Of Counterspells and Lighthouses

These days, I’m struggling. 

The insidious tendrils of depression have been tugging at the corners of my vision for the past few months now.

Perhaps it’s the joblessness. The losses I have experienced this year. The near constant struggles peppering almost every facet of my life lately.

Regardless, the darkness has greedily spread where I’ve lacked vigilance and subconsciously allowed its seeds to sprout. It’s kind of like your brain is a garden, and sometimes the weeds get lost in the generous greens of activity and distraction… but they’re there, and they must be tended to to avoid their spread, lest they choke out your harvest altogether.

Of course, as one who’s lived with depression for going on 20 years now in one form or another, I’ve slowly learned to develop what I refer to as trigger responses in my often treacherous brain. I’ve trained myself to notice when my mind is sabotaging me through negative thought, lethargy and overabundant cynicism. That’s half the battle in itself by the way, just that awareness alone. Through years of therapy, writing and conversations which have all allowed for a greater and more helpful perspective, I’ve taught myself to not remain passive in the face of subtle symptoms. Because I wasn’t joking when I called depression insidious. It is a cunning foe, and it lies in wait always, for the tiniest opportunity to slither inside you when you’re not looking. Or rather, it has always been there, lurking in the shadows… but it can sometimes fool you into thinking there’s never been any light at all. It makes you think you’re just being overindulgent, whiny… too dramatic, while it festers away in your gut. And even on those occasions when it’s dormant, it nevertheless manages to fool you into forgetting how arresting, how encompassing, how utterly devastating its grasp is. In other words, when I’m not fighting it directly, I can barely even describe it to someone, or myself. It becomes formless and indescribable, and flawlessly camouflages itself until the next episode.

Point is, for someone with depression, a few seemingly innocuous days of fatigue can lead you down a far darker path. So I’m careful. Hyper aware, even, sometimes. When I feel these things happen, I take a walk. I go outside. I force myself to exercise. I change settings. Because it’s the little things that make the biggest difference, whether they are good or bad. So though I am naturally prone to let the bad little things propagate, I force myself to do some good little things for myself, even though I don’t necessarily recognize them as good, at the time. Because that’s another little trick depression plays; it disguises all the things you like into the most undesirable chores.  But if I force myself to do them, I can often thwart its attempt.

However, my usual counterspells, as I like to call them, have been failing lately. Exercise only breeds more self-hatred. Getting outside makes me feel like I’m wasting precious time (to do what, I don’t know). Conversations only make me bitter about how comparatively handicapped I feel, and how much more brightly and effortlessly others shine. The magic I’ve found in artwork seems only to remind me of how poor and unaccomplished I am.

I worry I am boring the everloving shit out of my therapist with my ridiculously first-world problems.

Yes…it really has really buried itself deep this time. This little tick that I subconsciously allowed to silently dig into and under my skin.

But I am fighting still.

I remembered that during the worst manifestations of its power, I would turn to Xanga and pour my heavy heart into the endless torrents of the internet… set my dark thoughts adrift to see if anyone would run into them. I would write. Write for hours. I haven’t done that in a long time.

I won’t make promises as to the frequency at which I’ll do it, but today, I remembered that writing wasn’t as pointless as my own mind was making me believe. I remembered the community I found online. The precious friends that have come and gone, and some who stayed, but who held me through the darker times.  Who anchored me to a passing buoy and made me see the shore, after so much time drifting through the black depths.

I’m not sure why depression makes me think of the sea. I think it has something to do with the vastness and the turmoil of the water… but also of its terrible, awe-inspiring beauty. Because there’s a lot of beauty to be found in depression, too.

It’s sort of like being a lighthouse, I guess. You’re always terrifyingly alone, in the midst of tumultuous waters which endlessly beat against you. One some days, every word is a wave crashing against your surface, eroding you away bit by bit. Some days, you don’t even have the strength to shine even a little bit. All you can do is stand through the night, and hope for the next dawn. In my case, I have thankfully always managed to at least stay standing. Other days, when the seas are calmer, you allow yourself to glow a little bit. And still other days, because you have been hardened and heartened by your long-lasting battles, you allow yourself to shine with all your might… and others can finally see you for who you really are, piercing the darkness. On those days, you don’t have to hide, and you appreciate them so much more than others.

Anyway. I’m getting pretty pathetically lost in nautical imagery here; my writing skills are rusty. But yeah. I really do picture this as a lighthouse sometimes. Lonely, but sometimes lovely too.

Regardless, this exercise proved my point. It’s what I needed today.

It’s kept the demons at bay for now, and I am grateful.




Of Counterspells and Lighthouses

4 thoughts on “Of Counterspells and Lighthouses

  1. Hi Liz! I have always enjoyed your comments and rants ever since I saw some of your hilarious videos on YouTube (this was years and years ago!). I can’t say I am sorry for everything you are going through because it’s not pity or some sort of condolence that I feel you need. I just want to say that I truly sense that your depression stems from the inability to break free from what you know, and I truly and sincerely hope you can wake up one day and break the chains that are holding you down from something huge and life-changing. I obviously do not know you, but through your words I can feel and remember situations that I have experienced as well and I can positively tell you, without falling into a cliché, that things do get better (even with depression), and it all happens when it’s supposed to and when you allow yourself to be free.

    1. I sadly don’t log in often enough to have seen this when I should have, but I wanted to say thank you so very much, for taking the time to leave your thoughts. I’m curious to know what you think is holding me back (and this is in no way accusatory… I’ve honestly been asking myself that question for years and it’s interesting to find out other people’s perspectives) but regardless, I am incredibly grateful for you taking the time to comment. It means more to me than a lot of other things, from more familiar people 🙂

  2. I’d also like to say as a general comment to anybody who reads your post: depression is a disorder that is hard to control, hard to understand by others and mainly by the sufferer itself. Some people who begin medication often find they feel “out of themselves” or in a “surreal state” and thus suspend their therapy. Although there should be a neurohormonal balance in everybody, we should all remember that we are not designed the same, and some people are naturally in a more “depressed state” than others, These people often become stigmatized by the majority of society and alienated until they make efforts to break from conformism, commonism, and decide to lead or set a trail on fire (note: many artists) after which society finds acceptance from them and vice versa. Obviously, there are people in dire need and dangerous situations who need professional help but my point is, not everybody who’s “depressed” is really “depressed” and I wish people would stop stigmatizing and paying more attention to their surroundings even if they’re not required to care.

  3. Just reading this now. And I am glad you wrote about this. I can’t tell your how often writing has saved me, in one way or another. I’m glad you wrote this. And darkness or light, I am always here.

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