My Darkness, My Depression, My Friend

My favorite musical is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It is a dark tale of murder and revenge. One of the numbers involves Benjamin Barker, A.K.A. Sweeney Todd, singing passionately to his straight edged razors referring to them as, “his friends” and saying they’ll soon “drip precious rubies.” It is dark. It is morbid. And I love it.

I love it because I can identify with it. Okay, not so much the murder part, I couldn’t do that, but referring to something dark and sinister as your friend, that part I understand.

In my last post I referred to my mental illness as, “a friend who keeps screwing everything up, but that you keep around for some odd reason.” Well it is like a friend. It is always there. Always influencing what you do. And it isn’t all bad.

Someone asked the question recently on social media, “would you get rid of your mental illness if you could?” And while the immediate answer is, “yes of course,” the full answer is more complicated.

Living with mental illness is terrible in a lot of ways, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone ever. Yet there are silver linings to this dark way of living. For starters, I honestly believe that we are rewarded for surviving the low depths of depressions and other forms of mental illness by more fully experiencing the good days. Even the normal days, the meh days, are appreciated by those of us who know what a “bad day” can really look like.

Indeed, I’ve lived with mental illness so long, it feels like it is a part of me. I don’t know how it would change who I am if I were suddenly freed from it. I don’t know if I would know who I was anymore. Yea, there are parts that suck. Constantly worried about if I am being a good enough friend, a good enough son, a good enough husband, etc. I’m terrified too that one day when I have kids I might pass it on to them. I know that although my own dad did his best, his actions played a significant role in my developing mental health issues. But it has shaped who I am, for better or worse, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen to me if it left. Living with mental illness has also taught me a strength that is unique, that I probably wouldn’t have learned but for having to face this fight every day.

So would I cure my mental illness if I had the choice? Probably. But it would be a bit bittersweet if I did, like saying goodbye to a friend who has been with you for years and years.

What about you? Do you, dear reader consider your mental illness a friend who you’d keep around if you had a choice?

4 thoughts on “My Darkness, My Depression, My Friend

  1. I would be rid of this friend, for sure. Staying with what is familiar, even “comfortable”, is part of our problem. The dark episodes are a message from the universe that old practices, beliefs and coping mechanisms we developed in response to hardships are no longer serving us.

    This “friend” tries to keep me serving those practices, beliefs and coping mechanisms.

    I’m working on moving on. It’s hard. But I must work on developing a new friend: ME.

    Thank you for your excellent words and thoughts. Onwards for us all. Because staying still and backwards are options that don’t help.

    Like

    1. Thank you for your honesty and your thoughtful response. I believe I would rid myself of it too, it is just the lies of depression convincing me I should be afraid of the unfamiliar combined with the fact that for a long time I romanticized depression, as if it somehow makes me a better writer. I am currently focusing on ignoring the lies of depression and promoting the positive coping methods I’ve learned.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am with you, Juan. It sure is hard to let go of something we’ve had with us for so long – it feels so familiar. After 36 years with depression, I’m learning not to fear letting it go. It’s hard. I won’t pretend it isn’t hard. And scary. Plus I have days where I sink into the depths again and think I’m back at square one, as if all my work has been undone. You’re so right about the lies of depression! Strength to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had depression and anxiety for years. They shaped who I am today. I think that I understand people better and know my own brain in ways I didn’t before them. I think having them has made me a more empathetic person. That said, it’s pretty great being on the other side of them (at least, for the moment), and not having to fight them off constantly. I and have so much more brain-space. I feel … free.

    If (several years ago when things were bad) I was given the opportunity to wish it away in an instant? Hell yes. I mean, it would have done the same to me. It was straight-up trying to kill me.

    Like

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