2 years

Hi darling,

I know it makes no sense to say happy birthday when you were never given the opportunity to so much as be born into this world. But, my love, if you were one of the 4% that arrived into your parent’s lives on the actual due date, today you would be 2 years old. So today I stop and I think of you… September 9 is always yours.

As I opened my eyes this morning, they immediately filled with tears, spilling out as my whole body shook in sobs.

I know I made the right decision. The tears are not born of regret. I would not have been able to give you the life you deserved. The parents you deserved.

You would have been perfection, sweetheart. You were made from so much love. Love between two people that would have given you this great mix of genes.

The tears were sadness at not having been able to meet you in this world. Not being able to give you the entire universe on a string. Sadness that although it may have been the right decision, it will always be one of my most heartbreaking. (And I fear another such decision is imminent)

This year was harder than the last two.

Ive never believed in an after life. I thought death was just a light switching off. Game over.

But as Chopper was playing by the border of life and death, they came to me. My girls somehow found a way to come see me, Zoe and Lulu. And the entire time I was with them there was this toddler in the background. It wasn’t until afterwards as I thought back to it that I realised it was you. I never saw your face but I just know it was you.

Until that day I always thought of you as a jelly bean. 9 weeks isn’t a lot of time to grow much bigger than that. So I apologize that this is the first time I’m speaking to you.

But regardless of whether that encounter was real or not, the slightest possibility that you’re out there somewhere makes my heart ache for you. In some realm or universe or spiritual plane there may exist a place where you and Zoe and Lu… And soon Chop… All are. Well, it’s hard for me not to long to be there too.

I don’t want to wait any number of decades to be there. To finally be able to hold you. And to bury my face in Zoe’s fur and squeeze Lulu’s rolls. To not spend one day without the Chop.

I love you, my darling. And while it’s not your birthday, it is your day.

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Words

Words are so powerful.

And so, how we frame the conversation around mental health is incredibly important.

Words like fight and winning have no place in the discourse.

There is no need to add any further anger or violence into the mix with a fight. The day I stopped “fighting my depression” was one of the biggest turning points in my life. I was suddenly so much more calm and content. And less tired. Fighting is such tiresome work! And energy is in such little supply as it is. No, I’m not fighting depression. And I hope neither are you.

Instead, I live with it and manage it as best I can. Some days I manage it well, and others… well… It manages me. Or mismanages me, more accurately.

Don’t think, though, that by not fighting I have given up. I just got smarter.

And winning? FFS, this is not a competition or a war. And it upsets me to no end that anyone may look at my life and think that my “win” reflects poorly on where they sit with their mental health. It’s scary enough to start out with this conversation without having to look at others and think that if they can be doing so well, I must be really shit at life. I know this feeling well. The depression distorts the view of ourselves and our worth.

Yes, I’m functioning. I’ve managed to keep a job and support myself. Not because I’m ‘winning’ or because my depression is low on the spectrum. Please do not depreciate the amount of hell I’ve put my people through and belittle the work I’ve put into learning how to deal with my pain. It’s insulting and unfair.

I have a job, not because I’m doing well – I have a job because I picked the right one and had the courage to be open about my mental health. There are days I show up at work near noon, and some when I don’t show up at all. I haven’t been fired because my bosses and my team know why and that I will make it up later when I am having a better day.

I am functioning because the people around me support me to do so. From my bosses who ask me how they can help me to manage this, to my friends who check in constantly and bring me food, to my dog who gives me unconditional love.

And they know to do this because I had a conversation. I admited to my depression and my anxiety and asked much too much of them.

Yes, I’m lucky to have found people who delivered on that. But you will find that people can’t give you what you need unless you ask it of them.

Have the courage to ask, the wisdom the stop the fight, and the love to accept that not everyone will understand and stand by you. And then fiercely hold on to those that do.

Within

Mostly the black is like a fog pushing in, engulfing you in a thick, unbearable darkness. But sometimes it starts inside you.

