The following reflection was submitted anonymously to You Are Not Alone (http://notalone.nami.org), a blog managed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
I Have a Ghost, and She Lives in Me
Before I struggled with depression and anxiety, I had no clue what it meant to be depressed. Now I know, but it's tough to explain. An attempt, from a bleary-eyed late night when the dark streak in me was stirring something wild:
I have a ghost, and she lives in me.
This isn't a cool melancholy you can sink into like an old chair-cozily, lazily, happy-to-be-sad.
This isn't a sometimes sadness, the one that begins to feel like art when you're half a bourbon in.
This isn't the week after a breakup when the tears subside and your cheeks are gaunt, when the charred romance rims your eyes in a way that's nearly flattering.
It's years of parking yourself on the couch and letting your tireless husband do every chore and errand because pretending to be well for ten hours a day has left you a shell of a woman. It's telling him you wouldn't blame him for leaving, because you're not the woman he married, and you know you won't be again.
It's dreading the shower, because instead of feeling cleansed, you feel trapped by the flimsy vinyl curtain in a naked, raw cage match against your worst thoughts.
It's lying in bed, not having eaten in days because food turns to concrete in your mouth. It's exhaling, feeling your heartbeat slow, and thinking, "maybe this is it, maybe now it's over." It's inhaling again and regretting that it's not over.
It's reading about the vibrant, active lovers-of-life who succumb to illness, and thinking that God made a mistake, that surely he meant to take you. Why doesn't he take you?
This is a live-in demon. A whispering, wily villain that braids your thoughts with her desires, making you forget what's yours and what's hers. It's a dark and loveless companionship, and you know the only way to live is to leave, and the leaving will shatter the life you knew. It's when someone wants you hurt; it's when someone wants you dead. And that someone is you.
These are all places I've been. From each of these places, I lacked a line of sight to the future. I don't even mean an ideal future; I mean any future. I didn't trust tomorrow. I regretted yesterday.
Today, I have a hint of a dream for the future. It's not fleshed out and it needs a lot of work, but it's there, glinting in the morning sun. Today, I want to live. Today, things are better. Not all better. Not better forever. But I can peek back into those dark places and know that they're finite.
Here are the things that have helped me:
-Therapy (weekly and intensive outpatient therapy)
-Support from family and friends
Just shy of a year ago, a loved one shared their counseling experience with me and I felt empowered to reach out. While I won't get into the details here about why I delayed treatment so long, stigma and fear of the unknown were two major barriers.
The first step was the hardest, but the fruits of the labor-the boring, everyday fruits I took for granted before-are so, so sweet.