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.

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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.

Advances

There are always advances in the world of medicine. Doctors are always researching and learning and making discoveries and proving previous discoveries wrong. 

Funnily enough, as an ecologist, I am not a fan of modern medicine. But that’s a story for another day. 

Today, mental health is in the spotlight. The taboo is being lifted and people are talking about it more. So, naturally more research is finally being done on it. And what they are finding, if you believe it, is that mental illnesses are physical illnesses. 

This distinction always bothered me. At what point of time did we decide the brain was not part of our physical body? Last I checked it’s a physical, tangible part of me. But I digress…

So the new train of thought is that depression is caused by actual, physical problems (because, you know, prior to these studies depression was ‘all in your head’). One hypothesis is that it’s brought on by inflammation. The other is that it’s gut health and is due to the wrong mix of microbiota. 

I reckon it’s probably a mix of these two, plus others. The human body is complex. Everything in nature is. But it is most definitely physical. I know that as someone who has clinical depression because I can feel it. It’s not a sadness. It’s not a mood. Its a physical pain. It’s a very real struggle. 

So accepting that this is physical, and assuming these brilliant doctors and researchers will be able to pinpoint the culprit… Does that then mean that this is curable?

Can I get the inflamation down and kill the bad guys in my gut and replace them with the gallant soldiers that will protect my gut and, in turn, my brain?

That seems so much easier than fighting the blackness of depression while having next to zero understanding about why it’s so black right now. 

But the bigger question is: do I want to get better?

Ridiculous, right? To even ask that is ridiculous. I know that. But I ask it anyway. 

And you probably won’t like my answer.

Maybe it’s that I have taken embracing this illness too far. Maybe it’s because I’m in a fog at this current moment and can’t see past it. Maybe I’m weak. 

But I really am ok knowing I’ll die young. I don’t hate the thought that I won’t survive losing Chopper. 

We have a lot to do between now and when the time comes. And I won’t waste a second of it. But I don’t actually want more than those next few years. 

Sure it’d be nice to be a highly functioning human being between now and then. That would be incredible actually. But if that meant I had to hang around without him…. I dunno man. Not so shiny.  

Today

It’s days like today when the sun is shining and the leaves are rustling with a cool (relatively speaking) breeze. When I get to work from home against the backdrop of manila bay from my apartment window. When I can make my own schedule and spend my lunch break at the pool getting some much needed water therapy and vitamin D. When Chopper cuddles are abundant.

It’s days like today that make me feel like I can do this.

Because I lose hope often. Sometimes the grey engulfs me and each inhale is a struggle; these are breaths I don’t want to take. Some days the depression wins and I doubt myself and I hate the world.

But days like today give me that extra push in the right direction. And the fog lifts a bit. Even if just for a moment.

But sometimes that fleeting moment is all you need to get your bearings and keep going. You’ll lose your way as you go; that’s a given. But that’s not important. All that matters is that you just keep going. And days like today help me do just that.

Trump

Don’t you ever tell me not to be angry that Trump won the presidency. That everyday life hasn’t changed. That his policies won’t impact us outside of the USA. 

The fact is, his victory has already impacted the world. 

The American election has been played out on the world stage, with all eyes on him. And he just proved to the entire planet that it’s not only ok to be a sexist, racist, obnoxious criminal (sexual assault is a crime, tax evasion is a crime, his combover and orange skin should be a crime) but that you can become the leader of a nation with those traits. Not even despite of them but because of them. We just taught every young girl and boy that hate is a winning tactic. 

And I feel sick to my stomach that this is the world I live in. And I will not calm down about it. 

Do you know why? Because by accepting this and just continuing to live my life, they win. Because if we don’t show outrage, our youth will look to us and follow our cue – this really is ok. And it’s not. 

Its not ok to, not only commit sexual assault, but to get away with it. Its not ok to hate our fellow humans because of the color of their skin or the gods they pray to. Its not ok to have an us and them divide, and to keep widening that gap. It’s not ok to disregard the environment and allow the belittling of science. 

So, I’m not just angry, I’m fucking furious. Because this is my planet and my species and my future and if I don’t give a shit about it, who will?

And you should be too. 

Advice to a kid I’ll never have

Being pregnant has made me think about what kind of advice I would give my kid about life.

I think I would tell them not to drink the kool aid: the insanity that is fed to us by the media and society about what our lives are meant to look like; what success and happiness looks like.

