My face is close to his and he giggles when my eyelashes brush his cheek. Cheek to cheek, lip to lip, we share his pillow and talk about our days. I trace the curve of his ear, index finger along the rim down to the lobe. I’ve done that since he was born fourteen years ago. He’s a cuddler, this middle son of mine. He reminds me of me. He’s cuddly, sensitive, moody, he wears his heart on his sleeve and a hand on his hip.
I love him so much.
But it wouldn’t have made a difference.
My sons aren’t my reason to live, that’s too much pressure for my kids. And these days I’m doing less, I made this and more, wow, look at him go. My sons are a marvel to me. How different they are, the things they know, their interactions, what they’re interested in, how funny they all are.
I love them so much and they love me, too. I know because they tell me.
But depression doesn’t care who you love and who loves you.
And depression can make who you love a burden.
Depression can make you feel guilty that how much you love your people isn’t doing it for you.
I’ve been suicidal twice in my life.
Not so long ago I called Lifeline from my garage and talked for forty minutes with a voice I didn’t know. My husband came home and found me on the phone, he looked at me, what are you doing? I waved him away. I could tell a stranger that I was going to kill myself but I couldn’t tell my husband. I couldn’t burden him with the shame. How do you tell your loved one, your family, that you have never felt so lonely in all your life? How do you say that you’re afraid you’ll take them all down with you?
If you weren’t here they’d be better off. That’s what you think.
That’s what I thought. In my garage on the phone listening to the voice, it sounded rational, helpful, but I listened with only one ear, and in my head I thought about which road I’d drive and where the biggest, thickest, crash-worthy trees are. Single vehicle accident was going to be my way out.
I made it to the next day and spent the next couple of days avoiding people, doing what was necessary, and nothing else.
Robin William’s daughter, Zelda, said she wished he’d ‘had the heart to stay’.
Nobody knows what Robin Williams was thinking when he ended his life, we are not him. We can speculate, the internet is awash with hand-wringing and ideas, he was depressed, he was cash strapped, he was seeking help. He was so funny. How could he do it? Perhaps he loved so deeply he couldn’t stay.
Depression doesn’t care.
And you decide you’re worthless.
People will get used to you not being here.
You and your stinking black dog are a burden.
I remember being so terrified I was going to do kill myself that I considered trying to get arrested. Or turning up to a police station and saying lock me up I can’t handle it.
I remember finishing a class then dragging myself to my car. By time I got there I was bent nearly double from the effort of not wanting anyone to look at me. Don’t look at me. Don’t see me. I called a friend. Bawled down the phone. She said to come to her. I hauled the photo of my sons out my wallet and clutched it against the steering wheel and drove.
If I stay what am going to do to them?
If I leave what am I going to do to them?
Shut up and drive.
Depression is not a picnic and taking your life is not cowardly. It takes guts to live with depression, energy, compassion for yourself, all that you have. It takes guts to live in a world where you feel isolated and misunderstood and though you live with yourself twenty-four stinking hours a day, you don’t understand you either. It doesn’t take cowardice to end your life. It takes exhaustion and emptiness and fear that if today isn’t the day you break everything tomorrow might be.
We call depression the Black Dog. It’s easy. We can imagine a dog pulling at a lead, a dog getting in the way, halting our steps when we’re trying to walk, eating, eating, getting bigger everyday, sitting on the couch with us, lying on the foot of our beds, loyal, always there. A big black dog that will never leave that stinks up the room and takes all the space you have is a too-friendly metaphor for depression.
Depression is worse than that. Blacker, deeper, stickier. Depression can make you feel that the beautiful feeling of eyelashes against your cheek isn’t enough.