A little warning: this might be considered a darker post than normal. But I try to be honest here, and so sometimes there is darkness just as there is light...
I have been living with depression for several years (triggered by some rather extreme work and life stresses including health problems with my back and several years of uncertainty over my job). I am glad to say that things have been better for a while, and so my Dr and I are taking advantage of the Spring to slowly reduce my medication, with the aim to have me drug-free by the summer. I know that we will get there, but the process of coming off has been a little hard, and I have had several difficult days - which probably made me a little more open than normal to my Friend Sophie's latest blog entry "The black bridge" - a deeply personal account of one of the darkest times in her own life when she came very close to choosing the door marked 'exit'.
I love her for her honesty, and the beautiful way in which she tells the story. I know how hard it was for her to write about that time, and the empty black space she was living in - I know, because I have been in the same place too, more than once. I know just how hard it is to admit to feeling that bad, that unhappy, that 'just not being' seems to be the only available solution. I know how hard it is to accept that you have suffered those feelings, because in doing so you have to look into that hollowness inside - and you fear that the blackness will pull you back down into it, just like the 'exhaust of a passing express' threatened to pull Sophie from the bridge.
But, I also know that we can only overcome that emptiness and pain by facing it - because in doing so, we realise that it is not us, only something that is happening to us - and that, like all things, it will pass.
Like Sophie, I was lucky: I had the perfect exit arranged, but in the moments before I followed through, I managed to remember all the mess that my unexpected death would leave for the people I had loved. Perhaps I was also 'lucky' in that a very good friend of mine did surrender to that dark place a few years before I stood in the same place - I lived through her suicide, and so I was reminded from personal experience just how much pain and mess is left behind. I don't blame her, any more than I blame anyone else who has felt so unbearably empty of everything but pain that they need only to make that pain stop. How could I blame her or them, since I know a little of how she felt, and planned to do the same myself?
However - I am glad that I didn't give in to that painful emptiness. I am glad that instead of fleeing that pain, I surrendered to feeling it; because, in doing so I found that it was neither as deep nor as permanent as I thought. I also discovered that I was infinitely stronger and more resilient than I could ever have imagined.
Just as Sophie did. And just as many others who have not made that leap have done too. It leaves its scars, but it is also what makes us not only survivors - but also stronger than most in the long run.
So, why do I share this now?
Because talking about it helps myself and others. It helps me because in expressing that pain, I am reminded that I overcame it - and can do so again. It might also help others who are in that pain now, by knowing that there are other souls who know and understand a little of how they feel - and who can offer personal hope that there is life beyond these darkest of times. And I hope that it also helps those of you who have never felt that pain, by helping you to understand a little better of the places that pain can take those of us who have been under its spell...
But - it does get better. And I know that I need to remember that, as much as anyone else. Not always and forever - that's only in fairy-tales - but it really does get better.