When I was 20 years old, I fell into a pit. I felt like I was in a black hole without light or sound. I couldn’t name it at the time but in now I realize it was depression. I never told anyone. At the time, I didn’t know why I kept my silence either. In retrospect, I realized that it was shame, it was a deep interior knowing that to speak it out loud would brand me in a way that could never be undone.
Here’s something else that I’ve never told just about anyone: I carried a package of razor blades in the front pouch of my school backpack. I wanted to have them in case I needed them. That’s what the darkest part of my mind told me: that if things got too hard, I might need them. My very practical and shame-filled mind wouldn’t let my thoughts go much further than that.
Now, 30 years later, a long-forgotten letter written by my father to his father has surfaced. It mentioned that in his young adult life he “struggled.” He couldn’t go to work. He tried to tranquilize himself into calmness. He found a therapist. Eventually, he learned to deal with the darkness without pills. That was a crucial win in his day and age. He never talked about it. Not to anyone. Again, he did what was expected.
And although he didn’t know it and I didn’t know it, he taught his children not to talk about the darkness. He taught his children to eschew medication. And the work necessary to gain skills to fight the dark beast. I quietly struggled in the darkness for 20 years.
It was then then that I realized I passed on the darkness my own children. One by one, each of them fell into the pit. From the edge, I fought and clawed to pull them out. I found doctors… I wrestled with my fear of medications. I picked up prescriptions. I learned therapeutic coping skills. We meditated. We make jokes filled with grim humor. We talked about depression, dragging the secrets kicking and screaming from darkness into light. I told them that they should never sit alone in the darkness as I had. As my father had. I want them to love life. I want them to be able to coexist with a brain chemistry that literally sometimes tries to kill them. I want them to have joy.
We can’t be silent any more. It has killed too many of us in mind, body, and spirit. Only fresh air and sunlight can puncture the darkness… and remind us that we are not alone. If things get dark, say something to someone…. and repeat it until someone listens. It will help you…and it may be a life-saving miracle to someone else.