THE BLACK VEIL
Have you ever felt as though you weren't quite awake? Functioning as usual, but mentally you weren't connected. Kinda like a robot if you will. I think all of us, at one time or another in our lives, have felt this way. Either due to stress, a hectic schedule, anxiety, or just physical exhaustion.
Our bodies have a breaking point. It only makes sense that our minds do as well. Only problem is, unlike our bodies that can be rested and healed, there is not always a way to rest our mind. And the healing can feel like an impossibility.
When we have an infection, we go to the doctor, get antibiotics, and in a few days, we feel like a new person. Our old self again. If only it were that simple with depression.
The "D" word. The word everyone, it appears, will experience at least once in their lifetime. For others, like myself, it will be a continual, life long battle. It can be managed well for some, or relentless for others.
My own personal experience falls into the more unyielding category. My first experience with depression being at the tender ages of 4 and 5. I remember it vividly. I had a merciless feeling of being unloved and unwanted. Looking back now with 20/20 vision and all of my experiences over the past 50 years, I know that I was a child suffering from clinical depression.
There may have been a few factors that triggered my problem, but none that were the root cause. I believe the root to be a physical, chemical imbalance in my brain. Something I was born with. Maybe even inherited.
After suffering with depression throughout my youth, teen years, and half my adulthood, I finally received some relief by way of medication. A lot of people don't believe in meds for depression, but I am living proof that they can be exceptionally beneficial to some patients. I will never be embarrassed or ashamed to tell anyone that I use an anti-depressant. That one pill a day, literally saved my life. That is something to celebrate. I only wish that I had sought medical help years before I did. But I was a victim of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.
Even with successful control of my symptoms, there is no true cure. I found this out first hand this year as I experienced one of the worst depression episodes I have had in years. There were several triggers I believe, with the biggest being the sudden loss of a loved one. My entire family was hit hard by this loss, and we have each been trying to find our way through the sadness, disappointment, and emptiness that is grief.
Over the course of a few months, it was as if a black veil slowly engulfed me. Each day, that veil seemed to get just a little darker, and felt a little heavier. Until one day it literally paralyzed me. I could no longer respond to my daily world.
Getting out of bed no longer felt necessary. Getting dressed or showering were no longer needs, but chores too difficult to grasp most days. Keeping my body fueled with garbage instead of real food was my choice of survival. Grocery shopping was out of the question. I only left my apartment after dark as to avoid the sunlight, and in hopes of not seeing anyone I knew. There were no calls, no writing, no visits with family or friends. If there had been a dark cave that I had access to, I would be hibernating there now. That my friend is depression at it's peak. It feels like an actual entity with a heartbeat all it's own. A monster that needs to be slain.
All I knew to do during this time was to pray. And even though it may have appeared my medication was not working, I never stopped believing it would, and took it on time every day.
I don't know exactly how long I was in the darkness, as I lost all track of time and existence most days. But one day, the veil lifted. Just like that, the lights were turned on again. I saw the sunshine and wanted to greet it. I once again could hear music, and feel laughter.
I can't tell you why I was suddenly brought back into the light. Whether my prayers were answered, or my meds kicked in, or it was a combination of both. I do know I fought the battle and won this time. My only hope is that I will win it again, if I'm called back to the front line.
If anyone reading my story feels as though you are struggling with depression, please seek help.
The saddest day of my life happened on June 16, 2018. That is the day my son, Rusty, passed away. He turned 58 on the 13th and died three days later, surrounded by his three daughters, his sister, and me. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (stage4) on April 23rd, living less than two months after the diagnosis. I have always known that if I lived long enough people that I loved and cherished would die, but I never expected to lose one of my children. The sun that shines in my world is not quite as bright; the music not as comforting and my thoughts are no longer entertaining and fun. I’m hoping that will change as time goes by, but I’m not giving any odds on that happening anytime soon. I know several people that have lost a child within the past year and I thought I knew how much they were suffering. Come to find out, I had no idea of the grief they endured. The day before my son died I was sitting in the hospital room with him and his sister and this is what I said to him, “I want to talk to you about an idea I have. Whomever passes first, you or me, will try to contact the other from Heaven by leaving a sign in the dew or frost on our truck window.” After telling him what the sign should be, he kinda smiled and said, “I don’t think God will allow us to do that.” I replied that, “if he doesn’t, then we can’t but if he does, then we should do it.” He agreed we should try. So, I’m guessing that I will spend the rest of my life happily looking for that sign. If I don’t get it, I will still believe my son is in Heaven but if I do, then I will know for sure. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., said of his wife passing away at age 88, “O Cosmos-Now lettest thou thy ganglion dissolve in peace”. Amen! If love can be measured in tears, then my son knows he is dearly loved. Good bye son, give Mom & Dad my love, and say hi to your Mother too…. Dad