Crying in a bathroom stall. Who hasn’t done it? I have, so many times. In the darkest days, when I wished I was anywhere but sitting on my desk at work. Like the time I felt so sick from the stress I thought I was going to die. Like the days when getting out of bed took all my strength and will power, but I still made it to work, all dressed for success. Or the day when I got to the office, set the coffee pot, and felt the most profound, infinite hopelessness, that tears ran down my face as the coffeemaker purred and puffed quietly in the empty lunch room.
It all seems so far away now. The weight, the all encompassing feeling of depression. It’s hard to go back to that state of mind where there was only hate, not of the world, but of myself. How depression made me hate the very essence of myself and made me feel guilty of being alive. I remember the effort it took to appear like I was still me, though I had all but disappeared. I over talked, over shared, my voice shrill, fake, trying to put on the best performance of myself. I remember thinking, “I hate myself when I’m happy.” Now I understand that it wasn’t that, I just hated the horrendous performance act.
It was around then that I lost my voice. What stole it was the clarity that came with the realization that perhaps my family, my son, would be better off without me around. I had bullied, hit, screamed, and pushed myself into a corner of my own making, and I was begging for release. But I just kept hitting. To hate yourself is a powerful feeling. There is no limit, no boundary you won’t push in your quest to justify the hate and why it may be better, for you and everybody else, to disappear. After this realization, came the silence, both in my heart, and in my mind. I searched for the words, to write, to create, to find a way to convince myself that maybe a small, tiny part of goodness still remained inside me. It was useless. My hands fell dead, lifeless on top of the keyboard. I would grab a pen, a pencil, and my hands would not move. I was gone. The lifeline between my mind, my soul, my hands, my voice, was gone. I understood that death is to be uninspired. That death is the lack of desire. For being alive is to want, to need, to seek, to fulfill hunger or thirst. But I felt nothing and wanted nothing.
On those days, after the silence came, I hid in the bathroom, but no tears came. Only a horrendous, painful, muted scream. I had reached the bottom of myself, I had nothing more to give. Like when you have spent the whole night throwing up and in the morning there is only the painful reflex on you stomach wanting to continue but there is nothing left inside. I must say right now, that other than profound psychological self-punishment, I never truly intended to hurt myself. Despite everything, I love and respect human life. I was just ready to lay down and die.
Depression taught me that happiness is fragile. It also taught me that happiness is a choice. And that you must feed it constantly to keep it alive. God knows the world and the failures of humanity will constantly attack those feeble of mind, those prone to depression and melancholia. But to lose hope and become cynical is a cliché. And I hate clichés. To keep it going, to regain it in the face of horror and destruction, that is the miracle of life. To decide to bring children into this world, and then to face the fact that you are a parent, a depressed parent, yes, but still a parent, that should be enough to make you reject hopelessness and cynicism, and the terrifying thought that nothing is really worth it.
And that’s how I came back. I made the decision, I had to make the decision (with a little medical help), to let the light in, for myself, my husband, my family, but mostly, my son. I made the decision to believe there is some light out there in the world, that there are beautiful things we can still enjoy in this life. Of course, there are days when I still fear depression. I know it will always lurk in the darkest places of my mind– it always has. When I’m in the bathroom, vulnerable and alone in the intimacy of that room, I fear it, like a shadow just waiting for me to pull me down.
Then this past weekend, something extraordinary happened. A dream, a real, Canadian/American style dream, came true for me. I say this because it was certainly not the type of dream we are allowed to have in Venezuela. It would be considered delusional, silly, ridiculous, superficial. In Venezuela, specially right now, a real, serious dream is to be able to raise your family and see it grow before you die – of crime, anger or hunger, could be any of those. My dream was to meet Phillip Phillips, a young musician whose music– raw and vulnerable, earnest, innocent and beautiful–had rescued me from the pits of pain and despair. It was not random, or fortuitous; I had worked for it, towards it, and him being the excellent human being he is, made it happen. The feeling of accomplishing something we have dreamed of, and worked for so much is the opposite of hopelessness. A solid, real-life proof of purpose leading to action, and action leading to goodness, and goodness leading to happiness. It was the opposite of chaos and random evil, a confirmation that good things can happen to good people.
A couple of days later I found myself in my office’s bathroom. The tenuous fluorescent lights of that place have become synonymous with secret muffled tears, boredom and pain. But then, I realized something was different. As I locked the stall’s door I started smiling. “How strange” I thought — I was hiding in the bathroom, but instead of tears, or horrible, muted screams and empty puking spasms, I was smiling, grinning. I could not believe it. I had worked hard, dreamed, and seen the results. And I was so thankful– to him, to life, to the world. I had overcome. I was alive and silently, secretly laughing in that tiny bathroom stall.