It’s an unusually warm day for Ireland. My eyes have fallen to the windowsill, gazing blankly at a couple of dead flies scattered there. They didn’t make it out alive, but they knew the right way to go.
The glass can’t be more than a quarter-inch thick. Just beyond it lies a rolling expanse of verdant Irish countryside. Green hills hugged by an enormous blue sky.
It is incredibly frustrating to have a feeling I cannot put words to
Yet, I can think of nothing but New York City: its loud, disruptive noises, and its blended, inimitable colours. My home. Where I came from. My head is enormously heavy. It is heavy with the weight of my thoughts and a deep want of something I am unable to describe. It is incredibly frustrating to have a feeling I cannot put words to. It verges on unbearable.
I ask myself a dangerous question: when did you last feel better? The truth is, I do not know. I want to put an answer and an end to all of this exhaustive questioning. I want to pinpoint the why and when. I want to isolate the “how” things got so bad, but it is not that simple. I cannot even identify a threshold for “better.” Would “better” be when I took more frequent showers? Or when I left the house regularly? When I had tangible goals; when I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up? When I cared enough to clean the bathroom? Maybe it goes farther back than all of this. Was I better as a child long ago? The untangling of complicated feelings is seldom straightforward.
Turning away from the flies, I look about the room. Depression has seized my ability to think clearly and rationally, so I take in every single object and commit the details to memory. I believe this practice will enable me to remain in the present, and that somehow, the faded books, the retro TV console and the neutral, inoffensive carpet will anchor me to the here and now.
It does not. In fact, it makes me want to scream.
It is a world that belongs to someone else
Though I have lived in Ireland for three years, this room and this world is still so foreign to me. Perhaps not totally unrecognizable, but still vaguely alien and averse to my being. I wake up every day knowing this is not an environment I can ever thrive in. It is a world that belongs to someone else, and it has been shaped by their success, not my own.
Yet, what environment can I thrive in? How can I even broach that question in this current state of mind? How can I be certain that my mind isn’t playing tricks on me instead?
My life with depression is a Rolodex of exclusions and omissions: I do not know what my life actually is or what it means, but I know what it is not. It is not happy. It is not at peace. I am not happy, or at peace. I wonder if I would be happier in Ireland if I had the ability to cope with my feelings in a healthier way. To not constantly have to ask my inner demons how I let myself wind up here, but rather, change the narrative to accept and affirm: I am here. I am here, today, in this moment, in this place. The past is fiction.
I am a burden to the people who love me
To say, “I am here and that’s okay,” would give me such great, incomprehensible freedom. Unfortunately, depression magnifies every feeling, every doubt of my own existence, and it completely paralyzes me. I cannot walk away from the old and into the new. My judgement is clouded and my vision is hazy. Worst of all, I am acutely aware that I am a burden to the people who love me.
Depression is different for everyone, but that single, resounding phrase creeps up often: I am a burden. In the here and now, I know my loving partner is with me by choice. He chooses every day to arrange our dinner, walk the dog, hang the laundry, remind me to brush my teeth and tell me that I am a great person even if I cannot fathom it. He chooses to encourage my short walks and to reward every small success. He chooses to support me financially. He chooses not to question my poor choices of food, but to celebrate instead that I am eating at all. He does not see the flowers in our garden are dead because I have forgotten to water them, but is delighted the rain brought our petunias back to life. No one has asked him to do any of this.
Eyes away from him, fixed on the dead flies, I tell him he should try to escape before he reaches his breaking point. That he should disentangle himself from me before this disease affects him, too. I open a window and tell him to cut and run. I tell him that someone better, healthier and far less ruined is out there waiting for him. Most of all, I tell him that he deserves all of that, and I want him to have it.
A silence falls between us. A single fly buzzes over his head.
For reasons unclear, a wave of embarrassment blankets me when I instinctively aim for the flyswatter I bought last year. My partner looked at it curiously. For him, it is easy to just ignore the flies. Who am I to decide how the flies die? Can a day come where I let them be?
He opens a window and kisses me on the forehead. The fly finds its way.
– Brianna Clark
This post “It is incredibly frustrating to have a feeling I cannot put words to” is part of the Aware Mental Health Week (4-10 October 2021) campaign which is focused on causes, course and consequences of depression.
“With this campaign, we want to give people who are impacted by depression a voice. By sharing their inspiring stories, our goal is to provide hope, help people to feel less alone in their experience and most importantly empower anyone affected by depression to reach out for support.”
Dr Claire Hayes