This is a story. About my battle. My life with depression after my brother died. Not everyone’s story will end this way. Did end this way. It’s important we talk about these things so that others know they aren’t alone. That people care, understand, and can help. My brother lost his fight against depression but you don’t have to.
Life With Depression
I’m in a hole.
I have no idea how I got here.
It’s dark, very dark. I extend both arms to gauge the circumference of my mysterious new prison. It’s not enough for my wing-span to spread fully. It feels rough with texture. Porous. Rough edges mixed with smooth gritty lines. Brick and mortar, maybe?
It’s cramped but oddly comfortable. It feels familiar. Why?
The air is stale. Almost devoid of life. There’s dampness. Maybe I’m in an old well? It’s humid. Callous. This whole damned place is callous.
I look up and can see the sunlight coming through in a small angled ray. It must be sunrise. I’m facing East.
As the sun begins to lowly illuminate my surroundings I see it, the old fading red bricks. The crumbling mortar lines.
I think of home. Of my cool tile floor that dries my big toe out where it meets my foot. Of the grout that is in desperate need of a steam cleaning.
More light. It’s damper than I realized. Moldy, even. I hadn’t noticed the water soaking into my sneakers.
I think back to my favorite sneakers I just bought. Sitting in the 4th cubby of my shoe organizer.
How did I get here?
My mind is foggy. I am having a hard time remembering what the world feels like. Felt like.
There are small bits of green vegetation growing on the brick. I think about my succulent garden and how they must need watering.
The day is in full swing. The well is now mostly but dimly illuminated. I can see most of my surroundings, it’s so bare. It’s lonely here. Not because I’m alone, but because there’s no feeling. No emotion. I feel nothing but regret. But why?
There’s no way to climb these bricks in this condition. How will I hold on? The top of the well must be 50-60 feet. Maybe more.
As I sit and wait, things grow dark. Surely it isn’t nighttime? No, It can’t be.
The walls of the well grow higher, higher. The opening far above my reach. How can it be so? It’s growing?! I don’t understand. Am I falling? Is this thing moving? The sides begin to shrink. Now touching my elbows where I once stood comfortably with my arms out wide. I’m so unsure, uneasy. I feel more trapped. More alone. More afraid.
I try calling for help but no one answers me. That never happened at home. Where I had a loving wife and animals who loved the sound of my voice.
How did I get here?
Why can’t I remember anything clearly?
It’s so quiet. With only the occasional drop of water sneaking in from the top of the well. Or the tiny pitter-patter of the barely-there water as it trickles down the sides of the brick in a few small places. Amplified in that damned well. So loud. So little noise, making so much noise. It’s distracting. It’s comforting. Someone turn it off.
Someone help me. Why is this happening to me?
I miss the interaction I had with people. I miss my things, as superficial as they are. I miss being comfortable in my favorite recliner. I miss driving to the store, windows down, music up. I always enjoyed having my own space. My own private time away from socialization, but this? This is too much.
How long has it even been? I woke up here. But where was I last night? I cannot remember.
I begin to drift away. Not because my body is tired. No, it isn’t. But because my brain is exhausted. Why don’t I feel hungry? Or thirsty? My mouth is so dry. I can’t believe I only just noticed it now.
I slip in and out of consciousness. Not really sleeping. Just resting. From fatigue. Confusion. Boredom. As I dream in these moments, I start to remember.
Remember my life.
My wife. My dogs. My cats. My friends. My career. My family.
If I thought I was unhappy there it certainly doesn’t hold a candle this…this…suffering. This misery of being so alone. So uninspired. So vacant. Why does everything feel so empty?
I’m so empty!
I remember being in my bed only nights ago. Or was it one night? I can’t remember.
I was so dejected. I wasn’t alone yet it was all so solitary. I was barely breathing. But now I can’t even feel my breath. My lungs haven’t inhaled in minutes. Maybe hours. Hell, maybe days. How long have I been here?!
Am I even alive? Is this a dream?
