Depression stopped me experiencing life. I’m still grieving over the years of my life that I lost to depression. Although I existed in those years, I wasn’t alive. I either felt crushed by sadness and despair or completely numb and detached. Loneliness was my only companion. Sometimes it felt that not being alive would have been the easier option. Even now, the struggle to enjoy life and not slip back into the darkness is exhausting. I feel like I’m constantly walking a tightrope, suspended between two skyscrapers. Some days the wind blows so hard that I have to use every bit of strength not to be swept off the tightrope. Other days are only breezy, but still the breeze makes it difficult to breathe. But there are the sunny, still days in which I can do what I want on the tightrope, with no fear of falling. These days almost make the depression worth it, because I feel such unimaginable joy at just being happy. But, even now, it still feels like there are more windy and breezy days than sunny days.
For a few years, depression was a constant presence in my life, enshrouding me with its presence. I was my depression, nothing else. It wiped out my past and future, everything that made me who I was. It infiltrated my very being, even my dreams. It almost defeated me. In my dreams, my depression was an elephant. I was always inside a house looking out into a very beautiful little garden. In the garden there was a tree. In the tree, hiding behind the leaves, was an elephant. I remember thinking what was an elephant doing in a tree? The way the elephant looked at me made me scared to go out into the garden. This was a recurring dream when I was depressed. As I began to come out of the depression, this dream changed. I was still in the same house but when I looked outside the elephant wasn’t hiding in the tree, but was standing on the grass. The elephant didn’t seem so scary now that it was out in the open. In the final series of dreams I had about the elephant, it had turned around and was walking ever further into the distance. I was left feeling safer about going outside and enjoying the garden. But even in my last dream about the elephant, it still hadn’t gone over the horizon. I’m still waiting for that dream.
I still struggle with the fact that my pain is invisible. Self-harm allows me to make my suffering visible to myself. If I scar my body, it temporarily eases the pain of my internal wounds. The blood from a cut symbolises the anguish I feel, and the deeper I cut, the more anguish is released. But the pain inside always comes back. It’s like trying to stop the bleeding from a deep cut with a flimsy plaster – it will stop the flow of blood for a little while, but then it will get saturated, and the bleeding will continue. But I don’t know any other way to silence the pain. Sometimes the darkness is so deep, so all consuming, that I can’t find the way out, no matter how hard I search. Self-harm is like a torch to help guide me out of the darkness into a dimly light room, and from there, I can slowly find my own way into the brightness of life.
Fighting my way out of depression has been a slow, frustrating and painful experience. It feels like every time I make a small step forward, my depression reaches out and drags me back into the dark cave it likes to keep me in. Other times, it feels like I choose to run back into the cave because it is all I know, and the thought of leaving, and being without the safety of the cave, is too frightening. But with time I have come to feel safe outside the cave, and can now spend more time outside in the sunlight, beyond the reach of the depression.
One of the most painful things to accept is that I will never be the person I was before the depression. That person is gone. I have to come to terms with the fact that I have hurt people who love me, because I wanted to punish myself. That really hurts. I have battle scars, both physical and mental, that will remain with me, a constant reminder of the fight that I nearly lost. Sometimes I feel so fragile, aware that at any time I could break and shatter into a thousand pieces. But I’m still here…