Darkness Invisible is the title of Daphne Merkin’s essay about depression in Sunday’s Times Magazine. Timely for me, as I find myself – feeling like a criminal in the faces of gorgeous girls, gorgeous weather, loving husband, house and home – in that mysterious, disconnected place of tears-behind-eyes. Be good to yourself! My very own motto. I dole it out so well. It’s hard.
Merkin nails it in the first paragraph:
In a culture that encourages outing everything from incest to pedophilia, is depression the last stigma, the one remaining subject that dares not gossip its name? Does a disclosure about depression, especially from someone who seems to have it all, violate an unspoken code of silence — or, at the least, make us radically uncomfortable with its suggestion of a blithe public face masking a troubled inner life?
Is it totally taboo to “admit” to being depressed, no less in a public forum? Yes. Feels that way. But I’ve moved through moments like this one – of varying depth and duration, sometimes treading water and others deep-sea diving – for many years. And I know enough about myself and about other people to recognize the value in being real, sharing what’s true in a way that might just validate or mirror someone else’s experience. For all I know, you who are reading this post suffer from depression and feel you have to conceal it. You’re exhausted at the end of the day. You carry on lovely chats in parking lots. You might as well be shooting up in private for the sense of hiding your darkness. Invisible, yes.
From a young age, I have intermittently found myself in this painful, barren zone. Each time it occurs, I am struck by how paralyzing and isolating the experience is; it remains essentially impenetrable to people who can’t (or don’t care to) distinguish it from a random bad day.
I am convinced that there is a genetic component to my depression, and most certainly a chemical one. I also know that its chicken-egg nature lends it a slippery quality, not unlike egg white in fact. Try landing a fingertip on that broken shell and watch it slide.
I am full of life. What I call “depression” is, for me, something more like straddling worlds. It’s part of me. A sense of vast space lurks at the nape of my neck. When I’m “depressed,” I often feel as if someone has died: Pull the shades, cover the mirrors, let me go inward, dark and quiet. I want to cry. “For no reason.”
Again, Daphne Merkin:
It is perhaps best expressed in the opening of Chekhov’s “Seagull,” when Masha, asked why she always wears black, replies, “I am in mourning for my life.”
Thankfully, I have a partner who gets me, gets this. Some friends and sisters who, despite my not feeling like reaching out, are there for me when I finally do, unjudging, unconditional. I have daughters with the softest skin in creation.
If I could repeat three experiences over and over and over for all time, one of them would be pressing my cheeks up against Pearl’s cheeks. One would be spooning with Aviva. One would be sun on my face.
There must be a place for this, this narrow passage, this discomfort with myself, with life. Yoga, mindfulness, running – I know all the prescriptions – and following them, being dutiful, is the last thing I feel like doing. But fighting is a fast way to drown. Thrashing about. Panic and dread.
Let go and rest. Relax. Be good to myself. It seems so counterintuitive. I’ve gotta get out of here, screams a voice in my head. But as I write, as I even allow the possibility of letting go, giving over, I feel a little relief. I feel a little permission. This is real. This is me in this moment.