Psalm 22:11 – “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”
This is a confession, an apology. This is a lesson to anyone who will read and try to understand.
This is me asking for help. I don’t want anyone’s pity, I don’t want sympathy. That’s all I seem to get anymore, is people telling me they are sorry. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I want to be someone you can respect again, but I need help to get there. Pity is cheap, words are just a couple rain drops in the desert. I need a torrent, I need constant showers. I need thoughtful tending and watering, I need friends who care enough to nurse me back to what I was before, to check on me until I can be on my own again.
I recognize this will be some heavy stuff. Some readers here may not know me at all. They just followed my blog because I wrote something they agreed with awhile back. For them, I am sorry that this blog might not mean much to you, or that you don’t feel like you can help. That’s okay. This blog isn’t really meant for you. It’s not really meant for my friends either. This is meant for me, as a way to put all my cards on the table and show everyone that I’ve been bluffing this whole time. I have a crap hand and I can’t hold my own anymore.
Here we go. This is what I am now.
I am a ghost.
I don’t haunt anyone, but am myself haunted by the life I once had. I can’t seem to move on to the next life, the good things waiting for me. I’m caught in a limbo between a past I can’t stop living in, and the future that I can’t seem to face. I can only keep repeating the same things I have always done. I feel like I have unfinished business here and I just can’t let go yet.
I am a shade in the Inferno.
I am tortured by the decisions I have made, and every moment, every memory, drags me down further. I am just a shadow of my former self. There is nothing new to experience, only the memories of things that happened before, to keep me going, and they are being used up quickly. I am stale and burnt out.
I feel like my soul has left me.
I feel nothing. No anger, no true sadness, no pain, no joy, no love. It would almost be nice to feel sad, because I know how to cope with being sad. I don’t know how to fight nothingness. At best, all my senses have been dulled, and all stimulations are watered down. If I feel, it is weak and fades quickly. I try to encounter situations where I used to feel these things, praying they will awaken something in me. I want to bring the fire back. But the truth is, the spark has gone out. I am not adding fuel to a fire, or even to embers. I am simply throwing wood onto a pile and hoping a fire appears.
Not long ago, I was struggling to keep my head above water, calling out to someone, anyone, to help me. Some people noticed, and with good intentions they told me they were praying for me, and if I needed help that I should ask. I felt like the fact I was telling them I was miserable was doing exactly that, but it seems that they missed my cry for help.
My understanding side that tries to believe the best about people wanted to think these people really were praying for me, and really did want to help. But the dark, pessimistic, realistic and brutally honest side of me said that if they really were praying for me, they would think of me a lot, and if they thought of me a lot, they would be checking in on me. After all, when I think about my friends a lot, when they are on my mind, I try to chat them up, so why wouldn’t everyone else be the same way? But apparently, for everyone else, no news is good news, and so the fact that I haven’t volunteered anything new to them must mean that I am fine now.
Why wouldn’t anyone at least try to help me? It’s true, saving a drowning person is tough. I know this from experience, from my own attempts to save people who were struggling. They struggle so much that they lash out and can bring someone down with them. They fight back unintentionally against the ones trying to help, so it’s hard for friends to try against that backlash.
Or maybe some of these people legitimately didn’t know I was struggling so badly. Others might have felt they weren’t qualified somehow. Maybe they thought we weren’t good enough friends, or they didn’t know me well enough to offer help. How can you help a total stranger, right?
Some people might fall back on the excuse of, “You should have just told me upfront, how should I know if you won’t tell me? Don’t be a martyr, don’t play mind games, just SAY it.”
Still others may have simply not wanted to get their hands dirty helping someone else. Helping someone out is a messy business, and you can’t do it without immersing yourself at least a LITTLE in their mess.
Literally any of these excuses could be true… But when you’re drowning, you don’t exactly make excuses for the people standing on the shore watching you. You just hope that they will try, regardless of their qualifications or hang-ups about it.
Some people did and still do check in on me. More than once. The problem is, these people were drowning too, in their own ways. The best they could do is relate to my situation and try to tread water next to me. Misery does love company, and while it usually just tries to create company by spreading misery around, sometimes it simply attracts company that is already miserable. I appreciate the ones who checked on me, and I am grateful for them. But it seems glaringly obvious that the sick man needs a doctor, or a friend to check in on them, not just another sick man. There is a time for sharing in each other’s pain, and we are way past that time.