A seed, almost… In the centre of your chest. Small but dense. And powerful. Heavy.

And from there it grows. Pulsating with a rage. An anger that is incomprehensible and completely irrational. Almost like its feeding on your energy. Sucking the life from you to feed the anger.

You feel yourself fading.

Slowly.

Until it isn’t.

All at once it explodes. Pushing itslef out of you. Like you’re going break apart, pieces of your body flying forcefully in every direction. The black kicks at your ribs and claws up your throat. And you feel like if you opened your mouth to scream it would immediately come rushing out. Tearing you apart as it did.

And so you lie in silence. Willing your body to be strong enough to contain it. While at the same time desperate for it to leave you.

If ony its departure wouldn’t break you.

You do break though. You break down sobbing. Tired from the fight. Terrified of the knowledge that this is part of you. That it IS you.

It’s one thing when you are surrounded by black. Completely another to know it is within you.

And so you sob.

Knowing you are so broken that noone could love you. Wondering how on earth you will go another day like this, much more another 50 years.

“50 years, my god. Please dont make me go through this for 50 more years. Please?” You plead in your head over and over again. “Don’t make me. I can’t.”

And the tears keep coming. And the thoughts go from dark to darker. And you just can’t shake the fact that you don’t want this anymore. Any of it.

Moments

Last night, I had one of those moments.

The ones where the darkness closes in and the air becomes too think to breathe in. The ones that sap all my will to continue be a functioning human. In these moments I am less Nikki and more… Something else entirely.

These moments aren’t rare. They’re part of my life now.

I curled up on the floor of my soul-less serviced apartment and sobbed until my body hurt. I cried, trying to hide from the dark that I knew was already in my veins.

And I fought. I fought the kind of fight I hope noone else ever has to experience. I fought to WANT to live.

In that moment, I hoped and pleaded with a non-existent entity that someone would hold me and tell me that everything will be ok. That I could stop having to be strong for just a few minutes and I could collapse into a trembling heap in their arms. Knowing full well that person would never come.

I kept fighting anyway. I fought the only way I know how: with the thought that I could not do this to Chopper. That he can’t ever think that I abandoned him… that there was ever one moment in time that I didnt intend to live up to my life long commitment to him.

So I took a sleeping pill to help switch my brain off. To help me hide from all this black that I had pushed out of my veins, but still pressed down on me, scratching at my skin.

Eventually, with great pain, I slept.

This morning, determined to not be consumed by the moment, I put on my Nikes and I ran. I know from experience that I can’t outrun the black, but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying.

As I turned to go down a path that is not part of my usual run, i was greeted by this:

And I knew in that instant that I made the right decision. That leaving my support system and being apart from Chopper temporarily would be worth it.

So, I just kept running; stopping often to smell the proverbial roses.

And I sat on the edge of the harbor and watched the kelp sway as fish played amongst it. I listened to the water splash by my feet while I felt the sun on my face.

I sat there for ages, taking time to meditate. I sit there still, writing – my favorite therapy.

And I know everything will be A-ok. It won’t be easy and it won’t be immediate or permanent. But it will be ok.

The good

I say often enough that depression has changed me; and I can honestly say that I am a better person for it. I’m more empathetic and I judge less. I practice kindness now as a rule and not an exception. I am always looking for the good. I understand now that not all pain stems from evil. I appreciate every little thing.

But here is where I have been wrong this entire time: it is not the depression that has made me a better person, it is the people who were around me when it was at it’s worst. The ones who are still standing beside me today. It’s the people I continue to meet everyday that learn about my struggles and show no signs of judgement. It is you who has made me a better person, not this illness.

I try every second of every day to be kind, without exception. I don’t always succeed but I get better at it all the time. I get asked why I don’t just cut people out of my life or react with anger to hurts caused to me. Why I let them ‘get away with it’. And I say because I believe in kindness.

But really what I mean to say is that it is because I know exactly what it is like to be in the darkest of blacks and to say and do things that cut to the core of people; wounds that can’t be undone. I know how it feels to lash out at people, not because they deserve it, but because my own pain is too large to be contained. I know that the intention is not to cause others hurt but to release mine.

