said what to whom and how it felt. The demonic legions of my memory fell over each other in their eagerness to attack the inch high parapets of my soul. Easy pickings, I felt the rope before it broke, the clutch of strychnine in my gut, the rush of air as I fell, the blissful sting of the knife’s edge on my arm, the warm embrace of the bag on my head. I felt them, strong and happy feelings of finally getting it over with, this endless, hopeless torment of trying and reaching, and losing. Game over and fuck the score.
Then I would remember falling when the rope broke, the two days of cramps and diarrhea, the smack of parking lot asphalt on the soles of my feet, the scabbing of blood, of waking with an exploded bag on my head. Of failing to cease existing. The ultimate failure, the inability to succeed at killing yourself. Not because someone interrupted you, that had never happened to me, but because fate, physics, the divine, random reality attacks, SOMETHING – who knows what, you can call it what you feel like calling it – steps in or takes effect and counters my actions, renders them invalid, void, and vexes me to no end. Yet another tooth in My Lord Depression’s bulldog jaw.

Dinner; games of pool, the vector angles and momentum moments, the click-clack-thunk of balls, and the shine of stars in a desperate sky twisting with joyous fears.
I sat with Ophelia as she played with form and color; lost in her world, watching from the corners of ours. The smile on her lips as she did what she could to keep the predators at bay, to show them that she could outrun them. Where others have domesticated them, we run from them, desperately trying to live and let live.
Her hair was alive as I watched her color. I was more than half in love with her, wanting to make a space for her to work in, to protect and help her as she found her way home, to give her a means to fly again. The flames flowed felicitously down her back, twitching tremulously as I alliterated liberally longing for fortuitous forms. *sigh*
Without hesitating or looking up, she pushed a blank mandala to me and some color pencils; purples, blues, and greens. There was no one else around. I sat for a moment, fearful of yet another failure. Her smile shrugged and twitched in rhyme with her fiery hair. My Lord shrugged with her; failure would help him, success would not diminish him. I began to lay down fields of color, not really trying to accomplish anything except to let Ophelia know I would try.
Insanity is not the loss of reason, it is the surrender to what lies within all of us, it is surrender to the neuro-chemical imbalances that overwhelm us at times, it is surrender to the thoughts of self-destruction that loom with in us all, and abandoning of our innate desire to protect each other and help each other for the innately inane joys of senseless destruction and violence. Creation demands commitment, demands caring, Destruction demands only surrender.
I sat back. Before me lay something that had not existed ten minutes earlier. I wondered where it had come from and looked around before I realized that it was the mandala Ophelia had given me to work. She paused in her own work, looked at my mandala, and said in a high, clear but faint voice, “I think that is really pretty, thank you” before going back to work.

and evening and morning were the fifth day…

day six

DISCLAIMER: The statistics and research quoted here were gleaned from a number of reputable websites dealing with depression and suicide. These quotes are intended to give an idea, a scientific sense of an emotional dis-ease, not to make concrete assertions about depression and recovery.

A quick survey of websites shows that anywhere from 14 to 19 million people, a range of 6.5 to 9.5% of the adult United States population suffers from major depression, the majority of whom are women. The 1999 White House Conference on Mental Health found that at least two-thirds of the reported 30000 suicides per year are due to depression, roughly the same ration of sufferers do not seek treatment or help. It is also reported that for every two homicides, there are three suicides.

When I started writing this, I had some thought of a mainstream success story. An idea that I could be cured, or would be better. This, however, is not a story like that. This is a narrative of dealing with clinical depression. Clinical depression does not go away, it is not curable, it does not fade into a happy ever after ending.

The basis of clinical depression lies within the serotonin cycle of the brain; it is rooted in the mechanics of neurochemistry. Cycling serotonin through the system too quickly throws mood regulation, and other brain functions, off balance, triggering a cascade of adverse effects including depression. The functioning of the cycle is “set” by the interplay of various genes. We carry these genes, they set our biochemical cycles, and usually, we are more or less fine.

But when the genes interact in certain ways and we are stressed emotionally by our environment, our mood may swing too far into a depressive trend and we do not think about things as optimistically as a situation may warrant. In most cases, when the environmental stress is relieved, our mood lightens and thinking returns to an optimum. This is situational depression and may include the holiday blues.

Sometimes, however, our mood does not lighten when the stress is relieved. We continue to think the worst, and to spiral further and further into depression. We cannot escape feeling that nothing will get better. This situation which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and problems mount up. This is clinical depression, an insidious condition that debilitates millions. In some, as it did with me, this downward spiral continues until death becomes an attractive option; suicide is attempted and sometimes achieved.

My dreams were a muddle of colors and shapes. Nothing stayed still, and I could not capture it all. My roommate had left the day before. Things were changing, and I had to move with them. I felt the urge to draw, to paint, to hop on my computer and create a new world. I was glad to wake up, and was actually looking forward to the day.
Breakfast was good, I talked and ate with a new feeling of life. In the corner of my mind’s eye, however, I could see the shadow of depression waiting, biding its time; looking for a chance to insidiously insinuate itself into my psyche again. I had to hold it at bay, to find a way I could experience a day without shadows of depression.
I let myself eat, let myself enjoy my food as much as I could. I could not hold the conversations to my mind so they drifted about like hyperactive butterflies. I know I spoke, but of what? I know I listened, but what did I hear? All the life, light, and words around me were just so much fuzz.
I was at the helm of the S.S. Minnow, fighting a calm, confusing sea of re-, de-, im-, com-, ex-, and su- pressions. A three hour tour and I had no coconuts to make a radio with.

Group sessions were not really more of the same, though an outsider might not have perceived that. We talked of things we had talked about before, but the players changed, perspectives changed, ideas changed. Moods swung in different ways as we chased our shadows along less trodden paths.
I don’t know when clarity came. She came in through the bathroom window and sat next to us as we talked, as we learned about our meds, about safety plans, about what life can be like. She held my hand as I sat there, the words washing over and through me. No epiphany, no satori, no ‘aha’. She just crept in and was there all along like a cat sleeping after the lamp broke.

I was going to be depressive all my life. I am going to be depressive all my life. I will never be cured. I can learn to encompass, to hand, to manage my depression.
There is NO cure. But, there is life, there is hope, there is a course to hold to, a series of lighthouses to help avoid the rocks and reefs, and there are people.
People who will be a life preserver, people who are a life line, and people who “get it” as no-one else can. They are everywhere. Some may be family or friends, some may be but a stranger passed on the street, some we may never meet or ever be aware of. We may not have any family or friends who “get it”.
But we can have each other. Many of us have our hands out for each other. We are the walking wounded who will support you, who know that moment when it all stops. We know The Pit, the Shadow, the Lord of Despair, the cowering Lord of Self-Loathing, the Lord of Autothanatic Urges, the Lord of Depression. The meds do not cure us; they allow the chance to live with depression. It is possible to be sad, angry, even indifferent without it withering our life and drying up beauty. And when we reach out, we can help each other on our climb out of the pit to breathe fresh air.

and evening and morning were the sixth day.


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