For those of you who suffer from depression like me – true depression, the kind that fucks up your life – I want to warn you this might be a trigger.
Imagine you open your eyes to find yourself standing knee deep in brackish water. You’re completely alone. The silence is deafening to the point that it creates its own kind of buzz. If you listen hard enough, you can almost make out words in that buzz, but the words are dark and angry, so you do your best not to listen too closely.
As you let your gaze travel the landscape, you realize that in every direction, all there is murky water periodically choked with thick reeds. Above you, the sky is a pale, grayish blue and the sun a sharp white light, both blinding and dim.
Something slides along your calf, and you feel the sharp edge of razor teeth. As you look down at the water that enfolds your lower legs, you notice odd, dark objects moving just below the surface. Whatever they are, these shapes are writhing and slithering nearer and nearer.
As you stand there, you can feel the mud seeping into your shoes, sucking at them and pulling you deeper down. You know you have to move.
You shade your eyes and look for safer ground. Far off in the distance, you can see the shape of a dead tree, its gnarled bare branches jutting up from the marsh. That has to be better than where you are now. But to get there, you must move in water that’s so dark you have no idea what lies beneath your feet.
You take a step. Your shoes squelch and threaten to abandon your feet, but you manage to keep them on. Unfortunately, as you move, the shapes beneath the water move along with you. One bumps against you, and again you feel teeth nibbling at your exposed skin. You let out a shout for help, hoping that someone will hear you, but your voice is carried off in the wind and it’s as if you never spoke.
You move again. One step. Two. The sun beats down on you. It should be comforting, that light, but instead it just reminds you how exposed you are. How alone. But you keep moving because standing still isn’t an option.
Your next step plunges you into a deeper patch of water. You drop down and the water surges up to your waist. The reeds slap at your face and for a moment you think you’ll plunge beneath the water. But you use those same reeds to keep your balance, grasping them in sweaty hands and righting yourself. The shapes beneath the water are twisting around your legs in a frenzy. For the first time, you feel the true power of their teeth as they tear at your flesh, ripping away pieces of you.
The tree is closer now, but it seems farther away. You’re frozen in place, waiting for the creatures beneath the water to stop feeding. And they do, though they continue to brush against your skin. The sensation is both painful and propelling. You can’t stay here.
As you lurch forward, breath coming in sharp gasps, heart pounding, they surge with you. With each step the water gets deeper. The mud sucks away your shoes. The reeds slap and scrape and tear at you. The sharp teeth bite deeper and deeper, sinking into bone.
And still you keep moving, taking steps as you can. Fear is your constant companion. Fear of motion. Fear of standing still. Fear of being devoured by the things that lurk beneath the water.
Eventually, night falls. In the darkness, chest deep in the muck, you stand and wait. You’re exhausted, physically and mentally. You can no longer see where you’re going and those things beneath the water have multiplied. They’re hungrier than ever.
The fear of taking a step that will send you completely underwater in the dark overwhelms the need to find safe ground.
When the sun rises, you can see the tree. It doesn’t seem to be any closer. It sits on a small island of marshy moss. You work your way to it, determined to reach it before you’re devoured by the creatures below. So you take another step.
Only somehow, the marsh water has thickened. It’s like walking through molasses or hardening cement. Worse, the creatures are trying to herd you from the safety of that mossy little plot of land. And the sun beats down, searing your skin. The reeds slice and cut your hands as you use them to propel yourself along.
You’re cold. You’re tired. You’re in constant, unrelenting pain.
As much as you want to reach that tree, you find yourself wishing that you would just step in a spot so deep that you would drop under the water. It would be so much easier to just let the mud inside. It would be a relief to not come up again. It would be over.
But you push on. Time has no meaning. The sun rises and blisters and sets. The mud coats you, so that you don’t resemble yourself so much as you resemble a swamp creature. And still the things beneath the surface feed on you, bite by bite.
Time loses meaning. The sun rises, sets and rises again and again. And always the tree is there just a little too far to reach.
