My dad, my papa, has always been the person I call when I’m at my most depressed. He has always been the one who has made me feel okay about feeling so fucking horrible. He gets it, I know he gets it. He also has depression, and has had many depressive episodes throughout his lifetime. But I’ve never seemed to be able to help him the same way he so instinctively comforted me in my darkest moments. So this is a piece about depression, his and mine.
His mood changed like the seasons, swift and unforgivingly. Like the warm air of summer, a world once filled with living, breathing possibly, became dark and cold. Abruptly and with no warning, the days became shorter, the air crisp, tank tops became sweaters, sweaters became coats. Winter winds and air that was harsh, freezing your nose hairs. Each exhale was followed by a cloud of smoke. A reminder that you were still breathing, still living.
I watched him escape into his room of darkness. I was nervous, scared even, that this time he wouldn't make it out. It was a room he had found his way back to time and time again. Like clockwork, once summer hit my father was gone into his own world, into that little room he vacated in his mind.
A world of what exactly?
I never really knew, but maybe, just maybe, if he let you in he’d see he wasn't so alone in his thoughts.
A world of loneliness and isolation.
You had found yourself in your own little room of darkness. Haven't we all found ourselves in
that little room?
A room where our minds become our worst enemies. Where dark thoughts become our realities. Maybe some of us have the key to get out, while others don’t. Maybe some of us don't have the key to enter that room in the first place.
You knew it was inevitable, the same way you knew that summer would turn into fall. You watched the trees turn from green to various shades of orange, red and yellow. Such a beautiful death, as if putting on a final show before making their exit.
It felt abrupt, like overnight he had transformed into another person, or like he had left altogether, like there was no life left inside of him. He was a living, walking corpse of the person he once was.
You knew he couldn't be happy forever, you knew that the shift in temperament was inevitable,yet it always took you by surprise. One day he was there, the next he was gone.
You wanted to reach out to him, to tell him something to bring him back to life, but the words disappeared before they reached your lips, disappeared the same way he had.
You knew what it was like to feel empty, to feel lifeless while living.
You knew what it was like to ache, to feel pain all over but have no idea of where the pain was coming from, just that it was there, that it consumed you, that it had swallowed you whole and had taken life and all its meaning with it.
You knew what it was like to feel that you were better off dead, better yet, that you had never existed in the first place.
You knew what it was like to feel that life was more of a burden than a blessing. That if you could, you'd choose to have never existed in the first place.
You knew how it felt, and yet when you searched for the words to say something, anything at all, there was nothing that came to mind. You couldn't think of anything that might remedy the situation, that might ease the silence that filled the room. The harder you searched, the more distant the words became.
Your mind was constantly filled with thoughts, yet you couldn't form a complete sentence when it came to putting those thoughts into some form of advice, providing some sense of hope.
Because at the end of the day, what did you know?
You felt you had been treading a fine line between lightness and darkness your whole life, isn't that what living is?
Who knew what the next day would bring? How could you say 'things would get better' when you lived each day unsure of where your thoughts would take you, like they controlled you, not the other way around.
So convincing they were, so hopeless and meaningless everything became. Flooded with doubt and regret, replaying past mistakes, fearing the future. Fearing that you’d become so familiar with the darkness of your mind you’d never see the light again.
How could you be anyones anchor when you yourself felt like you were drowning? Were you bound to repeat the same pattern, follow in your father’s footsteps?
What wisdom could you possibly have to offer, when you found yourself in that room more often than not, trapped in the prison of your own mind. You still had no idea how to get out, maybe some of us don't get keys.
Tess Wilkens is a depressed, stressed, part-time barista living in Toronto. She obtained a BA in Women's Studies from Concordia University.