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.


  1. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow.
    ― Edgar Allan Poe

  2. Dude, you are awesome. It's amazing how frantic it can make you--not being able to find joy in the things you used to find joy in (because, really, what's left? and that sucks.) We writers are on your side--or at least I'M on your side. I wish I had magic erase-depression words. Hang in there. You wrote this post, so you're writing a little bit! I'm proud of you. :)

    1. Thanks, Nikki! I do love writers. It just goes to show how far I'd fallen that I was hating. If you manage to find that magic depression eraser, pass it this way. <3

  3. Very beautifully written. Thank you for writing this with such gentle sensitivity to those who are still caught in this nightmare. Back when I was about your age and you were too young to remember, I had this monster seek up on me. To me it was like I slugged the tar-baby and the more I wrestled with it the more entangled I got. And, all the while I was grappling the Dementor was sucking happiness out of me and I was sucking it out of everyone else...or so it seemed. It was at times like I clawing my way out of a slick rabbit hole, a little forward and a lot backwards.

    That was a long time ago and, like you, I made some choices about me, my life style and what I chose to believe. Then one day…or maybe one year, it went away and I drew a line in the sand and decided to never let it come back. Since then I have my bad days and so I learned that unwelcome visitor would probably try to drop in from time to time. I have also learned that I can manage him if I see him coming and I act quickly so I don’t touch him and he doesn’t touch me. Like you I have my personal strategy that has empowered me to stay safer.

    My take-away from this experience…I will never judge another person’s dark mood again, ever. I will never toss out mindless suggestions like, "just be happy and think positive", "be more righteous," "appreciate what you have more," or this doozy, "I know just how you feel." That experience was more painful and frightening to me than any other and anyone going though it has not only my committed support, but my love and concern. Love, DAD

    1. Thanks, Daddy! I love that you understand. You always understand! I miss you. Come back soon.

  4. I think this sort of thing is more prevalent than we think, partly because people get really good at hiding the signs out in public, and partly because everyone experiences it a little differently. It took me a long time to figure out I was getting migraines because the way the people I knew who got them described them didn't sound like what I experienced. But unlike depression, at least with migraines I get a very clear, unmistakable announcement that I'm about to experience one.

    It's not so obvious with depression. The monster is sneaky and tries not to rouse your defenses until it's got you surrounded. That last thing it wants to do is come in with flags and trumpets, announcing its presence to everyone. If it can be sneaky enough it can convince you the problem is you and there's no monster at all.

    As Patrick Rothfuss' Kvothe would say, there is power in knowing the true names of things. Now that you have publicly named the monster, I expect you will have greater power over it--if for no other reason than it being easier to recognize next time so it won't have time to get you surrounded before you start to fight back.

    But even as I write this I find myself arguing internally--is what I experience really depression? It doesn't sound quite like the same thing as others describe it. Perhaps I'm just being a big boob.

    The monster doesn't like us knowing its name.

  5. Thank you for this gorgeous, honest post. I'm so glad to see depression being recognized and talked about, and it's inspiring to hear how you're resurfacing from it. Best of luck to you, and many hugs.

  6. I truly appreciated your narrative. I relate to it. Depression has been something I have lived with for many years. I sometimes get a vacation from it ( like fishing with some old buddies in a Utah lake) but it is always lurking.

    1. Thank you for your comment! <3 I have a dream of someday being fully cured of this. I know it's a possibility because I've been told by others. All we can do is fight it every day and look to the future with hope.