I glimpse her hiding in the shadows, between a heartbeat and the next faltering breath. Her alabaster skin gives stark contrast to the black satin corset over her flowing black dress. Dark lace and gossamer wings accentuate her onyx eyes. The pale beauty of her thin face, high cheekbones, and stringent jawline frame her luscious lips. She smiles, a smile that would shame the full moon of October, and I forget to breathe.
I stare at her, my only thought a need to taste those lips, to feel her rapturous embrace. Her hand reaches out to me. Fingers as cool and fragile as a china doll trace the deep furrows in my aging flesh. I sigh, the last wisp of breath escaping my tired lungs. Her fingers pass through my graying hair, soothing away all sadness. Her cool lips brush mine and blood pumps into my blushing cheeks. She is gone.
Like a fool I chase after her. We play our lovers’ game like deer in the early spring. But it is late fall for me and the cold of winter descends like icy shards into my bones. Too many years of life have passed, too much hardship and pain. She comes for me and I reach for her embrace. Her kiss I fear and desire beyond reason; that cold eternal kiss. But she whispers in my ear, “Not yet, my love, not yet.”
Depression is so common in modern society it can hardly be termed “abnormal” anymore. It has become an almost integral part of our human condition. Too often we rate our happiness not in positive terms, but according to our lack of depression’s symptoms. I’m having a good day, not because I am overtly happy, rather because I’m not currently overwhelmed by the darkness.
Those who have experienced the darkness of the soul which depression brings understand how debilitating that darkness can be. Depression isn’t sadness, a funk, a bad day – depression is pain, deep emotional pain, torturous agony of the soul. Someone trapped in that dark place of the soul wants nothing more than to “snap out of it”, if that were possible. We want the pain to stop. We want it to end.
It is basic instinct to pull away when we encounter pain. If you touch something that burns, you jerk your hand back without thinking. You’ve probably even heard someone with an injured ankle or hand say, “It hurts so bad I want to just cut it off.” But how do we divide consciousness from a tormented soul? How do we pull away from ourselves? In the pit of despair there is nowhere to run, nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide from ourselves. We shut down, overwhelmed by the darkness.
In the heaviest chains of depression we are unable to act. We may desire death to end our suffering, but we are unable to seek her comfort. We are powerless, lost in the darkness, utterly destroyed and defeated. One of the warnings on all anti-depressant medications is “possible thoughts of suicide.” People who have never fallen deep into the pit may find this odd, but if you’ve been there you understand. Most people who commit suicide from depression do so to keep from going back in that pit, not while they are lost in the darkness.
Those who suffer chronic depression or those who suffer bipolar depression are at their most vulnerable when they are not depressed. There is often a time of calm resolve brought on because they have made a plan to end the pain – permanently. Those around them may see this as a good sign. They are doing better, finally climbing out of their mood, acting normal again. In other cases a trigger may start them on the downward spiral and they act out impulsively to end their descent. In either case it is a change in mood that is the only warning sign.
I have often characterized suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is roughly equivalent to cutting off your leg because you broke your toe. But you are so much more than your depression. In those times when we have the clarity to devise a plan to end our own life, and the energy to actually carry it out, we need to use that clarity to find reasons to live – one more day. In my own case it comes down to tenacity or good old-fashioned hard-headed obstinance that keeps me from giving in and giving up.
I’ve had a longstanding relationship with that beautiful lady, Death. Someday I will embrace her, but not today and not by my own hand. There are many reasons why people choose to end their lives prematurely, but most fall into one of three categories – a desire to avoid our own suffering, to spare those around us from our suffering, and to inflict pain on those we perceive as the cause of our suffering. The last two need to realize that ending your life will hurt those who love you most and not those who don’t.
The first, avoiding another fall into the pit of despair, is difficult to argue against. We all want to avoid suffering. It’s instinctual to avoid pain. But again, all of life is fleeting and changing. Even our deepest despair is temporary or we wouldn’t be at a place where we could even contemplate taking action to avoid another round. The simple fact that we are able to contemplate taking our life means we are able to contemplate living one more day.
When the lady comes for us we will have no choice but to embrace her, but not yet, not today. Life sucks, some days more than others, but our task is to survive – to live one day, even one minute at a time. Your death will hurt those you would spare from pain, have no affect on those you would punish, and cancel all the ‘good days’ you will experience in the future. And the old saying is valid here, “Living well is the best revenge.”
Fighting our way through the pain is the best way to come out the other side, and our coming out again will bless those who love us, curse those who don’t, and give us another sunrise into another good day. Our brains are wired for that fight. The conscious mind’s most basic function is to seek out patterns, and develop strategies for our continued survival. When something hurts us our fight/flight instinct kicks in. We find a way to avoid the pain or combat it, but how do we avoid or fight ourselves?
The pain in our soul is part of us, though we may seek to externalize it onto others. We cannot avoid ourselves so our fight is with ourselves. But if we cannot run away and we cannot really fight ourselves what are we left with? Shakespeare wrote: “To be, or not to be – that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them. To die – To sleep – No more;” By the end of his speech Hamlet realized he had little choice but to go on, to stand without arms against the internal torment he faced. Unable to flee or effectively fight we can only stand firm and wait – the darkness passes, as it always does, and we live to fight another day.
Over the years I have used writing to express what I can’t express, the voice of the soul crying in the darkness. Many of my poems are never read. The importance was in the writing. I’m a romantic and so I have a romantic view of life’s suffering and Death’s lovely face. But we all find our ways to cope, or we wouldn’t still be around. In the end we all stand – one more day.
How do you stand on those days when all strength is gone? What are your strategies for living one more day?
David Moore is a freelance writer, literary blogger, and under his pseudonym Maxwell Cynn a best selling author in multiple genres. His psychological techno-thriller The Collective was top of its category on Amazon in 2011 while his cyber-erotic romance CybrGrrl also commanded that spot in the romance category. Several of his short stories, essays, and poems have found publication online, in newspapers, and in national magazines.
David is a classic introvert and Max is his extroverted alter ego – think Peter Parker and Spiderman (but with a southern accent and cowboy boots). As Max, David won his first literary contest, and first Kindle Reader, writing an erotic comedy (he didn’t know that genre existed). He enjoys writing an eclectic mix of topics and genres – essays, poetry, and fiction – and is an avid student of depth psychology, sociology, philosophy, and religion. His favorite series is “In Death” by J.D.Robb, he hates zombies, and his hero is William Shatner.