It was dark. Lonely. Quiet. Beautiful…
I remember the days of my darkest depression in law school fondly. It sounds strange, I know.
There was no pretense. I was free. I was shrouded in complete darkness. I didn’t need to hide as I was protected under the cover of night. Nothing mattered to me at all. I couldn’t be bothered to get up and get dressed. I was probably barely even eating, although I really don’t remember. I just remember the feelings.
I remember the darkness. It tried to overtake me — beckoned me ever further into its depths. I felt the darkness throughout my body. That weird metallic taste in my mouth. The nausea always churning in my stomach. The headache if I stayed awake too long. The backache if I laid down all day.
Even more clearly I remember that feeling of being past broken. My heart cracked open. The whites were running free. The yolk soon to follow. Anything could bring me to tears. To swallow those tears would have been to ingest poison. I needed to liberate them. Unleashing them somehow set me free.
To do well in college and escape familial dysfunction I had made myself rigid. I had become ashamed of my internal struggles and what I deemed emotional imbalance (i.e., a spectrum of feelings). I threw away all of my journals. ALL OF THEM. I wanted to bury the evidence if I could. I needed everything to be perfect. I was inflexible and in ways insufferable. But I was superwoman. I could have it all. My roommates commented that they’d never seen anyone vacuum so often. Long before joining a law firm I was scheduling and recording my activities down to 15 minute increments. If it could be done, I was going to do it.
“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me… So I just didn’t stop.” (The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver) I didn’t want to feel anything. I didn’t want to be distracted. I couldn’t risk my emotion bringing me to ruin. My feelings couldn’t be trusted. So I buried them.
Funny thing about a burial though. The thing doesn’t cease to exist. Ghosts of emotions past start rising up from the places where they’ve been buried in secret and they haunt your life. They will not be ignored for always.
I’ve been told that depression is the absence of feeling. The absence of tears. Something darker still. If that’s true, maybe what I experienced was not depression at all, but rather grief. So many denials of self over time. So many funerals for the innumerable times I chose to please the other at the expense of my values, my self-respect and my dignity.
Under the cover of darkness, lit by the moonlight, everything seemed more beautiful. Even the parts that hurt, just to be reminded that they were there was magnificent. While walking down the street I stopped, leaned over and pressed my nose to a flower and was in rapture.
The gift of my depression was to give the hidden, muted parts a voice and to remove from me all power to turn away.
The darkness lit up the path that brought me back to life.