Depression Is My Monster

Person in black with a white mask

I could see it begin to creep up on me. Depression, self-conscious, low self-esteem, loneliness. Tiptoeing towards me. I’m cornered and I don’t see an exit plan. At the moment, I’m still using fancy footwork to confuse and tire it out. Behind me, on the other side of the wall, is joy. My dad’s infectious humor, gratitude for life. And I want to turn to that entirely, but a wall separates us.

And now I’m stuck here, me and depression. I can’t look directly at it. But it senses my weakness and fear. My defenses are down. I want to go on the attack and Charlie’s Angels my way out of here. But fear keeps that bubbling just below the surface, it remains ideation and not action. I turn every which way, eyes darting here and there, nothing stays in focus longer than a few seconds.

My feelings run deep and the current is disproportionately strong. I am headstrong and emotionally reactive. I struggle with the tendency to overreact, life is not as dramatic a production as I can make it out to be. There are times when I need to be reminded of the true proportions of what is happening, so I can weigh it against my feelings and try to cut some of the excess heft. I am not exaggerating my feelings, but I feel so intensely and so deeply that learning to balance myself in a world that does not feel this way has been a lifelong challenge.

I respond too strongly to my perceived thoughts on someone else’s reaction. I wonder if I read physical and social cues too strongly. I weigh the presence, the look, and the tone of voice with more importance than the content of what a person is saying. Maybe I’m right in my assumption, maybe I am wrong, but if a person doesn’t want to tell me how they’re feeling, I cannot make them.

Depression is growing bigger, having eaten Alice’s fantasies. It’s the demon in Spirited Away. Glutinous for pain. Now my head hurts and I can’t remember what I did in the past to get out of this corner. I sink to the floor, close my eyes and take several deliberate breaths. In and out, focusing only on that breath. When I open my eyes, I can see a sinister troll cackling behind Depression.

Depression’s troll tells me that I don’t know who the girl smiling in my photos is. That the joyful image I sometimes portray isn’t me. That’s not me. Depression tells me, “You don’t know where that joy is, what a facade. What a phony getup.”

It looks ridiculous, rubbing its hands together like a cartoon villain. I push myself up off the ground, walk up to Depression and I want to make it cower in terror, but when I stand up it shrinks down and the costume falls to the floor in a heap. I can see the air pump in the back that was blowing it up to such a size. Then I notice the heart of the facade is not a demon or a monster. It’s a little girl, she looks just like me, maybe she is me. She is sad and afraid. Her armor has been taken away and she is vulnerable and looks my way in fear.

Should I destroy her, now that I’ve emerged the victor? No, I won’t do that. She needs love, I don’t embrace her in a hug, not yet, but I do walk up to her and bend down to her height. I want to tell her something but no words come, so I just look at her and let my lips spread into a small kind smile. We will get to know each other and she will see that everything will be ok, and I will see pain at its correct size, and not in its monstrous manifestations.

December 1, 2019

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