Playing Chess With Demons
Writing about depression is not always easy to do. I feel as though the topic is extremely important, I know it so well and yet to really nail down the key points I want to make on the subject I find to be difficult. Depression and suicide are separate topics, but so often they play along hand in hand. A man can be depressed without being suicidal, but to be suicidal a man must surely be depressed.
Even in this day and age I still come across ignorant attitudes in regards to patients of depression and especially those who are suicidal. I believe that society still enlarge believes that suicide victims were fully aware of their thoughts and the effects of their actions, ultimately accountable for their suicide. Nothing else can be blamed, but the weak man who pulled the trigger, so they say.
My bout with depression has spanned many years, in being silent of this I became more and more distant and distraught. When I was encouraged to write poetry during grade school, I found an outlet that I could pour out my thoughts and feelings. Poetry became my only way of letting out the thoughts that were building up in my head. As my writing skills increased, I started writing more than just poems. Much of what I wrote became pages of thoughts and feelings, of confessions and regrets. These writings never saw the eyes of others nor the light of day.
By the time I entered high school, I was having a hard time dealing with my thoughts and emotions. Without ever having talked to anyone about it I started to feel as though it was my fault. That somehow I allowed it to happen to me. Eventually I came to believe that it was I who had caused my pain, I was to blame, and the pain I felt was well deserved. This is when I started to physically harm myself. At first I simply gained an interest in taking pain (punches, falls, strained muscles, accidental cuts, bruises and scrapes). Then I started weight lifting and things changed. No longer was the pain accidental, instead I began causing myself pain because I liked the way it felt and I wanted more and more of it. Partly because I felt that I deserved to endure it and partly because I was in control of it; I was causing me this pain.
As the weightlifting increased and stretched from simply a half hour session to sometimes three hours, I put on twenty pounds of muscle in less than a month. I would start lifting after my parents went to bed around 10 P.M. or later. There were times when I was up until 4 in the morning working out. I loved how my arms would go numb, how my abs would ache and my legs quiver from the strain. I became addicted to the chemical reaction in my muscles, I became addicted to the pain. For me it was a way to forget the emotional pain I was feeling, a way to block the thoughts of the things I wanted to forget.
Over time the increased testosterone levels made me irritable and even more seclusive. I became angry and distrustful of everyone. But poetry and writing remained my emotional outlet. In 2002 I came to the conclusion to commit suicide. I was at home and the lite rain outside seemed to make me even more sad. I remember crying a lot as I had written my goodbye note earlier that morning and then left it on the bed of my parents. I put on my jacket and walked outside my house and wandered off a ways a top a hillside behind my father’s shed. Standing in the rain with a cup of what I believed to be a poisonous chemical, I looked up at the dark sky above me and closed my eyes. Many thoughts were going through my head. I thought about how much better everyone in my family would be without me. I thought about how God, if He existed, would take away all my pain. I thought about all the things I would miss, the people I would miss. I told myself that I would see them again in another place, under better circumstances.
As the cold sprinkles of rain fell on my face, I felt more alive at that moment, than I had ever before in my life. Everything was so still, so quiet, as if everything had stopped moving, as if all eyes were on me, waiting to see what I would do. As I lifted the small, cream colored cup to my lips I wondered what it would taste like, I wondered how much it would hurt to die and whether or not the pain I already felt was worse. I anticipated the bitter taste and perhaps a burning in my stomach. I figured that I would convulse and I was hoping that I wouldn’t throw it up before it had the chance to kill me.
The evening wind still carried the scent of summers end. As it was August, the grass around me was yellow from the burning sun of the daylight hours. My heart was pounding and my salty tears bled into the fresh water that the clouds were weeping. My hand was shaking and my knees grew weak. The liquid touched my lips, it was a dark blue like an early winter night, clear of clouds and full of stars, each twinkling a promise for a better tomorrow. But in reality this was a cloudy, summer eve with a lite rain and that’s all that there was, no promise of anything better.
Standing there alone, damp and exhausted both physically and emotionally, I dropped the small cup. It was all in slow motion as I looked down at it falling away from my face, growing ever so smaller. And when it hit the ground, all that it contained flooded forth and into the ground, losing it’s identity among the wet yellow grass at my feet. I hadn’t drank it. I never even allowed it beyond my lips. I fell to my knees and started crying out loud, cursing myself and God. I hadn’t even the courage to end my fight, not even freedom from these demons would God grant me, so I believed.
Two years passed before I ever considered suicide again. The years in between were filled with sleep met after hours of crying and many more curses at God. I began cutting myself after I graduated from high school, after I had quit college and during the time I left home. Some say they cut to remind themselves that they are alive and that the numbness is only in their heads. I had cut because the pain was enough for me to forget the pain inside my head. At the end of my time at high school, when I was enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, one of the reasons I gave myself was that the pain and trials of boot camp was a suffering I deserved. I believed that through it I would somehow find redemption.
In less than a year later, I once again began feeling as though suicide may be the answer, the only anecdote for my pain. This time I was sure that a gun would be so much easier, so much quicker. There would be no more second guessing the decision. However during my battle with depression I had befriended someone who was also battling depression and who was also a writer. She became my lifeline. With her support I sought medical attention. I freely admitted myself into a temporary mental health facility. There I stayed for three days, until I was sent home. I was put on medication while I was there, but other than that I appeared to be well enough to return to life. I went through several different medications before I was able to find one that worked for me. Some gave me terrible nightmares, some simply didn’t do anything, and others made me sleep all the time. At one point I was even diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, which was later declared to be misdiagnosis.
The thing that I believe helped me the most was not the medication, rather for me it was having someone to talk to. My counselor was so much more beneficial to me than the medication. Not that it didn’t help, but being able to talk about it to someone who understood, who listened, who didn’t judge me or make me feel more guilty or terrible about myself. That’s what helped me the most.
All along I kept up my writing as it remained my outlet. My counselor later moved away, but I talked about my experience with depression often, with anyone willing to listen. I spoke to others who suffered and the families of those who could not suffer any longer. In time I intended on giving talks about my story and aid in the education of the public on depression and suicide. I believed that awareness was the key to saving lives. And that the greatest enemy of victims of depression and suicidal depression was not the disease itself, but the ignorance and misunderstandings of those who did not suffer from those diseases.
This essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud: