Over the weekend the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) opened up about his struggle with depression. It is a struggle a lot of people have. It’s a battle that seems to never go away (guess what it doesn’t). Indeed, many people lose it. Personally, I probably have had low level depression most of my life, or I’ve had some sort of coping mechanism I came up with that has let me manage it.
I’ve lost friends to this foe. A guy I went to school with killed himself after his girlfriend broke up with him. I was never told, and discovered about twenty years later, talking to an old friend from school. Another close friend killed herself in April 2012. She was in an abusive relationship (strangely I found out later, he had abused another dear friend of mine, so he was as serial fuckwit), her mother had terminal cancer, and well my friend decided to take control of it all, and felt it was the only way to “win”. She disappeared and took a toxic dose of some pharmaceutical or other (I know which, I’m not going to say which). Her body was found a day or two later.
I remember how I found out. I was doing my usual read over local news and saw a familiar name. I turned to my wife and exclaimed “Grace is missing”. She looked at me and was blank. I showed her the article, and the silence we had for ten minutes was massive. We contacted her ex-husband. His reply was “NO! Never! That’s not Grace!”. Half an hour later he called us and had talked to her mother. Yes, indeed it was Grace. Two days later, her body was discovered. We held a wake for her, as well we had been excluded from her life for a while and did not feel it was appropriate to be at her actual memorial.
During all that, I was thinking. How did “strong” Grace come to this? She was a strong woman. She had helped me at a low point (the end of my PhD). She helped others too. She was the matron of the local Goth Community (I was not a goth, but they accepted the strange pagan guy), she had become involved in the tribal belly dance community through my own involvement with a member. She was strong, she was stubborn, and inflexible. That was her problem! It is how she became estranged from myself, my wife, her husband. Her way or the highway. Sure it seems strong, but really it is weak!
A number of years later, early in the morning, it occurred to me. She fell into the trap of “no one can help me” and “no one cares”. She’d snubbed me trying to reconnect. She had laid an ultimatum down, knowing I don’t do those very well. Ultimatums tend to make me spiral into one of the warrior’s fallings. Indecision, bad decisions, or belligerence. To make me do something, under orders, it best be for the good of all, not the good of one. Grace had a history of abusive relationships (except her ex-husband), she also had suffered an eating disorder, and was a celiac (from birth). Grace was intelligent. She could be compassionate. But I return to the problem. It was her way or the highway.
Depression can’t be fought that way forever. You are going to be alone, and weak, and surrounded by your inner demons, and slip. The phrase in your head of “would it not be easy to end it all” will take route, like a virus. The mind does that, nasty little things will take hold. I’ve heard addicts say they constantly hear “just one hit/drink/puff/gamble/random sex act” take root, and they know they need to seek help.
So, trying to fight a battle by yourself, is not the best way to do things. You will fall. It might be a fall to some stupid behaviour, it might be suicidal thoughts, but it is not going to be for your best.
Similarly, I was evaluating my mental wellbeing over the weekend. Since 2010 I have been tested to the extreme. However, I have been blessed by a caring wife, a son, and family who care. I am not in this alone, I have people who will remember who I was, and I want those to be good memories! Am I free of demons? No. Far from it, they are stronger than ever.