My friend and my neighbor have put away from me,
and darkness is my only companion.
(Psalm 88:18; Book of Common Prayer)
“… depression is not just sadness or sorrow. Depression is not just negative thinking. Depression is not just being “down.” It is being cast to the very end of your tether and, quite frankly, being dropped… The sick individual cannot simply shrug it off or pull out of it. While God certainly can pick up the pieces and put them together in a new way, this can only happen if the depressed brain makes it through to see again life among the living.” ~ Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Darkness is My Only Companion.
It’s been 14 days that have passed like 14 years. Some days I lay in bed into late afternoon. One it was 6 p.m. Other days I’m up well before dawn. Up or down, the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. Eat. Drink. Breathe.
Depression is in many ways the most selfish of states. In it, I am totally consumed with how I feel, or, said better, how little I feel. Empathy for others is lost in a deep fog that surrounds me, preventing me from seeing beyond my experience. This is why many people find depressives so annoying. Why feel so sorry for yourself? Others have it worse than you do. Get over it.
These are the very voices that ring in my head, over and over, louder and louder, until the darkness envelopes me and becomes my closest, my only companion.
People are concerned about me. My wife Susan has not seen me despair so deeply. It hurts her to see me in such mental anguish. This is one of the most agonizing things about depression. As much as you want to shield those you love from its slings and arrows, it can’t be done. Often I try to isolate myself so as to hide my flat affect, my inability to concentrate, my irritability over being unable to see through the darkness. But those who care for you naturally want to connect. Distance does not create a safe space so much as a place for greater fog to set in. Love can not tolerate being hidden.
This morning I was determined to have a fresh start. I mouthed positive affirmations to drown out the negative voices in my head that had kept me up through the night. I took my medicine. Brewed my morning coffee. Took a shower. Got dressed. Turned on my desk light. Started this post.
Then the waves of despair returned. Heavy. They haven’t really left me these two weeks, only temporarily slid under the surface to gain strength.
Sensing my struggle, my dog Briley came up to me. Tried to jump on my lap. Her 85-lb. frame was overbearing. I pushed her away. She tried again. I pushed her away again. Once more. Again, I pushed her away and spoke sharply to her. She looked at me with a confused expression, then dutifully retreated to the couch where she watched over me from a distance.
I slumped over the keyboard, determined to make sense of the darkness and, perhaps, in the expression, reach out to someone else lost in it.
It’s still dark outside. I still feel miserable. Briley is still on the couch, waiting obediently for my next move, ready to attend to my deepest need whether I want her to or not. It’s a good time for us to hop into Hope (my SUV) and drive into a new dawn.