Monday, January 28, 2013

Confronting the Demon

I should be dead.

No, that's not correct. There's no should. I am alive right now, and that's enough of a should for me simply because that's how things have turned out. Not dead yet. Better to say that there have been events in my life that could have easily ended my life. There was that time I jumped off the back of a moving truck and landed on my head (I have no memory of that night or the concussion I received, but my friend the Brainsaw loves to tell the story of that evening). Or that time I tripped on playground equipment and fell more than ten feet down and landed on a thin metal wall, nearly fracturing my pelvis (when I landed on the wall, I straddled it. It's a fun story involving swelling of inhuman proportions and man-parts turning various shades of purple). Or the time when my head went right through the side window of my parents' minivan when we got hit by another car during a snowstorm (I have no memory of that happening either). Or that night when I was attacked by a drunk guy with a knife (my memory of that event is a blur. It happened so quickly. All I remember is dropping the guy with an elbow to the bridge of his nose). Or that one time when Steve and I were teenagers and he caused me to lose control of my car and we went off the road and hit that house (the part of that story where I thought I was going to die was when my dad arrived on the scene).

And there was that one time when I felt so overburdened and defeated by life that I wanted to kill myself.

I grew unhappy with my life. I hated myself. I felt trapped, powerless, and nothing had turned out the way I wanted. I saw nothing but failure and regret when I looked in the mirror. It was more than that, though. I know that now. I know that because I have felt all of these same feelings, all at once, since that time when I contemplated suicide. Those feelings alone, while horrible and crippling, aren't enough to make me want to give up on life. Back then, there was something else going on.

The only way to combat the stigma attached to depression is to talk about it openly and honestly. It's a medical condition, like having a broken leg or conjunctivitis. Sure, it feels different, because it affects a person's personality much more directly than other physical ailments, but that doesn't change the fact that depression is a condition that can't just be ignored. A person suffering from depression can't "snap out of it" any more than a person with an arrow in the knee can just "walk it off." Depression is frustrating for those who have to deal with a depressed person. I know that all too well. Depression is debilitating for those who have it.

[Note: I deleted what I wrote here. I wanted to share my story in more detail, but I couldn't bring myself to finish it. I wrote this instead.]

I always referred to my depression as "my demon." Metaphor, to be certain, even back in my Christian days, but accurate insofar as I have always felt the depression like it was a person: another voice in my head trying to persuade me to look at life through the darker lenses. Again, metaphor, but that's what it feels like. My demon.

I had to confront my demon. I had to take steps to reclaim my own life. Medicine and science are necessary conditions, but so is personal determination. Almost prophetically, I wrote an allegory of this confrontation long before the demon had me stuck between the sword and the wall, giving me no choice but to stand my ground mentally and emotionally. I've wrestled with depression since high school. I thought I had it bad back when I wrote about my confrontation. I had no idea how bad the demon could really be, or how difficult my confrontation would be... or how it would forever change me.

Mentally and emotionally, I am in a good place now. I had to go through 50 shades of hell to get here, and I am still very much an unfinished work, but I survived my confrontation, and while the demon never really goes away, I've learned how to keep him at a safe distance. For now.


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