I mean to say that it is because, although I was mean and hurtful and 100% unpleasant to be around, I had people that stood there and took the abuse and turned the other cheek and then continued to love me anyway. People who treated me with kindness despite being unable to do the same for them. People who continue to love me today.

You know who you are.

So, now, I am kinder, and softer and stronger at the same time, and more positive and forgiving. I am all these things, not because I developed a chronic illness, but because I had you beside me for all of it.

And I will never forget that.

Nor will I ever allow you to forget that. I plan to show you my gratitude all of my life. And there are so many of you. I am so overwhelmed.

Thank you.

I can only hope that one day I can be kind enough and bright enough to do the same for someone else.
So, when I ask myself if any good came out of this horrid depression (and I do, over and over; because at times it gets hard to see), the answer will always be a resounding yes. And that good is the opportunity to learn from you; to bask in your light.

It is at the darkest moments that those bright lights are easiest to see. And I think that with the state of the world as it is today, this will become more evident. I just hope I can put into practice what you have taught me on a personal level to a global one.

Instead of seeing our governments fail the environment, focusing on those brave souls standing up to protect it with or without political aid. Seeing the good Samaritans instead of the terrorists. Focusing on the bravery of our people instead of the hateful words of their leaders.

I know now that there is always good. Sometimes we just need a little extra help to find it. We need that torch to navigate the dark tunnel. And a hand to hold as we stumble through it.

Thank you for being mine.

Kindness

There is always, always room for kindness. I believe this with all my heart and I believe it more everyday and with every trying moment. Even when I am met with less than that… Especially then, I must practice kindness.

Yes, I’ll get walked on and people will take advantage and become complacent. But that should never stop you from being kind.

I’ll have my heart trampled a million times, I know. I’ll feel it break in my chest and somehow lose pieces of it along the way.

But I know it will be worth it.

Because I’ll know I didn’t let a cruel world harden me. I’ll know that I did what is right and remained true to what I believe in.

And one day I’ll find the person who won’t take my kindness for granted. I’ll find the person who values it and responds in kindness. A kindness that will somehow help put those broken heart pieces together again. The person who will offer me a bit of his heart to fill the empty spaces in mine.

And I won’t settle for less. And I’ll know when I meet him that I’ll never give up on him. Even on the days he struggles to be kind back. The days he pushes me away.

Because I know that, although I try, I can’t be kind all the time. And on the days that I am struggling, he will do the same for me. He’ll hold me and tell me everything will be alright and that I’m not any less for having moments of weakness. Even if those moments last too long or come too frequently.

Because he knows that even though I may be failing, I AM always trying.

So, I’ll continue to be kind. Even when I’m told they don’t deserve my kindness.

Everyone deserves it. And so do I.

Don’t

What if it didn’t happen the way I remembered it?

What if I only saw what I wanted to see and felt what I so desperately needed to feel?

I may have made the whole thing up in my head. And now I’m just this fool. Hanging on to something that never really existed. And why? Because it somehow feels safer here in the shadows of a relationship that never was? Because by mourning the loss of a love I can make myself believe I was ever actually loved? Because hanging on to him means I have an excuse to not let anyone else in? Or maybe the space he takes up keeps me from being empty… Or from feeling empty, even though I am.

Maybe loving him distracts me from the things that really weigh my soul down?

Like the fact that my dog is not only old – as everyone seems to think it’s perfectly ok to remind me of constantly; but that since the amputation, he has aged so much. He is slowing down and getting crankier. And thinner. And he sleeps all the time. And doesn’t hear the door open anymore. He’s gone grey.

And he can’t.

I can’t.

I can’t handle the thought that this kid may ever struggle or hurt. Although I know he already has. He’s so strong. But not strong enough for forever. No one is.

But I’m not strong enough for a life without him.

I don’t want to be.

Please, don’t make me.