“When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert
I am 30; I am unemployed and I do not know what kind of job I am seeking; My bank account laughs at me, so my father feeds me; I am recovering from a relationship that questioned the purpose of my existence; I am in a relationship which I am still trying to grasp; I have walked out of friendships to which I couldn’t do any justice; I am anxious most times; I am depressed.
I was talking to a general physician about depression, who nonchalantly observed that everybody is depressed these days. But I wasn’t sure if he understood the difference between one being depressed because the dosa isn’t crispy, and one being depressed because one can’t quote one reason to be alive.
How will I make that doctor understand that I slashed my calf nineteen times in the last two months because I was haunted by my past, and I was intimidated by my future and I couldn’t befriend my present? How will I make that doctor understand that I imagined myself dead several times because I loathed myself? How will I make that doctor understand that I couldn’t muster the courage to confess, write about my mental health, because I was scared that this blog could be read by my potential employer, who would certify me unfit? How will I make that doctor understand that everybody could be depressed at some point in time, but most of us do not open up, and seek help, because we fear harsh judgement?
Today, as I wrestle with my demons who haven’t stopped smirking at me, who haven’t stopped ridiculing my choices, who keep crooning funny songs about my impulsive reactions, who label me useless, who try hard to convince that my life is meaningless, I tell myself that it’s okay to tell the world that I have been depressed, and I relapse often.
Yesterday, I might have posted a selfie on Instagram. Today, I might have written about my happy puppy on Facebook. But that doesn’t mean I am faking my episodes on depression. And it doesn’t mean that moment of happiness was a delusion.
The streak of light, and the cloud of darkness travel together in my head. They grant me no control, so I don’t know when I would see the light and when the darkness would smother me.
All I know is that I am their home.
I can’t drive the darkness away with that streak of light; I can’t fan the light with that darkness. I have to hug both of them, and feel them intensely. I have to gather all my courage to endure the darkness, and thwart its ruthless efforts to kill me.
Between that streak of light, and the cloud of darkness, there lies a semicolon.
It’s the most powerful symbol; the anchor of life.
When the waves of regrets and guilt and shame and disappointment and betrayal and self-loathing drag me further down into the deep, dark sea, I cling to the semicolon. I allow the wave to wash over me. It makes me breathless. It makes me believe that I don’t deserve this life. It whispers into my ears to let go of that semicolon. But from an invisible source, I receive a gentle instruction to hang in.
I listen to it.
We live through the phase of semicolon time and again. I hope we would be kind to ourselves when we take time to recover.
Our loved ones rest in that pause for a while. I hope we would hold their hands when the nightmares assault their souls.
We are all we have. I hope we would hold each other in our hearts.
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
— Stephen Fry