Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Silent, Dream-Stealing Monster

Depression is a funny thing. And when I say funny, I mean the furthest thing from. For me it presents as a silent, vile, soul-sucking, dream-stealing demon that I’m unable to see until it’s devoured everything that makes me happy.

You know those profile details you put on every social media account that lists your interests. Think of your top three. Do they make you smile? Mine do. They are reading, writing, and art. Not always in that order, but always in the top three. Now imagine if every time you thought about one of those top three things, instead of a smile it brought out feelings of anger, hatred, disgust, sadness, and guilt.

That’s the true face of depression for me. It snuck up on me gradually, disguising itself as stress, exhaustion, sickness, and boredom. For months it crawled through my inner joy and took little bites with venomous teeth until one day I found myself staring out the window for hours, floundering in the realization that there was nothing in the world I wanted to do. Had I ever liked to do anything? I didn’t want to read. The very thought made me exhausted. I didn’t want to paint, draw, refinish furniture, or crochet. Worst of all, I didn’t want to write. I hated the idea of putting words down. I even despised the characters in my manuscripts that I had once loved so much. Writing? No. Never again.

I confessed this to a friend, thinking that perhaps my interest in writing had just waned. Perhaps I never was a writer and this passing fad was now done. “Do you mean, like, forever?!” she asked. And I really believed this was the case.

Motivational memes and happy writers on Facebook and Twitter only made me feel worse. “Have you written today?” “4000 words and counting!” And worst of all, “Writers write even when they don’t want to!”

Well I didn’t want to. I wasn’t even sure how I ever had! I hated it! Hated them all! Those annoying, prolific, happy writers, so cocky and confident that their loves and talents would always be there. Didn’t they know that talent was fleeting? That at any moment it could be ripped away, trampled on the ground. Unbearable jerks, all of them.

I’ve suffered with depression before. Written through it. Infused the dark feelings and sadness into my manuscripts to great effect. This round of depression socked me so hard I was certain I never see light again. I would never read. I would never write. And I would never again create beautiful art. That part of my life was over. All I could do was survive.

You’ll be happy to note the word “was” in the previous paragraph. Today I feel better. The sun is shining the rich scent of cut grass and a first cutting of alfalfa is in the air, and I got to take my doggies to the dog park. I was able to smile even when they annoyed me, and I felt lightness on my shoulders for the first time in months. Perhaps I could write again.

My marker for how well I’m feeling has been my writing, and obviously I’m once again putting words to the page. It’s been a long, slow, uphill battle. I have had many small victories and large steps backward. I’ve had to come to some surprising realizations about depression and who I am as a person.

Present me with a physical enemy and I’ll slice and dice the bastard with a great deal of bloodthirsty delight rather than let him take one inch. But this subtle monster, this thing called depression, knows me. It knows what to target that will cause me the most pain. It knows where to stab, what to whisper, and how to settle deep into my mind without me suspecting a thing until it’s almost too late.

I am not writing this post to teach about depression, preach about mental health, or ask for sympathy. I am simply putting words to a page in an all out assault against the monster who tried to steal my life. I see you now. I know who you are and I’ll be damned before I let you take one more inch.