My life has been colored by depression. There is a darkness to almost every memory, to each day. Even when the sun is shining, there is a fog over me that influences the way I think and see things. I don’t understand why I can’t overcome this and be set free from the deep, horrible darkness. Depression claimed me as a child and has never let me go. I have fought against it long and hard. And as I have battled for my sanity, there have been pivotal moments in the fight that stand out. Moments when choices I made took me down a new and different path. I’m sure I’m unaware of most of those pivotal moments and the choices I made. But sometimes I was aware of standing at a crossroad. One particular memory stands out. One that I am convinced completely altered the course of my life.
When I was 14, I was hospitalized because I was having horrible problems with my stomach. Back then, rather than have you come in to a clinic or hospital as they ran test after test outpatient, they admitted you and ran the tests they thought were necessary over the course of several days. In my case, I was kept for an entire week. Which seems excessive by today’s standards, but it was a different world. Insurance didn’t dictate what would or would not be allowed. So I got a weeklong vacation from my parents. With my very own television and anything I needed brought to me by semi-caring nurses. It was an odd experience and some of the tests were pretty horrible. My parents only visited a couple of times, so for the most part, I was on my own, laying in a hospital bed or wandering around the few places I was allowed. I had a lot of time to think. And to watch TV. I did a great deal of both.
One evening about midway through the week, there was an interesting movie on TV about a man who had another person’s brain in his head and it was driving him mad. The depiction of someone totally losing their grasp on reality, of literally going crazy, was fairly realistic. It was so realistic, in fact, that I found myself suddenly able to touch it, to feel it as I found myself being wooed by the temptation to let go and fall off the cliff into madness. It would be so easy! No more fighting to survive. The struggles would be over because I would no longer care. The reality I currently lived in would cease to exist. I would live in an alternate world where only the things I wanted to acknowledge would be allowed. I wouldn’t have to cope with incest and being hit or screamed at and rejected. Nothing, absolutely nothing would be my responsibility any longer…and all I had to do was to let go. To fall. Softly. To let “crazy” take me and leave reality behind.
It was a much more difficult decision than I could have ever anticipated. I felt what it would feel like…to be crazy…to let it all go. The temptation to let it gently wash me away was incredible. It was so intensely incredible, in fact, that when I finally decided to claw my way back to the “real” world, to keep fighting and struggling and hurting, it took me over an hour to be assured I was free of the grasp of madness. It was a fight unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was being sucked down and I went down far enough, I wasn’t at all sure I could free myself. By the time I prevailed, the smell of it was still on me. The taste of it stayed in my mouth even longer. It was so close to me, even after I was free, I could feel its hot breath on my neck. Its kiss on my cheek. Its whisper in my ear. And that sensation, almost of drunkenness and unreality, continued for several days. The membrane had been broken. Shutting it, repairing it, boarding it back up, wasn’t an easy task.
I don’t know if everyone who encounters madness has the same opportunity I had while in the hospital so long ago. I don’t really understand how it is that I was given a choice…to go mad or to stay sane and keep living in pain. To keep fighting for healing while maintaining responsibility for my choices in life. It was a very “other world” experience. One that I can still feel when I dwell on the feelings I felt that night over 40 years ago. It is the only time I have had that “opportunity.” The only time I have been thus tempted. Having made the choice to maintain control and to take responsibility, the chance to abdicate has not reoccurred. It’s as if, in making the decision I made, I was directed down a very different road. And that road never again intersected a path of insanity. The decision was final, though I didn’t know that at the time.
But I know what it feels like…to be mad. And sometimes, late at night when the terrors of my dismal life are overwhelming me, I wish I had made a different choice. I wish I could stop being. That I could yet let it go. No matter how hard I wish or try, my control and grasp on reality persistently remains firmly in place. It is too late to return to that moment. And even if I could, I don’t know that I would choose a different path. But it tempts me. And I wonder. For I am incredibly weary of the struggle of my life. And I long for peace…however it might be attained. I am so very desirous of peace. Even if it exists only in my mind.