Outside of vague poetry I’ve ignored the stroke. I want to pretend it never happened as if, maybe, that will undo the brain damage and emotional trauma that comes with going toe-to-toe with Death. I’ve spent a lot of years flirting with Her and I guess Death finally decided to flirt back.
“Now I saw in my dream that… they drew near to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain; and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was “Despond.” Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt… because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.”
— John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
The Slough of Despond is a nasty, miserable bog of guilt that sucks people in and is almost impossible to escape. In The Pilgrim’s Progress it’s an allegory for sin but I think it can be more accurately described as Depression. Yes, capital-D, clinically-diagnosable Depression.
Knowing someone stuck in the Slough of Despond can be difficult, draining, and generally lead to depression itself. I know this because I am scandalously intimate with the Slough. It’s my Unhappy Place. I’ve lived with it since I was 8 years old.
There are universal truths:
- Love and fury are indivisible.
- Matter cannot be created or destroyed.
- There is victory in being remembered.
- No one exists on purpose.
And so you will persist in the wake of your own supernova as an accidental afterimage on the retina of the sky that we will all observe in love and fascination.
In the morning I take the meds that keep me from killing myself and at night I take the meds that keep my body from killing me. Or to put it more accurately but more confusingly: in the morning I take a handful of pills that keep my brain from killing me and at night I take another handful of different pills to keep my brain from killing me. There’s no real way to differentiate between the two phrases.
As I so often complain: our language lacks nuance. There’s no way to put additional vowels or apostrophes or dashes in the middle of the phrase to indicate the body or mind of the subject, to differentiate between intent or accident behind the verb.
I’ve been reminded: I don’t deserve the luxury of this. I haven’t suffered enough to earn it.
That’s what they always tell me whenever I tell them I feel like a handful of graveyard dirt only useful for curses, to bury your dead, for leaving behind, for grief. No one notices that I, too, am asking the same question: How do i stop being so fucking sad? I don’t want to be this any more than you want me to be but here we are.
The first time i wanted to kill myself i was 7 years old. I think I even tried, made myself sick on water because I heard a woman’s stomach exploded in a radio drinking contest. They tell me that when you start that young it becomes reflex, a bad habit, a drug you return to time and again because you’re weak. I can’t help but think this is the gene pool’s way of filtering itself. That the last 15 years of calculating how many ibuprofen could cause liver failure, whether I could exsanguinate before mom came home from work and her husband sobered up, guessing how much weight my bootlaces and closet bar could hold, steeling myself to fall head-first from the roof of the house because the screen popped out, staring longingly down into traffic from the bridge over I-80 whose gate someone forgot to lock. This perpetuated itself into college, self-sustaining, the ultimate in renewable energy.
I knew girls braver than I who tried to die and I envied their ability to take control of themselves– and feared the backlash, the hatred they received for doing so. That’s why I never tried. I didn’t want to get caught, punished, sent away. I valued peace more than I valued control.
I’m still here.
A quiet pollutant on the surface of the pool the sort you inch to the side to avoid casting speckled shadows on the tiled sloping pool floor, a bit slick to the touch. Something of me robs off anyway, transfers through osmosis. A texture you wish you could wash away but can’t lose no matter how much hot water you use.
I suppose I have one up on the gene pool, though, since I don’t plan to reproduce. Now the trick is to stay alive.