But that was all a while ago. I am no longer treading water. I am under the surface. I don’t have the energy to tread anymore. I’m not even holding my breath. I wish I could say I was at peace with what seems to be happening to me that I was gently letting go of it all, but that word just isn’t the right one. It seems better to say that I am simply too tired, too worn to be at peace. I’m not letting go, I’m just giving up. I am hoping someone on the surface sees the few remaining bubbles, or saw me go under, and is coming for me, but I can’t offer any help for myself anymore.
And because I have no energy at all, I have become dead weight.
People tell me that I need to reach out and ask for help, that I need to tell them what’s going on and to let them know when I need something. Clearly, they have never felt this way before, or in their rosy worlds they have forgotten what it was like in the mud pit. I mean, I love my friends. I recognize that in order to truly help me, they would need to jump down into the pit with me, into the grime and muck, and stay here awhile until we could climb out together, and I just can’t ask someone to do that for me. A friend doesn’t ask another friend to fall on a sword for them, right? I am not inclined to ask favors even when I am in the very best of moods, so why would I ask my friends to help me now when that favor will cost them more than anything they’ve done before? When you already feel like a burden to all your friends, to the world, the LAST thing you want to do is CHOOSE to be a further burden by asking for help.
No. In this situation, they would have to volunteer for it to mean anything to me, for it to do any good. That is the only way that I would know it was coming from their heart, from love, and not some sense of obligation or guilty conscience. And while someone might argue that beggars can’t be choosers, so I shouldn’t get to decide how I am helped, I would argue back that a friend shouldn’t have to beg another friend for help. In this situation I am not a beggar. I don’t want pity. I would hope people will see me as a friend, wanting to be respectable again, asking for help.
And now, the part that would really worry anyone.
I think of death, all the time. No, I don’t think of suicide. I have never been prone to hurting myself. But I do, so much of the time, wish that death would just find me already. That I wouldn’t see it coming, so I could have an excuse for why it happened. No, my life wasn’t in my hands, how could I have seen *fill in the blank* coming?
I go to sleep hoping that I will wake up in a better place. That tomorrow morning, the sun will be shining and I will FEEL it for the first time in so long. I don’t want this life to end because I am so looking forward to the next one though. I want it to be over because it sucks so bad. I want death to find me, because I no longer see life ahead. If you don’t see the next step in front of you, why would you take one?
The other night, I had an existential crisis moment that involved a small panic attack. I had talked to someone earlier that day about what they were planning to do next with their life, and they had a plan. I did not. Oh sure, I made something up on the spot, something to avoid an awkward conversation in an inappropriate situation for that talk, but I did not see myself in that future life. In fact, I couldn’t even see myself making it through the next day. Everyone says take it a day at a time, but they don’t seem to realize how awfully big a day can look when every moment is a nightmare.
And a nightmare is just what I feel like I’ve been living. A gray, lifeless nightmare. Nothing seems real, no one seems genuine. I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t see anyone I know. I look at pictures of myself and it feels like looking through someone else’s photo album. If you’ve ever watched videos of yourself when you were a baby, or heard a story of something you did as a toddler and you have no recollection of it, you have felt a mild version of what I’m feeling. Imagine yourself telling the story yourself, and remembering some of the details, but not remembering how anything felt, or what you were thinking. The memories in my mind are just a movie I saw once, not my own life.
I don’t “make decisions” anymore. Everything is 100% reflex. I have been told recently that I am a very funny and witty person, and some people might think that means that I think very quickly and come up with these things by purposeful thought. It doesn’t feel that way to me. It is just a reflex, a knee jerk reaction, albeit a very practiced and deceptively intelligent one. The fact that I can be funny is mask I put on. It’s the only way I can keep people around. People would rather be around a dishonestly happy and funny person than an honestly sad one.
The best parts of my day are when I am asleep. Because then, dreams come. Dreams where I feel, where I fight and set goals, where I lead, where everything is okay and people see me. Dreams are a place where I matter. I don’t wake up from nightmares anymore. I wake up TO them.
