by Darick Taylor
Looking back on 30 years, most of them spent in isolation, it often takes my breath away. Time flows in one direction, and I will never be able to recover what has been lost. Living in the microcosm of my mind. Reaching desperately for meaning. If I go outside they will see—in the tension of my face and the perpetual downturn of my eyes. They will know that I am ugly. They will see the poverty and ignorance. A sixth-grade dropout. Agoraphobic. Neglected and fallen through the cracks; raised in trauma.
The days, months, years I lay sweating, clutching at my chest. If I were beautiful it would be easier. Accomplish the spectacular from inside of my bedroom and the world will come to me. I will not be stupid or crazy or too broken to love.
There is nothing remotely poetic about depression or anxiety. There are so few survivors. I try to have gratitude. I am imbued with the responsibility of carrying a message—the arbiter of shattered reality: death and fear are not romantic.
My friend Lea died in June. I lay drunk on the couch in my living room, crying and wavering in and out of consciousness when the phone rang. She overdosed. This friend was me. My soul is a ghost of hers. She stepped out of a home where she lived in abject fear, overwrought by the choices of her father. Lea fought against the same darkness. A predator emerged and proffered a panacea: OxyContin.
“I have so much energy. I can get things done.” I was the first person whom she told she had a problem. My little trips to the thrift store where she worked. There was another more treasonous
I sat with her and her husband, explaining that an illness not a character flaw had latched onto my friend. A few nights later we searched all over the island; I kept to myself that I was expecting to find a body not the wife whom he loved. She was with her dealer.
Months went by and my mother’s bipolar disorder reemerged. She had become manic and told me I had to find another place to live. For nearly 30 years I had watched over her. I had dedicated my life to protecting her from herself since I was three (the year she attempted suicide)—though I failed over and over again.
I found an apartment. On my own for the first time, I quickly fell into an affair with an unwell person: An Oedipal hell. I drank. It caused me to cry and gnash my teeth—but the tree-trunk of a knot in my chest dissolved for a little while. What I did not know is that I was falling into a hole and burying myself under its roots.
The phone rings: my friend is dead. The phone rings: the affair is over. I drink for another week, until my 31st birthday looms. And then I stop. I finish my Associate in Arts with a 4.0 GPA. I work and continue going to school. Redemption? What now?
Is it too late? Do I walk through life an apparition of what might have been?
I get up every morning, and I walk out of the door. There were eons when that minuscule step proved effectively impossible. My truck’s engine turns over and I use its vibrations to shake off the weight of the world. I am no longer a prisoner of space, but the past attempts to grab at my heels from time to time.
This story is my declaration: being abandoned by my father, the neglect and abuse of growing up in poverty with a bipolar mother—the past no longer defines me. I am walking through the portal to the outside. I love myself enough now. It is nice to meet you finally, life.
Darick Taylor is a mental-health advocate and survivor. He studies Converged Communications at Florida State College at Jacksonville, and he hopes to use his growing skills in media production to combat stigma and support all people who experience mental illness.