I’d been thinking about voids a lot lately. Not a space where something is missing or gone but an endless vortex of darkness. Having depression means circling that vortex more often than one should and fighting very hard not to get sucked in. When you battle, you try to save yourself but you keep slipping anyway. And you’re never far away from that vortex. It’s always there, sometimes in the distant background where you don’t even remember why you worry about it. Sometimes it’s right next to you, a constant reminder that you’ll never escape it. When you lean over that vortex to peer into it’s blackness, there’s a pull. “Fall in. You want to. Stop fighting. Just fall in.” What is it about this disease that has us fighting against the basic human instinct of survival?
The void, the abyss: it pulls at me. It calls to me. It is irresistible at times. Which sounds weird, I know. Why would you voluntarily want misery? How could depression be enticing? I think of it like this: you’re stranded in the ocean. You keep paddling, moving your arms and legs as much as you can to keep you from going under. Panicking doesn’t help but you can’t stop it, it’s a survival instinct. But it wears you out faster. The water, the deep, dark abyss below you starts to seem like a respite from the struggle of staying afloat. Surrounded by nothing, weightless and adrift, it seems like relief. Let’s say someone, some Good Samaritan comes by and tosses you a life ring or a vest, anything to help you. But you’ve been paddling so hard for so long, that you can’t even move to take the help offered. And you know it won’t be enough to help you overcome the exhaustion of surviving, because eventually you’ll end up back here again anyway. Every ship is leaky, every floatation device faulty under the weight of supporting you. And because you know you’ll always end up struggling in the ocean, it’s almost pointless to accept help.
It’s terrifying how attractive that abyss is to me sometimes. It’s anathema to every instinct we have as human beings. Yet, I still have times when I think about letting go. Not dying, only stopping. Stop paddling and moving and thinking and feeling. It happened to me recently. I stopped taking my medication, stopping reaching out to people, stopped talking about the things I needed to talk about. Every time I walked by the pills on my bathroom counter, I thought “eh, maybe later. It’s too much now.” What in the hell happens to a person that taking a pill is too much of a goddamned effort? Especially if it’s a pill that keeps you mentally stable. Depression, that insidious motherfucker, it really wants to get you alone.
I was thinking about all of this and of the recent deaths of people who struggled with depression. I get why people who struggle with this commit suicide. It’s a fight you’re bound to have, over and over again. It’s Sisyphus with his goddamned rock that he can never stop pushing uphill for eternity. It’s scary to worry about the day you won’t have enough in you to keep living. I’m not suicidal (I’m actually terrified of death, please no thank you) but it no longer seems like something a person does out of selfishness or ignorance. It’s a thing someone does out of desperation and exhaustion.
Fucking depression. I saw this somewhere (I wish I knew where or when or I would give credit where it’s due) but it read “Depression is a chronic disease that can often be terminal.” And I get it now. I think the things that helped me pull out of this recent episode were that people reached out to me. Even a simple hey, how are you. Instead of me reaching out for them, they reached out for me. It makes a difference, at least it did for me.
I wish I had some high note to end this on. I’m not 100% yet. I’m working on it. I’m still paddling. I hope everyone else out there struggling with this is finding the strength to keep paddling, too.