There is a phrase which crosses my mind whenever I notice I am slipping into a depression. Some imaginary narrator exclaims, "It's getting dark in here!".
This morning I woke up when it was still dark out. My dream was strange. I was thirsty. I stepped over the chaotic mess which is my floor for a glass of water. Time to make coffee. I've been cleaning ever since. I put my AirPods in (Apple's best invention!) and listened to "Milk" by Sweet Trip and Zeppelin's "Ten Years Gone". I came across an old journal titled, You Are My Sanity, after my first record. I sat down on my bed and read through it. A number of things occurred to me. I pulled out my phone and navigated to my first album. Such an interesting listen. The songs are earnest and light and young. At the time I was writing that record, I had no idea what I was in for.
In my journal, my father comes up a lot. I acknowledged in multiple entries how overwhelmed I felt by grief. In hindsight, I was especially ill-equipped for a loss of such magnitude. Nobody's ever ready. But I did not have the tools, the experience, the wisdom, or the time to begin any sort of healing process. Six and a half years after dad's passing, I can see how I downplayed the loss and suppressed my feelings for several years. I can see how I was doing the best I could with what I had, but I was really, really young. Enough time has now passed that I can see a pretty clear arc. I can see the denial - the refusal to acknowledge the magnitude of the loss. And I can see how I was destined to crash really hard at some point. I've heard grief discussed in very backwards ways. In my experience, it isn't the healing (if there is any) which takes so long, it's the weight and depth of a loss which took me forever to allow myself to experience. For so long, I was terrified of being too much or getting stuck - in an emotional sense. I did not want to feel bad for myself. I did not want to appear weak. I didn't want the loss of my father acting as a psychological tattoo that everyone could see. Ironically, these resistances accomplished the very results I was so hopelessly working to avoid. I did feel bad for myself. I was stuck. People around could see that I was lost and in pain.
As my first album was winding down in my AirPods, it occurred to me how dark my music would become. If the 22 year old I was when I recorded those songs could hear what was to come, he'd be pretty shocked. I would go on to write songs like "Sorry" and "Sidelines" and "Dissolve". When You Are My Sanity was released on February 16, 2018, one year almost exactly after my father's death, I had no idea how dark it was going to get.
It wasn't until the pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt that I was finally able to sink into a grief-stricken depression. I didn't want to go! I was dragged into the darkness and I kicked and screamed all the way there. Prior to 2020, I dealt with major anxiety (bordering paranoia), depression, and my life was completely unmanageable. But by the time May of '20 came around, I found myself in the deep end. I remember telling a close friend I was very depressed for the first time. It was hitting me. I was beginning my journey through the dark! Funny enough, that's around the time I first heard Bruce Cockburn's "Pacing the Cage", in which he sings, "Sometimes the road leads through dark places / Sometime the darkness is your friend".
As recently as May/June/July of this calendar year, I have struggled with severe depression, and more recently than that I experienced a really scary panic attack. So, I'm still here. Some days are really bright and hopeful and a lot of days are really hard. The difference now is that I have an amazing therapist and beautiful people around who carry me through. I wouldn't want to repeat the last six years, but it's been great to reflect on them this morning. I think I'm coming along. I wish someone would've told me how endless grief can feel. Six years isn't very long. I remember him like yesterday. I cried in the car on Christmas while listening to songs that reminded me of him. There's no expiration date for grief. I'm getting better at wading through, though.