I am no stranger to depression - it's been my companion for far too many years. I recognize the symptoms as expertly as I would the symptoms of the flu or any other illness. It comes from years of living intimately with it. I've examined my personal causes, or triggers minutely, made a science of pinpointing the underlying reasons and how to exorcise them.
As a child, when the fighting between my parents would crescendo, or they had just vented their rage at each other on one of us, I would slip away from the house and look up at the night sky, praying for my real family to come and take me away.
In the teen years, unable to pretend I belonged somewhere else, I thought about suicide almost constantly. I wore black from the age of 12 onward, and sat in my room in the dark, writing very morose, very bad poetry. I stole prescription drugs from the medicine cabinet of my friend's mother and stockpiled them for my planned overdose. My parents would occasionally take their heads out of their self-absorbed asses to notice and their loving response was always, "Do we need to take you to see someone?" Not that they ever followed through - not that I would have talked to a shrink if they had. When you grow up in the house of a shrink and see just how batsa they are after hours, it makes it pretty much impossible to trust any of them.
I was actually lucky, in that I had brothers and a sister. I think we decided fairly early on that our parents were totally fucked up in the head and couldn't be relied on. No matter how bad it was, we had each other. My father likes to think he had a hand in making us such a close family, and he's right, but he's also way off base. He was never home, except on the weekends. My mother couldn't deal with four kids alone and saved both our punishments and her resentments for Friday night, and that's how she lost her authority as a parent. Their need to publicly vilify one another led us to form our own family dynamic - one that didn't include them.
As a young woman I tended towards relationships where I put my entire life's happiness into the keeping of another, and naturally, they always seemed to end badly. Then I would plummet into a pit of darkest, most desperate despair, only surfacing to pin my self worth on another poor unsuspecting schmuck.
I was about 24 when I had the epiphany that I was living my life like it was a Greek tragedy, and decided I was really tired of it. It was time to try living life like it was worth it. That was the year I met both Bea and my husband and you know how those stories went.
That's not to say I don't ever end up in that dank, windowless cell known as depression - I certainly do. The toddler years were hell, and there were times I literally hit my head against the wall, trying to deal. But I look at it differently now. I know there's a sunny day outside of that cell. I also know I'm not the only one who ever feels that way, and strange as it may sound, I find that comforting. It took some work to get to this place, in the form of confronting my demons, both personal and familial, but the dark days are fewer and further than they used to be.
How can we appreciate the exquisite joy of being alive, if we've never seen the other darker side as well? Life is a balance of both good and bad, I believe, and in the quest to find wisdom, or grace, or deeper illumination, we have to be able to embrace both sides.
*Note - I wrote this piece after reading of Ray's demise into the dark tunnel over at Nitro Vista. This isn't a solution to anyone else's depression - it isn't even a full confession of the things that set me off. This is simply what came up out of the bubbling swamp that is my mind after reading his post. I also want to say that as an adult I recognize there are no perfect parents and whatever botching of the job my parents may have done, they did their best with what they were given. Family dynamics and dysfunctions often go back many generations, and for what its worth, my parents did break out of their respective molds in many ways.