Sometimes you see groups of people running through the marsh like it’s a playground. They’re unaffected by its dangers - immune to it even - as they follow a path that you can’t see. Their feet dance across the water. Their laughter fills the air. You call out to them for help, but more often than not your voice is drowned by the swamp. Occasionally one of them will pause and make their way to you. They’ll pull you free of the mud with an ease you resent as much as you appreciate it. You ask them to wait, to show you the way out. But they race away across the water, leaving you behind exhausted and struggling to gain your feet.
It’s as if they were born lighter than you.
Sometimes you don’t call out to them at all because you know they can’t help you. It’s easier to stay buried, devoured and shredded, than to start over on a path you can’t see and plunge off again into the murk.
Sometimes you see others like you, plodding and pushing through the marsh. Sometimes you get close enough to reach out to them and pull them to a safer spot. Sometimes they do the same for you. Sometimes you watch them go under. More often, you just acknowledge each others journey with a weary look of understanding before continuing on. Each encounter leaves a heavy weight on you that burrows deep inside your chest.
You’re determined not to slip beneath the water despite carrying that extra weight of those that didn’t make it.
Eventually, you do make it to the little island, rising from the swamp, your body weighted by the sludge of your journey, battered, bleeding, but alive. You stand on that tiny piece of land, barefoot and flayed, not sure who you are anymore. So many pieces of you are lost to the swamp. You should be happy. You should be relieved. You made it.
Only there is no sustenance here. The tree is dead and withered. The moss sinks where you stand on it. You may be above the mud for the moment, but you’re alone, exposed, and there is no respite for you. It’s just a way station on your journey. A place to catch your breath before you plunge back down into the mire.
There is no end to this swamp.
The last few weeks, I’ve been fighting like hell to keep my head above water. Everything seems to be a trigger for both my depression and anxiety. I don’t have a good reason why - maybe it’s a moon phase thing or a seasonal thing or just a general weariness from being alone and isolated for so long. Whatever the reason, I found that every time I logged onto Facebook or Twitter and interacted with anyone, I was overwhelmed by panic attacks that had me head-between-my-legs freaking out.
My brain tells me things that I know are lies. That if I died, no one would notice or care. That those few people I do interact with on social media sites likely consider me a freak. That no one wants to talk to me.
I’m a fringe person.
I don’t belong anywhere.
Depression lies, I know this.
But sometimes it carries painful truths.
The truth is I am alone.
I am isolated.
I am isolated.
My social interaction on a daily basis includes listening to my son expound upon various computer related topics, most of which I don’t understand and rarely am able to comment on. My husband never wants to talk about anything – and often will go off by himself when he is home. I’m pretty sure he can’t stand me. I know he struggles to deal with our son. But he’s too good of a person to actually bail on us.
I am largely a silent person. Sometimes I go an entire day without speaking other than saying “un hunh” a thousand times. Other than that, it’s brief conversations with cashiers at the grocery store and my Twitter feed that remind me I still exist on some level.
Some days I just want to start screaming and never stop just to hear my voice.
Some days I just want to start screaming and never stop just to hear my voice.
All of my friends and most of my family deserted me over the years because they couldn’t relate to my life. They have normal lives. They didn’t have to deal with therapies and doctors and special education services and all the things that come along with a child with special needs. He’s an adult now. They're still gone.
Some of them did it quietly and gradually. They slipped away without me noticing because I was too busy dealing with one disaster after another. Others broke away with hurtful words or ignorant statements. Some I was forced to walk away from or lose a piece of what’s left of my soul and sanity.
When my son was four, someone I love dearly said she was sick of listening to mothers like me complaining about their brats, and that if I just disciplined him and started doing my job, my son would be normal. She said that I wasn’t fit to be a mother. That’s the kindest version of what was said. The truth is it was much more ugly and hurtful. And that wasn’t even the worst thing that has been said to me over the years by friends, family and strangers alike.
I’m alive. I’m here. Alone. Freak. Loser. Dragging myself through the muck, buried chest deep. And oh so tired. But I’ll get to that stupid little plot of moss and gather myself up and keep on going because I don’t have a choice.
The swamp doesn’t get to win.
I’ll still be on social media, though for now it’s probably going to be limited to quick posts about what I’m reading or maybe some pics of my art. I can't handle the panic that interactions bring. I hope those who follow me will keep following me, though I’ll understand if you don’t. It’s okay.
You don’t have to pretend to be interested.
I get it.
I get it.