I cup my hands. I place them over my mouth in an attempt to breath hot air into my palms. Not because it’s cold, but rather to know that I am alive.
If there is a breath really, I cannot feel it. My attempts to exhale are in vain. There’s so little there, barely a thread. I’m clinging on to hope. For what, I do not know.
I notice, for the first time, that my skin has no color. How had I not noticed that I was reduced to black and gray? Like an old comic strip; a faded poorly inked tattoo. Everything that is me is colorless. The walls around me are dark faded maroon. With a hint of plaster in between each old, dilapidated piece. The sky is barely blue. The little air plants holding fast onto the brick are so deep green, they barely resemble anything of color.
Colors aren’t as saturated. Edges aren’t as crisp. Hues aren’t as bright. Things are more blurry. Had I not noticed this before or is it getting worse?
Help. What am I doing here?
I begin to cry as I start to develop deep and unrequited fear. This is a true exercise in futility. I’m afraid that I’m crazy. I’m frightened that no one could understand this. I’m fearful about how I got here. I’m nervous about what others will think when I make it out. I’m petrified I won’t make it out.
Will I die here? Lonely, alone, scared to death of death itself. Will I waste away? Does anyone even know I’m gone? Do they care?
If I were smarter I wouldn’t be here. If I were stronger I could make it out. If I were better, prettier, more talented, richer…
If I had only…
Did anyone even really love me? What is love? Do I know how to love?
Why can’t I love me?
I’m angry. Blistering with resentment. Like all of the events in my life that were simmering have just come to a boil.
I’m sad. Truly miserable. My heart is low-spirited and I’m pretty sure it’s not even beating.
Do I have blood in these veins anymore? Am I pumping anything more than spite, regret, fear, despair?
There’s nothing left of me. There’s no purpose anymore. There’s nothing left to do but cease to exist.
I make my life’s final decision. I’m going to do the right thing. I’m going to end it all…
As I look for something, anything, hard or sharp a blinding light hits me. I clench my eyes shut so tight, it’s uncomfortable. This light is so intense, so blinding.
I open my eyes and the well is twice as wide as my arm’s reach. The colors are vibrant. I can feel my chest expand and contract with each breath I take. I can smell. The dew of the morning. The green ferns on the walls. The unique musty cave-like smells of the clay bricks. I can hear birds chirping. I can feel my heartbeat, no, hear my heartbeat. There’s a taste. In my mouth. Like someone stuffed me full of old pennies. I must be dehydrated. Wait a minute, I’m hungry. I…want. I…feel.
I look up to see that the well’s opening is barely above my head. It’s not only shortened its’ height, but it expanded its’ width. How did it do that? How did it give to me as easy as it took away? I went from so much, to nothing, to something. What is really happening?
I climb out of the well. My eyes are squinted as my pupils painfully adjust to the sunlight. Sunshine. I haven’t seen this in what feels like years.
Minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. It’s all so relative. It meant nothing before but now it means everything.
Did I just gain a second chance at life?
After I adjust to the sounds I walk I’m desperate. Desperate to hear sounds, see colors, feel my muscles move. I feel the wind. I smell the pollen in the breeze. I feel, actually feel, the sun’s rays on my skin. Oh my, skin! My pale milk-white skin. I never thought I’d see you again. Never thought I’d appreciate you so much.
My gap in my teeth. My crooked septum. My small upper lip. My scars. My extra weight. My emotional baggage. Suddenly it’s so vibrant. I’ve never felt more alive. More thankful for the flaws I hated most.
Thankful for life.Grateful for imperfects. Indebted for the ability to just be. Be nothing at all or something. Anything I wanted.
There it is again. “Want”. I want. I feel. I have. I am.
Life with depression is really hard but you can get better. You can live a healthier, more productive, happier life. You are worth it. You are enough. With the right lifestyle choices, you can fight this awful mental challenge. If you or someone you know needs help, here are some great resources that helped me:
National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) a national organization that raises awareness, funds scientific research and provides resources and aid to those affected by suicide.