People ask me when I will start writing again. I smile back at them, my smile without the eyes. The type of smile you play when you are at a party pretending to enjoy yourself, but you find yourself going to the bathroom for 2 minutes, then 5, then 10, then 15 until finally you don’t have the guts to emerge from solitude. The type of smile that says I will most likely never write again because apart from the physical pain in my wrists, upper arms, and shoulders, there are no words. There is mostly nothing. My brain is like the winds of Cape Town nudging, hitting and pushing at the waves below it. The sky is dark and the faint cries of seagulls are barely heard over the sound of the quiet storm. There is my mind echoing against itself midst a sky of bare, vulnerable, emptiness. An overwhelming sense of nothing – a fearful nothing – rains down my spine, crashes into my toes and fingertips and makes me unable to move. I am now possessed.
As my big eyes stare back at you longingly, for hopeful moments and future plans, you can tell that I’m lost. My body and my soul is overcome with darkness and I can move only when it tells me to, I can speak only when it tells me to. I am the owner of my body no longer. For the most part I sleep. I am exhausted by my own existence. I fight to get up to pee. I am vulnerable. I am even embarrassed. There are days when you see me laughing, and you think that I am back. She has finally returned to herself. But the darkness punishes me for fighting back – as most anyone with depression can tell you, with every high comes a deep, unbearable low. Such is the struggle of the depressed, shall we fight for happiness and deal with that backlash of being swiftly sucked hollow, or shall we accept the empty, the dark, and try not to disturb it?
Depression will kick you when you are down, it has empathy for no-one. Instead, it feeds off of your heightened levels of empathy. When in a low, the pain of the world is overwhelming. The pain of your own life is overwhelming. The fear of more pain in the world is overwhelming. The fear of more pain in your own life is overwhelming. Every death, every abuse, every neglect, every tragedy – including your own – knocks you over with a powerful punch in the face. You are everyone in that accident, you are every woman in that shelter, you are every child in that hospital. This is how your depression keeps growing inside you like damp on the bathroom walls.
Every resolved or unresolved issue in your life comes to haunt you and those ghosts whisper terrifying ideas in your ear. They tell you that your life is snowballing and that everything will slowly but surely become worse for you. They tell you that you will never thrive, never succeed, never again be able to strive for your dreams. They tell you that you might as well press Exit now, because there is no reason for you to carry on. Perhaps they tell you your weight is too heavy to carry, perhaps they tell you that you will forever carry it alone. Whatever it is that your ghosts tell you, they have the advantage of being closer to you than anything that gives you strength. They are in your mind, they roam freely and they create chaos like wasps in a wild beehive. It is more than just a game to haunt you, it is how they survive. It is how they remain a part of you. They have their own fear, and that is that you will let go of them.
Depression stalks you like the prey of a glorious cheetah in the Bushveld. It waits, waits, waits until you slip up, until you don’t pay attention, until you give it that gap. I feel like I am always on the edge of a mountain. I am always ready to fall. Or jump? It simply depends on how hard the wind blows. Or how many winds blow at the same time. Can you imagine planning your future when you constantly feel like you are at the end of your life? Sometimes at the end of the life you’ve known, sometimes just at the end of life itself. In these moments I want to escape, sometimes the life that I’ve known, sometimes just life itself. Escapism is tragic. We find it in alcohol, exercise, romantic relationships, drugs, health disorders, suicide. Without it, there are moments that we simply cannot face being alive. We are in a constant state of fear of how low we can go and how long we can stay there.
I believe my depression is linked to some level of consciousness. Perhaps those critical thinking skills or my search for the bigger picture have been to my detriment. Now that I see the world for what it is, I find it hard to imagine that it is worth living in. For me, trauma has been a reality. Spending decades on healing from abuse and rape has taught me strength, but it has also taught me that the pain of the world is very real. And at least once in your life you reach a moment when you realise that such pain is perhaps too real. How you react to that moment is all you have. When a person with depression tells you that they are tired, no exhausted, it’s because fighting for this life is hard work. We have to sift through sadness and fear to find moments of hope. Not only moments of hope we have for our future, because they are sometimes impossible to find, but we have to delve into the toughest moments of our lives and find the grains of courage that pulled us through. We have to remember what they felt like, how we used them, why they even existed for us at that point. It is very easy to get frustrated with a depressed person, because there is much in life to be thankful for. Life itself is a gift. But depression makes you forget. Depression is a long and exhausting war against yourself, and sometimes the touch of another human hand is the most powerful weapon we need.