Depression in Winter
There comes a little space between the south
side of a boulder
and the snow that fills the woods around it.
Sun heats the stone, reveals
a crescent of bare ground: brown ferns,
and tufts of needles like red hair,
acorns, a patch of moss, bright green...
I sank with every step up to my knees,
throwing myself forward with a violence
of effort, greedy for unhappiness --
until by accident I found the stone,
with its secret porch of heat and light,
where something small could luxuriate, then
turned back down my path, chastened and calm.
Jane Kenyon, Depression in Winter, from Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
Last Thursday, two local teenagers walked down to some high-speed tracks near their houses and wrapped their arms around one another as the Acela barreled into them. It is a story that is still unfolding, and it's something I am thinking about, in all its excruciating detail: the recent death of a classmate, mourning, signs of depression and perhaps plans made somewhat public amongst friends and online.
I think about it now in a dual role: as a parent and as a patient: as someone who has birthed two children that I'd do anything to keep safe and well and whole, and as someone who has seen the inside of a locked unit, been on perhaps a dozen different medications, and who once filled a tub with warm water and got inside with a single blade thinner than a piece of paper.
I've been in a hole, multiple times now, that was so fucking foul, with walls so slippery and unforgiving, that I could swear the very ability to feel something so powerfully bad should have been a killer in and of itself.
But no, you remain alive there, in something you cannot get out of, and depending on your situation, it is usually the mercy of others that takes you to a place that might not be pleasant, but is survivable.
So I don't know about those girls: how long they'd been in that hole or what exactly it was they couldn't extricate themselves from, or why they thought obliterating themselves in front of a train was the only option left. They must have had people who loved them, who could have helped. And it hurts just pondering it, because no matter how removed I am from them and the people that survive them, I remember that sensation. I loved the people I'd be leaving, but holy god in heaven above, I was hurting like a motherfucker.
And it was the mercy of others -- my mother, who took me to the ER, the social workers, the psychiatrists with their magical pills, and those angels of nurses, who sat on my bedside night after night and talked to me -- that got me to some other plane.
What is better? Well, I could wake up and be okay with it. That small thing was huge.
And I wish I could tell those girls that. That shit hurts and it's brutal and sometimes it's so overpowering you do feel like death is preferable. You pine for it like an elusive suitor. It's your boyfriend, death, all dressed up for you and beckoning.
But just like in that poem that Jane Kenyon wrote, deep within the recesses of the bleakest winter, there are places the sun gets, where there is warmth and growth and another chance. And that pain, like the burying cold and biting wind, isn't forever. It may take an army to conquer it, and you may be in the back of the line, letting others wear armor for you and wield their swords, but you'll be there, fighting along in whatever way is possible at the time.
I wish I could tell them that. I wish I could tell them to hold the fuck on.