Depression: A fog that envelopes my entire being, obscuring all sensors used to understand the world around me.
That is the best I could come up with to describe to those who might have never experienced depression how all-consuming it can be. This filter of my sensors, the way I perceive reality, left unchecked can lead to decisions that have deadly consequences.
Fortunately, twenty-plus years ago, I made the decision to take my life--and failed. Unfortunately, I know far too many who did not fail. I write today about my struggle with depression in the hope that people suffering through it now might read this and become willing to extend their stay here on earth for a least one more day.
It might not seem like much, but there was a time for me when a day lasted an eternity. Night ran into day, and I could gain no pleasure in the consumption of food, and stopped eating. It was a time when no words that came out of any other mouth could alter my decision to end this life. When in the grips of depression at its worst, there was no one around me to tell me my solutions to dealing with life, to point out the flawed challenges based on faulty information. The data of life filtered through the darkness depression was dim and flawed. This fog made it appear to me that the best way to end my suffering was to end my life.
The most chilling thing about making such a decision is the calm and since of peace that almost immediately follows. I have been asked how could one go through with such an attempt. My response is I am surprised more people have not succeeded. I wonder how many have a story like mine, with a different ending:
A boy at the age of 6 years has a family member take advantage of him. This goes on for six more years. No one knows. This child acts out, trying to make sense of the world around him, only knows fear and to trust no one. He is traumatized and directs this fear-base anger at those closest to him, as he was taught by the one who was causing him so much pain never to reveal this secret. Another relative, a grandfather, thought his acting out merely needed "a firm hand" to keep him submissive, as if he were some demon-child that simply needed to be tamed.
Never learning how to stand up for himself and set boundaries--healthy ones--he experiences the same trauma throughout his young adult life, never finding a solution to the constant anarchy of pain. Fear was the only constant in his life.
Fast forward to age twenty-eight: he is surviving as best he can, that itself a miracle. Suffering reaches its peak. After being stalked for three months. By a man who had followed me home from a local bar. Held hostage in his own home. But then one day he returns to that only sanctuary to find a note written by his tormentor stating why his dogs had been poisoned. And then he finds the dead dogs.
Soon, he departs from Atlanta. Suffering is now all-consuming. He is willing to try anything at this point to end the pain of living, so he decides to see a therapist. In the fourth week, the therapist consoles the patient after said patient has made himself vulnerable--and the therapist shares parts of his past. But then a familiar thing happens: the therapist puts a hand on the lap of the patient. The therapist unzips the pants of the man in his care, and unzips his own. When he is done with his "business" (I love that line from the Color Purple, though it was a painful movie for me to watch, as it was far too close to home), he dresses and simply says he would see me "next week at the same time." Defeated once more. What little hope he had for this world was taken by that act of a "mental-health-care professional." Despair, suffering, anger, hatred, all based in fear, is the one truth he knows.
When I made the decision those twenty-plus years ago to end my life, the haze that seemed to always be there seemed suddenly to evaporate. The choir of fear and shame that had played in my head for the first time in my life was silent. All seemed in agreement: this suffering must end.
Serenity is a word I think few truly understand. Amazing calm was the world around me, a peace I had never experienced in my life. Joy, even. How could a decision such as ending a life be wrong? The clouds of pain had lifted. I was without fear.
Be wary of one who is without fear. I have written often of my definition of fearless: a person who in spite of the fear works through it and stays in a solution-based reality. Someone without fear can cause great harm to himself and those around him. What concerns do they have of this world? None.
But my attempt failed--but with it came a paradigm shift: I was willing again to seek the assistance of others more qualified in helping us make daily life decisions. Mira, a lesbian therapist was my savior. Trusting again was a slow and painful process; grateful I am even today for the patience Mira had with me. We finally began repairing the harm caused to my spirit so many years ago. Every belief I held as gospel truth was open to discussion. How could it not be? My prior belief system led me on a path to a (literal) dead-end.
It was not an easy path to take. There were many missteps--which I call life lessons. As long as I learned from the mistakes, I was happy to experience them. This is one of the ways I continue to grow into the person I will become in future tomorrows. Fear no longer rules the house that my soul resides in.
I was moved to write this because I had noticed after getting a good nights sleep that I have slid again into the grip of depression--albeit mild, lasting a few weeks. Rarely do people recognize their own depression. My own has usually been a gradual slide; I slowly slip into it. If I am around my loved ones, friends, family members, or caretakers such as a doctor, social workers, therapist (when I finally recognized the need to get a maintenance check on my perceptions)--these people can usually see what I alone would not notice. Experiencing depression at the early age of six trained me to be on-guard at all times against falling back into that fog. It is the storm that I know all to well.
The big problem for me is being on the road for many months out of the year. There is no safety net for me out there. But the solution just came to me as I write this very entry: how beautiful this world is when one remains open to all solutions. At peace I am in the here and now. It will not last for eternity. That will come soon enough when it is my time to pass. I have no interest in hastening it in the present.
I hold no resentment toward the cause of my pain those many years ago. In fact I am grateful for the gift I received working through such trauma. There are but two choices I can make when something out of my control has such a debilitating effect on my life: work through the fear or allow the fear to work through me. No decision I made in the grips of fear has ever turned out well. Now I know: be fearless.