The great thing about human beings (well, all life really) is that we are all so different. And we are given the whole you are unique sell. Which is why it just makes it stranger that we can acknowledge that we are different and yet success and happiness looks identical for us all. The high paying job, the spouse, the house, the kids and the Labrador…

You can be happy without these things and success can look like a million different things. Neither of these things need to be tied to the amount of money you make or have in a bank. You can still be a whole being without finding a better half. Happiness doesn’t come with the perfect body (whatever media is telling you that looks like now) or an attractive face.

Happiness and success is unique to you, just like every other aspect of your life. Take the time to get to know who you are; not who you feel you should be. Don’t worry about fitting into society’s ideals and definitely not into mine. What I might project onto you or want for you is irrelevant. Take all the time you need to get to know yourself and then do what makes you happy. Define your own success and then work for that. Never be afraid of hard work, my love. Don’t believe that everything should be easy and don’t glamorize laziness. Lazy is only great where it makes you a smarter, more efficient worker… Not when you don’t work at all.

Just don’t drink the kool-aid. Don’t lose yourself in media, social or otherwise. Spend time alone. Disconnect. Listen instead to yourself and figure out how to make you proud. Not the world. Not me. You. It will take time. You’ll fail along the way. But I’ll always be here to help you along.

Embrace

This year has been really good for me, in terms of the darkness we call depression. It is now September and I haven’t had a crash since January.

That’s not saying I haven’t been engulfed in blackness that whole time. Oh, believe me, I have had my fair share. But the terrifying, Mr Hyde-esque black outs haven’t happened for 7 months now… And I count that as a win of epic proportions. And the funny thing is that… Well, I actually feel good about my depression these days. 

Good, you gasp in horror??

Yes, good – because, while it is by no means gone or cured, it  is no longer a collosal weight on my shoulders. 

After the abortion, I allowed myself time to be utterly and totally miserable. I got fat. I never saw any friends. I went to work, I came home, and I cried (a lot). It was black everywhere I looked and I had no intention of searching for that glimmer of light. 

What made the real difference is that I didn’t beat myself up for it. Yes, I was a useless excuse for a human being for the first half of the year… but that was ok. Actalky, it wasn’t just ok, I consider it a healthy use of my time to be a blubbering wreck. 

So, when someone tells you that “no matter what, get up, get dressed, and show up”, tell them to get fucked. Because sometimes you need a day or a week or, hey, a long few months, to feel and process and just allow yourself to BE. Be whatever it is you are feeling: be sad. Be mad. Be heartbroken. Be completely hopeless. It doesn’t matter if anyone (particularly yourself) agrees that it is valid for you to feel that way. The thing is…you do. So, feel away!

And then when you are ready to come back into the world, it will be on your terms. And the chance of that massive meltdown creeping up on you xx years later due to unresolved issues is now much smaller (or so I hope – I’ll let you know how that goes for me). 

And here is the great thing that I did during that hiatus from being a functioning human being – I embraced the depression. That’s right friends, I hugged that mother fucker and said welcome to the world of Nikki. Sit down, make and yourself comfortable while I get you a cup of tea. I’m sorry it took me so long to make you feel welcome. 

I stopped fighting, guys. I have fully accepted that I have (not am –This is a very important distinction) depression. I have come to terms with the fact that this illness may very well kill me. This is not a popular ‘opinion’ (fact, if you’re asking me). Society hasn’t yet come to understand suicide. They think it is a choice we make. Like, oh, I’m so tired of this now, I think I’ll go slice my wrists. For fucks sake, people. Really? No-one in their right mind chooses to inflict life ending pain on themselves. And that is exactly the point: we aren’t in our right minds. The depression takes over it or alters it or something we don’t quite understand yet. But it definitely is not a choice. 

And having that taken away from you… That power. It’s devastating. So I fought for that power back for years. But no more. 

The war on drugs doesn’t work. Nor does the war on terror. So why would the war on mental illness work? 

So, thank you very much for your strong opinions on how I should be fighting harder and how I’m giving up and shame on me. But you can take those words of advice and, well, I don’t care what you do with them as long as they’re nowhere near me. 

Yes, it’s shit that I know I’ll likely kill myself one day. But, you know what? Its not today. And that is all that matters. 

Today, I live my life knowing that I do not have all the time in the world. So, you better believe that that means I’m living today to its fullest. I’m taking those risks. I’m hugging my loved ones extra hard. I’m working my butt off to make any difference I can to this world, while I can. Because tomorrow might hold an indescribable darkness for me. 

In a world that fears death so much that we make up gods and heavens and reincarnations and who know what else, I am comfortable with my mortality. And that terrifies people. I get that. But I genuinely think it’s a good thing. 

So please don’t feel sorry for the poor suicidal girl, I’m doing just fine. Me and my new friend, depression, over here are gonna hug it out and get on with life, no matter how short that may be.