This week we saw another artist lose their battle with depression. Earlier today I watched a video of Chester Bennington describe life with the mental illness that consumes so many so silently. It was heartbreaking to watch knowing the outcome of his struggle.
It’s been nine years since I overcame those demons in me, but in that nine years I’ve realised that overcoming them doesn’t kill them, it just makes you stronger than them. Its taken nine years of everyday to be able to see that it’s a strength you create, and strength you have to reinvent at times of desperation.
My Dad is dying. We found out a few months ago that his cancer is back, it has spread and it’s terminal. Now we can only make him comfortable and as happy as possible before the inevitable takes him and I’ll never be able to speak to him again.
Knowing your parent is dying is not something I ever considered having to handle, at least not in my twenties. I thought I would be middle age and they’d be little old people before the clock started counting down while they’re in their nursing homes or small flats with photos of all their grandkids and great-grandkids. Not my Dad being 69 and when asked what he’d like for his 70th in less than two months, him simply stating “just to be here”.
I’ve never been good at coping with anything. I sink into myself when things get too much which possibly lead to my depression back when I was so young, but now I’m 29, turning 30 in a few weeks, about to lose my Dad, and shutting myself away because my life has become too much for me.
I have a boyfriend that tries but doesn’t always understand me when I need him to, friends that have their own troubles and as much as they try they can’t offer the support I need, I moved jobs this year only to move back to my old firm 2 months after leaving because I missed it and hated the new place, and a family feud. To top it off I’m skint but in all honesty that’s nothing new.
Hearing that Chester Bennington had killed himself I felt the familiar devastated pang inside that rushes back whenever I hear of suicide, knowing that the road to that decision wasn’t easy or quick or euphoric. It was hell. He’d been through the ultimate definition of hell and therefore any fear of death would be insignificant in comparison to living because living was hell on earth.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of his band, they had a few good songs I liked when I was younger but they never blew me away or hooked me in. It wasnt the loss of a great talent that shook me. It was the knowledge that tortured souls don’t always find peace in life. I was devastated that this feeling inside had convinced him his life meant nothing, or that his life was too hard and it was time to stop trying now. That feeling almost took my life when I was 15, and again when I was 19, and again at 21 when I was supposedly cured.
There is no cure. Life is so unbearably shitty so much of the time. Some take it was a pinch of salt, some can’t.
When I was battling depression I remember my Dad describing depression as being in a tunnel; there is light at the end, it could look like a spec right now, but it’s light, however unfortunately the tunnel isn’t a straight tunnel, it has slight curves, for each step closer to the light you might step into a clear space or you might step into a curve in the wall. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re only hitting the curve with every step, and sometimes you’ll be clear, but with each step you’re walking closer to the end of the tunnel.
When he told me this he also told me depression is like a tunnel because you have tunnel vision with it; you can’t see anything but the darkness and the flicker of hope at the end. Unfortunately while you’re in that tunnel you don’t see anyone else either, which I hadn’t realised until I left my own tunnel that I’d see just how much my depression had affected everyone around me also. For six years I had my family on eggshells to the point that my Mum wouldn’t let me listen to sad songs incase I hurt myself to them. Of course, in my tunnel, I only saw her as not understanding me and trying to control me. Little did I know, or care, what I was doing to them. The pain was too much.
To me sad songs were my outlet. They showed me I wasn’t alone in these thoughts. To my Mum they were a trigger and she feared for my life when I listened to them.
At the time I was embarrassed to be depressed. How did everyone else find everything so easy and how did they not feel like this?! Talking about depression is so important and I’m so thankful it’s more openly discussed now. I needed sad songs to believe I wasn’t alone, not realising until now that so many, too many, feel this way, and I was never alone to begin with.
As hard as it is to understand how a person could take their own life for someone that has never been in that tunnel, it’s as hard for a person in the tunnel to understand how you don’t have those thoughts. That was the thing that separated me from other people in my tunnel – how are they OK and I’m not..?!
One person looking at an event can say it’s horrible but shit happens, and another could never be able to accept it or move on from it.
I don’t have a cure for depression, I only have experience. But all I can offer for how I escaped the tunnel is that as hard as it got, as painful as it felt, as dark as I could imagine, I had one tiny spec of light in the distance that I wanted to bathe in, as bruised and bloodied from the curves as I could be, I wanted that light.
I hope, if you’re going through this now, you can imagine yours.