Last night proved something that has always been a fear in the back of my mind: My depression is a living, breathing metaphysical creature capable of growing and nurturing itself. For years, I have master a few tricks to keep the monster at bay without ever seeking permanent treatment. In college, I sat in counseling sessions handling issues the depression brought on, the fears that built up in the pit in my stomach, my anger, etc. It was then that my counselor, Veronica, labeled my at-the-time, long-term girlfriend, Jeanna, my balance. “She centers you. Throughout these sessions, you always mention her. She pulls you out and grounds you in this reality.”
Years later, Jeanna and I celebrated the best day in our lives when our son Shaun Damien was born. Sadly, however, our relationship wouldn’t survive the long battle of ups and downs. Finally succumbing to the inevitable, it ended. We remain good friends because for nine years, we only knew ourselves. And for the sake of our son’s sanity and well-being, we remain partners in raising him. But it’s not an easy thing to let go someone you loved for so long.
Our last beach trip as a couple, circa Summer 2011
Suddenly that balance is missing. And with the walls crumbling all around me, the depression reared its disfigured head. It clutched my thoughts with gnarled fingers, bringing to life the Voice that echoes throughout the chambers of my heart. All my tricks and meditations no longer quelled the creature. They wouldn’t silence the Voice and the venom that it spilled within my daily thoughts.
Suffering the most was this blog. Following the constant theme of sadness, this blog underwent a great shift. Several times, I promised to revamp, refocus, and move forward with my writing and my reading and my musings to little avail.
Meanwhile, Jeanna went through similar bout. Taking another road that I did, she immersed herself in social activities rather than hiding away. I won’t go into her baggage because it’s not mine to share. However, I will share one tidbit. Not too long ago, we were lying in bed. We both needed the comfort of another, so we found refuge in each other arms. I told her how Veronica once called her my balance and she opined how it’s weird having depended on someone and suddenly that’s no longer an option. “I can still be your balance,” she offered. “Even as a friend. Couldn’t I?”
I don’t remember what words came out of my mouth, but the answer is no. No, she couldn’t because she cannot be both the source and the remedy. Not the source itself, but the vulnerability that let the Voice in. The fuel it uses to burn all that is inside me.
Last night the Voice decided it was time to beat me. And for the first time in years, I allowed it. I laid down my arms. If every night was going to be a struggle to keep it at bay for the rest of my life, why not let it take me to its depths to see what it has to kill me? When it was over, I picked myself up and moved on.
Today (being Tuesday, though it’s no Wednesday), the world was in a fog. When Carol (who also texted me Monday night apologizing for vanishing Sunday and most of Monday) sent me a text. In the last month, I’ve grown fond of her. There are moments when I just think about her and the pain resides. There are moments when she’ll crawl into my thoughts for no discernible reason. I recounted a story of how I “slayed the giant,” a spin a story I’ve told many times about a very real event in my life about the first love letter I ever received. And it kept the Voice at bay. Still, I could feel its claws digging into my heart.
Then the oddest thing happened. We stopped to put gas after work, and Shaun and I walked into the Stripes where I picked up two sodas – one for Mom and one for me – and a bag of Cheetos Puffs and a Monkey Juice for Shaun. Shaun is adored by all. The old lady in front of us paid him a compliment, which I’m getting better at dealing with. The lady behind me then struck up a small conversation with me before it was my turn to check out. I handed the guy behind the register the two sodas and took the bag of puffs and Monkey Juice from Shaun so they could get rung up. Needless to say, Shaun did not enjoy this. His face scrunched and he started to cry. I tried to sooth him as I tried my debit card on the machine and it came out error. I tried again, and this time the price for my purchase wasn’t available. Frustrated with the man behind the register and the card reader, I tried to keep my voice calm as I tried to sooth Shaun’s tears. Finally, I hear, “Five-eleven? That should take care of it.”
The voice belonged to the woman who I’d just spoken to earlier. “That’s my good deed of the day,” she quipped.
“Are you sure?” I asked, because the social protocol of this has never been risen before. Not with me.
She nodded. I thanked her.
“For him,” she said as I held the door for her as we both left the store.
It gave me something I needed. I could feel the power I’d given the creature and its voice rescinded. And it’s given me motivation to act on something that I’ve only thought about doing.
My name is Guillermo. And I am a survivor. I am not my depression. I am my balance.