Life is the most uncertain thing.
Nobody knows this better than I do. At the age of 23, I thought life was about to end for me, as I stood on the balcony of my third-floor building looking at the concrete down below. It appeared easy to hit the button that would move me from alive to deceased in a matter of seconds.
But I didn’t. Something stopped me.
To this day, I cannot say what it was: Fear? Anxiety that I wouldn’t be missed? Worry that I’d be forgotten? Terror of the possibility of the jump going wrong?
I really don’t know.
17 years later, I do know that some things happen for a reason. Depression doesn’t come announcing itself in an array of colours. It snakes its way into your brain, clamping down on your senses, engulfing you in an embrace that won’t quit. It makes it hard to do anything: read, write, sing, cook, clean, bathe, sit, stand, sleep, walk, converse and even think.
It’s not just debilitating. It’s deadening. There is no ‘you’ left. At times you see a flicker, a shadow of who you may have been before this happened. But it never lasts long enough for you to completely grasp it and hold on to it, in order to make it stay.
At some point, you learn- through therapy, love, medication, more therapy- that there is a chance to beat this thing at its own game.
It makes you value things more- the interactions that count, the family that matters, the moments that make up happiness and joy and love, in a bubble so big that you’re afraid to touch it, for fear that it may break.
So when you find yourself spiralling downwards into the familiar regions of pain, you pull back. You watch for the triggers and you keep away from them.
You stop watching that movie with the serial killer because it keeps you awake at night.
You stop reading graphic details about sexual abuse because it triggers your anxiety.
You refrain from following news related to suicide, self-harm and people who were gone too soon because it reminds you of that 17-year-old boy next door, who killed himself and you can’t stop seeing his face in your head.
It isn’t easy.
But you learn to do it. You handle it with care. You do so, knowing that every moment spent away from the black dog is one that you’ve fought for, clawed your way out of the pit for and triumphed in the face of insurmountable odds.
At some point, the line between sanity and depression becomes almost difficult to discern, but you look for it and walk on the side of the former.
Because you know you’ve earned it.
- I suffered from clinical depression & bipolar disorder from 2001–2002. A brief account of that can be read here.
- Day 16 of daily writing.