Sylvia Plath called and she wants her brooding darkness back.

Sylvia Plath called and she wants her brooding darkness back.

I am in a dark place. Not homicidal dark. Not suicidal dark. But bottom-of-a-pit dark. Rock-bottom dark. Drowning dark. Sylvia-Plath-poem dark.

This darkness as been building now for several weeks. Maybe a month. Before the air was choked with smoke from the most recent California fires, I had found my groove. I was killin’ it. Routine was dialed in. I’d get out the door, carrying baby in the carrier, and would jam on a walk for over an hour. Get back. Shower. Settle into the rhythm of baby: eat, play, sleep, diaper change, repeat. Then the air quality plummeted. And I was trapped. Trapped inside with a baby for weeks. I got cabin fever. I couldn’t go for a walk. I gained weight. When the rain finally came and the air finally cleared, I didn’t make it back into my routine. I had sunk down into the muck and didn’t have the energy, the will, the strength to pull myself out.

I could feel the darkness accelerating, revving up inside. It had started to make my skin crawl. I wanted to escape my own body, to slither out of it like a snake shedding its skin.

Depression is not an emotion. It is not sadness, though you may cry and look sad. J.K. Rowling said it well:

“It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is … to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling — that really hollowed-out feeling.” 

Self-portrait.  This is art, don’t get your panties in a twist. I will be okay.

Self-portrait.

This is art, don’t get your panties in a twist. I will be okay.

I am going to say it again because it is important: Depression. Is. Not. An. Emotion. Depression is not something that I can fix by listening to a nice song. Depression is not something that I can just decide not to feel anymore. It is not a choice. It is not a decision. It is not a mindset. It is a mental illness. I cannot will it away any more than a diabetic can will away their insulin insufficiency. I actually think diabetes may be a good analogy here: a walk might help but won’t cure it. Diet might help but won’t cure it. Having support might help but won’t cure it. Sometimes these non-pharmacologic things are all one needs to keep it in check. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes medications are needed. Sometimes things get bad. Sometimes it takes a hospital stay.

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Mental illness is real. To those going through it: keep fighting. You are worth it. To those walking with someone going through it: be patient. It is going to be so hard to do but, please, be patient.

I wrote a poem today, in one go, as I struggle to advocate. For you. For me. To explain. To cry out for understanding. To be seen. To be heard. To be well. I am not sharing my story for pity. I am not sharing my story for support. I am sharing my journey so that the other women and men who are out there - suffering, searching, fighting - can see they are not alone.

COME AND SEE

I can feel myself withdrawing, like a snail into its shell. Or more accurately like an unfortunate in a sci-fi horror flick being dragged down some nasty creature’s hole, frantically clawing at the ground while being pulled further into the darkness, screaming a silent terrible scream. It’s a pulling, a sucking sensation that starts at the back of my throat and is ripped out through my stomach. It makes me nauseous. It feels like I’m imploding on myself. I can feel it happening. I am paralyzed, unable to stop it. A paralyzed bystander to my own destruction.

The only way out is through. Like that book my kid has: going on a bear hunt. Except instead of running out of that cave I have to sit in the darkness. I can’t escape the bear. I have to sit in the darkness with it. To wrestle with it. To hide from it. To learn how to tame it somehow. Because I can’t leave this cave. I have to befriend this bear somehow.

Just come out of the cave, they call from the beautiful outside. I can’t! I call back. Come in here and help me! Please! We can’t, they answer. You’re being ridiculous. Just come out. Walk away. It’s that easy, they say.

And I rage at the darkness, the numbness, the loneliness. I rage to feel something, anything. To test my ability to feel. That sharpness, the slicing sharpness of my tongue, is the last vestige of emotion I can still make manifest. Everything else is numb. I lash out to test that I am not completely gone. That there is still part of me that can feel even if it’s only the pain. Something different than this hollow lingering ache that sits heavy on my soul.

Maybe it’s a twisted invitation into my dark world. Come, taste my darkness, my pain, my tears. Come into my cave. Come sit with this bear. Lurking. Growling. Come sit with me in the blinding fear. Come be numb. Come be a void with me. Come stare into this void and feel nothing and everything. Come turn to stone with me.

Come into this lonely battlefield inside me. Come and see what a warrior I am. Come and see. Come through the other side of the looking glass and see me, the warrior. Come see all my wounds and scars. Come and see. This parasitic darkness.
— Rachel Teixeira

If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression, or other mental illness, please reach out for help. You are worth it.

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