(The following in italics is from a memoir project.)
I sit in the kids’ room as they sleep and I think that a bottle of pills and a glass of wine might do the trick. I have plenty of both. But the kids could find me. I could call 911, and unlock the door. Maybe they would get there in time…
Depression and addiction are terrifying, and hearing of someone’s suicide hits so many of us unwilling warriors in this battle at the bone because we know how the illnesses lie unfailingly and viciously. And the lies they tell–of our worth, our future, our failures, our past–are in our own familiar, trusted voices. Or they are the voices that have resided in our heads so long, we can’t remember when they weren’t there. They sound and feel true. We’re smart; we have no reason to disbelieve.
Just imagine the colossus of pain one would have to be in to leave his or her beloved family. We all love our families. But the lies distract us. The illnesses become stronger over time–as we begin to recognize their subtleties, they are able to morph just enough to fool us again: I thought I was doing better; I really am a horrible, despicable mother. Nothing changed. I’ll never change. I hate my life. The lies don’t announce themselves; they sneak in among our normal thoughts, among our efforts to live in the light. Why can’t I be nicer? What’s wrong with me? Nothing ever works out. They feed on the moments our defenses are weakened by an argument, or a doubt, or perhaps a day with too many clouds, or too much sunshine.
I know only from my experience, and from talking with others, that isolation is what the darkness wants. It wants to get us alone, and, worse, it tells us we want to be alone.
It is a long fight. Its brutality can be measured in years and reappearances: “Unholy ghost,/you are certain to come again,” from Having it Out with Melancholy by Jane Kenyon. If you are fighting, you are brave enough to have looked the darkness down. Do not continue to fight alone.
And many people respond to treatment. Even just enough better for just a little while has often been a victory. And then there are different treatments to try. And others still. For most people, something will work.
I have loved these lines describing a respite from depression, from Jane Kenyon, since I first read her poem twenty-something years ago:
“…and I am overcome/by ordinary contentment.//What hurt me so terribly/all my life until this moment?”
And this is why we beg our friends who are suffering, or seem to be, to get help, to confide in someone, why we push ourselves each day to do the impossible, why we write to unseen strangers–because on the other side, whether it be for a moment or a year or a decade, is the merciful promise of being washed in ordinary contentment.