“Sometimes around midnight
They’d come knocking at my door
I said sometimes around midnight,
Hell hounds found what they’re looking for”
Sometimes around midnight I feel my heart drop down to the floor. The pitter-patter of emotions beat down my heart. My brain tells my heart to hold fast, that we’ll get through this as we always do. It never feels like I will. It feels like hopelessness. It’s the same depression that’s been eating away at me since I was a child. The rhythm increases as my heart beats faster still. It gets harder and harder to use your head when you feel like you can’t control part of your body. This is how the panic starts and my heart doesn’t stop until it has me on the floor too. That’s where I wind up during a panic attack. I sit up straight, take deep breaths, and grab a stress ball from my bedside table.
My bedside table functions like a paramedic’s toolbag. I’ve got at least five different drugs stashed about. There’s a flashlight, a notebook detailing the steps that I’ve gone through in my worst panic attacks, and a stress ball. I squeeze that ball so hard that you would think I were going into labor. There I sit huddled next to my bed with two cups of water, a half chewed Xanax, a notebook, and a stress ball. I’m shaking. That’s what’s always scared people when they’ve found me like this. My parents used to find me like this in my room when I was growing up. They didn’t know what to do. The truth is that there isn’t a whole lot anyone can do. I sit there, chew my bitter pill, squeeze my stress ball and wait for breathing to slow down. It takes about fifteen minutes for breathing to return to it’s regular rhythm. During that time I think the loneliest of thoughts and ponder the worst questions.
I think about the world without me. That’s what I’ve always done. It’s the depressed person’s first place of refuge. We want the easy way out. I look around my room and slowly realize that this is why I don’t let myself have weapons. There’s a lot of truth in that: “remove all sharp objects” idea that they have in psych wards. You’re not thinking when you’re at your worst. I glance up at the postcards on my wall and think: “I’ve led a good life.” I imagine the paramedics removing my body from my room and the detectives going through my things. I like to think that they’d say I did alright, but no one says that about someone with depression because they don’t know how it feels, they don’t know what it’s like, and they’ll never understand the day-to-day struggle that we have had to live with it endure every single day. Judgment is man’s way of feeling better about himself.
As I pan across the room I look at my closet and the mountains of books that have come to inhabit it. At a certain point an inanimate object ceases to be just another object, it becomes a part of it’s surroundings. My books form a wall of knowledge that keep my mind moving forward. As long as we continue thinking, continue learning, continue in our pursuit of knowledge we are alive. That was something my grandfather taught me. He lived for over sixty years with Polio and doctors told him that the disease was eating away at his body, but to him it had nothing to do with his body because to him his mind was so much more important. That man lived a full life until the day he died despite what the experts said. As long as we seek to move forward then we continue on in our struggle for life. Life is defined by our quest for knowledge and it is this knowledge that gives our lives meaning.
The final stage in this ordeal is the recovery stage. It is at this point that I begin to feel the pain that I had been numb to during the panic attack. All the heavy breathing weighs my lungs down and the lack of oxygen to my brain makes my head hurt. After the worst of it all subsides I must move forward complete in the knowledge that this will happen again. It will happen over and over and over again, day in and day out, for the rest of my days until the day that I die. This is the perhaps the most grim reality that I must face, but it is one that I have faced so many times that it almost doesn’t faze me anymore.
Sometimes around midnight I imagine this world without me and it scares me. Once you imagine the world without you though it becomes very obvious just how important you are to the world. True, you may not make a difference to as many people as you would like, but believe me you make a difference to more people than you could possibly imagine. When I reflect on my book collection I can’t help but notice how much bigger it needs to be. I’m nowhere near where I need be in terms of my acquisition of knowledge. There is so much more that I must learn and rather than thinking about how much my time ails me I begin to think about how little time I really have. And when I think about my grandpa and the silent strength that he lived with for so very long I come to the realization that my pain can be fixed by simply resetting my mind. Depression is one of the worst things that you can deal with in life, but you can deal with it. It takes forever to learn exactly how to deal with and many of us will never have a method that makes it any easier for us to bear, but the simple knowledge that we can get through it should be knowledge enough for us to understand that we must endure.
“And the wind whispers her name
And all the lonesome years
Water turns to whiskey
I drown in my own tears”
– Joe Bonomassa, The River