How’s My Head and How’s My Heart?

Postscript: I sit here, typing away at my computer,

some four years after my initial diagnosis of depression. That December 2015 was perhaps one of the most painful and difficult times I have ever experienced, lived through, mostly internalized. And I don’t take that term ‘lived through’ lightly: while I did not consider suicide as a viable escape from my internal demons, I don’t think I was too far away from that ultimate reality. So much has changed since that grey December. I sought help and treatment, I went on medication after convincing myself that I was strong enough to work my way through, (stubborn Capricorn that I am!) and actually talked about what was going on. What has not changed, however, is the complete and utter ignorance of people around me that this could possibly be an issue for me. I, who seemed so confident. I, who seemed so funny, outgoing, successful. I, who has such ‘a great life’. I, who felt that I could not acknowledge my suffering for fear of judgment, fear of revealing my ‘soft side’, fear of acknowledging my internalized homophobia. I still shake my head at the blindness of people, personally recognized or not,  of this very human issue that involves all of us to some degree and at some point in our lives. So next time ask, discuss, question, lend a hand or simply listen. Let us continue to acknowledge and talk about depression and mental illness, because it’s here, around you, in your own backyard, at the desk beside you, across the table from you, sleeping beside you. You have no idea how important this small gesture can be.

How’s my head and how’s my heart?

Excellent! Thank you. For asking.

I was diagnosed with depression 14 months ago.

There. I’ve said it. I have not ‘outed’ myself publicly about this before. Not that I was embarrassed. I just felt that this journey was my own, my coming of age, somehow finally growing up.

It took me two months to admit to it; needed to appear strong, needed to appear capable, needed to appear confident, in control, needed…needed. December 2015 saw me literally hiding. Hiding in bed with the curtains drawn, covers over my head, television blaring away in the next room: the white noise drowning out the fear and loathing in my heart and in my head. I could not function, could only cry. When I did get up, I would shuffle about for 40 minutes and then slump back into bed. No energy, no desire. Nothing. I removed myself to the country to try and heal. I continued to work, but took a very short leave of absence, convincing myself that all would be fine with the Happy New Year 2016. I revealed my depression to only a few chosen people. Family, two close friends and of course my husband. All were supportive; very supportive. But I was shocked that their initial response was surprise. Surprised that I appeared to ‘have it all together’. Surprised that ‘ I have such a great life, how can you be suffering from depression’. Surprised, mostly, that depression was happening in their own backyard and they frankly were completely unaware or didn’t have a clue how to respond or handle this.

On a very cold, and desperately dark December 15th I discovered this piece by Mary Oliver:

The Journey:
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

And indeed, on January 5th, 2016, I scheduled some time with a wonderful man, a five-minute, brisk walk from Chester Station in Toronto. I cannot say that this last September was really any better than last. But simply reading Mary’s words again gave me hope, gave me thrill, (if I can still feel that), gave me courage. To follow, follow, follow, follow ‘the only life you could save’.


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  • PAULA Schuck

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️ your willingness to write with vulnerability is your superpower, I think.

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