What Depression Does

You want to know why I cry?
You want to know why I wanted to be involved or why I do what I do?

I sat in the small bathroom of an upstairs suite of an old hotel that was transformed into a drug rehabilitation center. The decorations were something from the 70’s. The suite had a blue rug, white walls, and wood colored furniture. The main lobby was also outdated with wood paneled walls and Berber carpeting. The couches were old. The pictures on the wall were perhaps left behind from the days when the treatment center was a temporary home to happy hotel guests. In its exchange, the hotel became a temporary home to people like me. This was a place of recovery for drug addicts and alcoholics.

I was 19 at the time and fulfilling my commitment to a second tour through this treatment center. I lost the sobriety I gained and worse than my first time in treatment; this time was harder because I knew the difference between right and wrong.
Everything was new to me on my first trip. I had no idea there was another way of life. I never believed anyone thought or felt the way did. I was alone and unique. I was depressed, only I never knew what depression was. I just thought it was me . . .

The second time was very different. This time was different because I knew better. I tried to plead ignorance—but that plea only works once. I knew there was a better way to live. I knew what it took to stay sober.
I knew what to say and who I could speak to if I needed help.  I knew the steps to sobriety. I knew enough about the program to remain sober. Put simply, first and foremost, the most basic rule to sobriety is don’t drink and don’t use drugs.

I knew all about the rules to sobriety. Slowly and one by one, I began to cut corners. I began to lose my honesty with others as well as myself. As time crept in on me, I began to feel cornered again. I felt out of place and uncomfortable. This is where relapse comes in. Same as the blind pick up on their sense of smell or touch, the body has a natural ability to try and heal itself. In my case, drugs and alcohol were that cure.

The best way I can explain my feelings to those who never suffered from addiction or depression  is to say that I always felt out of rhythm.  I never felt smooth or fitting. There was always something out of sort—and even if no one else knew or no one recognized this; deep inside, I never felt like I belonged. I never felt cool or understood. I thought there was something wrong with me.  I was always on the outside and always alone. Even while surrounded, I never felt involved and I always felt alone or misplaced.

I explain that I felt as if I was out of rhythm because I tried to carry myself to the beat of everyone else. But no matter how I tried, I always felt like I missed a beat.
I always felt unlike other people. I was distant, awkward, and strange. I was frightened of being noticed and petrified of being ignored.
Of anything I wanted most; I suppose I wanted to feel comfortable. I didn’t like the sound of my own voice. I didn’t like the way I stood or the reflection I saw in the mirror. I didn’t want to laugh for fear that I may look stupid.
And I wanted to laugh . . . . I really did.
I wanted to feel comfortable—I wanted to be able to sit in a room and not feel threatened by my own company. I wanted to feel worthy and meaningful. Or better, I wanted to feel liked and a part of something.

Feelings like mine have a way of leashing the tongue. Feeling this way keeps us from talking about our problems, which is why it is suggested to always talk to someone.  “Always tell on yourself,” they say.  Thinking is often a dangerous thing. And in the world of addiction and alcoholism; thinking is often deadly.

Sitting on the closed lid of a toilet next to a bathtub with a plastic shower curtain pulled halfway across the tub—a floral wallpaper covering the walls, a small pink colored sink dripping a droplet of water in  one second intervals, I wept with my face in my hands. I could not see anything beyond that moment. This is where I split in two halves. This is when the rational side argued with the irrational. And for the moment; the irrational side was winning.

I thought about a playground in the back parking lot of a park near my home. I thought about the concrete bench that opposed each other and the granite tables with a gray and black checkerboard etched on top. I thought about my last trip to the playground in that park. I thought about the sundown and the slight drizzle of rain that dampened the ground.
My eyes sunk low. I was two packages deep in the slow withdraw that comes with heroin. I felt myself drown in the heavy excess of a drug induced nod.
My jaw hung slightly open. My long hair was wet from the soft rain. My denim jacket was wet and my pockets were empty. I had nothing left. I had nothing except a lighter and a few cigarettes.

I thought about this and the numbness that comes with a life on medication. I thought about the consequences and wondered which was more meaningful: life on the edge, or life on the program?

I thought about my relapse and fall from grace. I thought about the 24 hours of panic and paranoid rambles of free-based cocaine. I wanted to run but there was no way to outrun myself. I wanted the world to stop—but the world never stops. It only paused slightly for a second.

I could run away, I thought to myself.
I could go someplace where no one knew my name. I could find someplace where I fit and listen to music in say, a town someplace in the state of Maryland.

Sitting in the bathroom, my consequences waited for me downstairs in a meeting with my one on one counselor. There was no way to numb the pain or stop the madness of an internal conversation.
There was no way out. The courts had a new charge waiting for me. With all my heart, I never thought I could ever get out from underneath the weight of the world.
It was all so heavy to me. Nothing made sense and no one understood.
No one knew my depression, which had a voice of its own. My depression had a personality; it had a way of intercepting laughter and altering the pretty brightness of color.
As a result of my behavior, I lost friends and hurt people. I held a gun in my hand and understood what it meant to draw down on someone—watching them literally crumble in fear. Their eyes opened wide. Their jaw dropped.
I saw their reaction and their fear as a piece of  my revenge. And once again, with or without a drug in my system; I had become vicious.

Out loud, I commanded myself to “Stop it!”
“Cut it out,” I told myself.
Looking in the mirror, I shouted, “You pussy!” and slapped myself across the face.
I slapped myself again and while staring myself in the mirror, I said, “Just do it!”
And so it began
I tossed one pant leg of a pair of jeans over a sprinkler line that belonged to the building’s fire suppression system. Then I wove the other pant leg around my neck.

As a boy, my friends and I used to play a game called, “Pass out.”
While bent over, one would breathe deep in and out until feeling lightheaded. Once lightheaded, one would stand while another leaned on the one’s chest. The reason is to stop air from filling the lungs, which in turn causes the one to pass out.

I took a page from this playbook. I leaned forward and continued to breathe until I felt lightheaded. Once lightheaded, I stood, and then I allowed my weight to slump downward, constricting the pant leg that knotted around my neck, and keeping air from my lungs so I could pass out and hopefully drift away.

One of the side effects of passing out is the body goes into convulsions. I suppose mine were somewhat wild enough because I woke up on the floor, shaking in convulsions, which sort of faded as I regained consciousness. Next was the realization of what just happened.
I shook my way out of a noose and landed on the floor.

You want to know why I cry?

I cry because I know what it means to feel that desperate.
(and survive it)
I cry because I know what it’s like to wake up and not only feel like a failure, but I know how terrible it is to try to commit suicide and realize I failed at that too.


Suicide is not the answer.

Depression leashes the tongue and keeps us from telling on ourselves.
And telling on ourselves keeps us from following through.

So talk to someone.
And if no one listens,
reach out to me.

I promise I’ll make time for you

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