~ Back In The Fog ~
Sometimes it just comes out of nowhere. One day you’ll be strolling down the streets of life, completely content with how things are, then suddenly the light starts to dwindle and you find yourself back in the fog. It is a state of being which is mostly referred to as depression. For me, depression for me was never about feeling down or sad. Rather it was a sort of void where just to feel something would have been welcome; even feelings of sadness, nostalgia, and melancholy were desirable when you were depressed, because that was at least feeling, and I felt that true depression is an overwhelming emptiness inside – a complete sense of nothingness – and this was the most soul-destroying thing a human could experience. A life without light, or feeling, or hope, or desire. Just a senseless, barren wilderness where you lingered like a ghost in the fog without any light to lead you home. And even if you were to speak to someone about it, you couldn’t even put your finger on what exactly the problem was. Your life may have appeared to be fine based on external appearances; but, of course, as we knew from the rich and famous were commiting suicide, depression did not discriminate based on aesthetic factors, and appearances could be dangerously deceiving.
For me, my first period of depression began for me sometime around thirteen. Out of nowhere life became empty, and the only thing I looked forward to was sleeping. And even when I was smiling and laughing, I was broken inside, a drifter of life, not really there at all – not really anywhere. Just existing in some hollow and automatic way. And of course you can’t tell anyone how you feel, because you feel ashamed to feel that way, and all teenagers are depressed they say, but I wasn’t sure how true that was when the energy to go on living just wasn’t there anymore. And I looked back at old photos and lamented on my childhood, thinking that I had died in some way; that this brain inside me was beyond repair and I would never return to the days when the smiles were genuine and the skies truly blue.
The depression returned when I was twenty. What I assumed was just a comedown after the best summer of my life, turned out to be another lengthy two-year spell in the void. After a few months of adventure and music festivals, the autumn came and I was thrown back into the emptiness I had experienced a few years previously. Even though I had moved out of it before, I still couldn’t imagine what it would be like to feel normal again. The fog surrounded and suffocated me, and again what was left to do but to just try to keep on living, even when there was no connection to anything I was doing. Even when my brain would not allow any joy to register. Even when I didn’t want to wake up and get out of bed in the morning.
Other spells of depression came and went through the years, and that fog was an environment that I became familiar with. Returning home from an eighteen month adventure one year was probably the time when the fog got the thickest and I truly thought about ending it all. But even though I walked blindly, I carried on with whatever fire was left in my heart, seeking to slowly light up my way to some sort of clearing. What I was thankful for when the times were hard was this deep kind of stubbornness in my soul. I had felt it since I was a small child; the unshakeable urge to march against the storm and ‘rage against the dying of the light’, as a great poet had once said. It kept me marching through the greyness. It kept moving towards some sort of distant salvation. And as the periods went on, my brain began to shift through a series of awakenings where I felt I was able to light up the world around me whenever that fog came back out of nowhere. I brought my own light to the darkness and kept a quiet courage in my heart as the light dwindled and the demons surrounded me.
I can imagine people I know close to me reading this now in a state of surprise. I guess I never spoke about it, and in a way I didn’t even really want to. People had their own problems to deal with, and when you are in a state of depression, you kind of just keep it to yourself and let it have its way with you. Naturally this made my problems invisible to the outside eye. This is something that is all-too common for sufferers of the condition. So often we hear the eulogies of shocked and surprised people who ‘had no idea’ that the person they thought they knew so well was contemplating how they were going to end their life. It’s a form of suffering that is mostly silent, and consequently it’s usually very difficult to tell who is wandering in that fog. It could be the person serving you coffee. It could be the lover in your bed. It could be your mother, your postman, your doctor, your therapist.
Depression does not discriminate and everyone you walk past on the street is potentially a sufferer. I recalled one night out over the Christmas holidays where me and two of my closest friends got speaking to two sisters in a bar. What followed was a fun evening of drinking and dancing. One of the sisters was an energetic red-haired girl who was in full spirits. She was full of smiles, making out with one of my friends, excitedly telling us how she was going to attend a fox hunting protest the next day. You would have never have thought that she was someone lost in the fog, but just a couple of months later she committed suicide. Her sister spoke about it on social media and shared the last photo of them two together. Again, the wide smiles could be seen and everything seemed fine on the surface, but that point she had already written her suicide letter and made her decision to leave this world behind.
Sometimes people lost in the fog of depression do actually make it known. I travelled once with a Brazilian girl who regularly told me about how her ex was suicidal and threatening to kill himself. After a couple of failed attempts and a few more warnings, he went ahead and finally did it. By this point the girl didn’t even seem too upset about the thing, like she had already grieved his loss in the preceding years. To her, he was a man who had already died – just a shell of a person existing in flesh and bone without any spiritual attachment to his life. Truly this was the greatest tragedy of depression, creating people who were essentially dead already inside, and although I don’t compare what I felt to the scale of any of these people, I can understand why there are people out there who choose to check out rather than stay lost in that lifeless fog where life is just an desolate existence of nothingness.
These days I still have my troubles and periods in the darkness. However, through some strange series of events, I believed I have rewired my brain in a way that will not allow me to succumb to that state of total emptiness. But this is only a theory for now, and it would not surprise me to one day be walking down the streets of life and find my world suddenly shrouded in that sinister fog once more, having to dive into myself to find some more light to lead me into the clearing again. For many, depression is “a battle that lasts a lifetime; a fight that never ends.” So remember that when you stare into the eyes of those strangers passing you on the street. You never know who is searching for a reason to keep breathing the air of this troubled world.