My tendency when I feel this way is to reach out to people I don’t know as well, who don’t know me. For some reason, it seems that people who don’t know you too well just yet are always far more interested in you than those who do already know you. My sad, horrible experience with people is that new friends are almost always better than old friends. This is outlook on life is due to my personality, my lack of trust and trouble investing in people. I tell people my story, tell them the facts, but I put no value on the things I tell people, so I don’t feel all that invested in them. If you’ve known me long, you know that right off the bat I will share some fairly heavy details about my life and I will act like those things don’t bother me, but they do.
I end up enjoying the company of new friends for a while, making people laugh, and then I cast them aside in favor of someone new that I can make laugh. I think I am really just afraid to show people what I really am. I am ashamed of who I am. I am someone with no plans, no big dreams. I am smart and witty but I take no risks. Everyone always tells me I have so much potential, that they don’t want to see me squander it, that I could do anything I want to, but the fact is I don’t WANT anything at all, and that makes me feel even worse. I don’t know where I am going.
I believe that people, even the ones who call me their close friend, will reject me if they see how lazy, unproductive, messy, and shallow I can be. I want to know people, and I want them to know me, but I feel like I can’t involve myself deeply with anyone. I am afraid they will not like what they find out, and will walk away from me. I feel like I hide myself, my true self, from even the very closest of friends that I have or have had.
So, I walk away from everyone before they can walk away from me. I leave before they can. I say “No thank you” before anything is even offered, and I quit before we ever get started. I think I do it because I want to feel some sense of control, and I would rather feel like I made the decision than have someone else make it for me. And because of this, my entire life I have missed out on so many chances for amazing friendships with wonderful people. I have isolated myself, become an island. It’s so easy to try and convince myself that my situation is because of circumstances out of my hands, but the real reason I am under the water is because I chose to go swimming alone.
I won’t bother in saying sorry IF I’ve done this to you. I will say sorry for WHEN I have done this to you. Trust me, no matter who you are, even if you are my best friend, I have done this to you. I have pushed you away, dropped you for someone new, expected you to invest in me without me investing in you. I have been a lousy friend, and I am truly, deeply ashamed of that. I am ashamed that I continue to do this to you.
I think I reach out to people I don’t know too well, especially lately, for a single reason: to convince myself that I am real. I go around feeling invisible most days, and even when I am noticed, it is by people who have been around a long time, people who are forced to notice me. Sometimes I almost feel like they are no longer real, just veteran players in my dream world. They are so ingrained in my world, and I in theirs, that they feel no need to notice me or consider me. How often do you really notice things like your front door, or your TV set? Or something more personal, like your own feet? If it’s around all the time, you just stop noticing it. I reach out to make new friends, exciting friends, simply because I want some novelty in my world.
I want to be someone’s new toy.
I want to stimulate them, and I want to in turn be stimulated with new information about their life. I want them to be excited to talk to me, see me, hang out. But my attempts to befriend someone are always coupled with a sense of desperation, and I am sure that it shows. I imagine people feel somewhat weirded out by my sudden, intense interest in their lives, and the way I talk to them as if we are already familiar. I want to say that’s just the way I am, intense and open, but in reality I think it’s more dark than that. It is not sinister, in any way. I mean no harm. But it doesn’t simply come from pure curiosity or interest either.
I desperately want validation.
I want someone to tell me I am ok, MORE than ok. That I am more than enough. And more than just hearing people tell me these things, I want them to show me that I am worth something to them. As I said before, words are cheap, easy. Sending a text, writing on a Facebook wall, is simple to do and to walk away from, as if you never did it at all. The intentions might be good, but you don’t just water a plant once and then give up.
And so now, the obvious question. Where is God in all of this, Elliott? Where does He fit in?
Herein lays the biggest guilt trip of all. Intentionally or unintentionally, people bring God into the situation, bring faith in, and imply that if I just prayed more, had more faith, did more God-stuff, that I would feel better. This in my own mind translates to, “Elliott, clearly you did something wrong or are still doing it and God is punishing you for it. If you were just a better person, if you weren’t so horrible, God would be blessing you right now.” I recognize that very few people would ever ask about my faith with this intention in mind. But very few people also go past asking how my faith is doing and saying I should involve myself more with Him.
Listen to me when I say this, and recognize that this applies to just about every depressed person out there:
QUESTIONING MY FAITH DOES NOT HELP ME GET BETTER.
No matter your intentions, no matter how you word it, my depressed negative mind will automatically translate what you say into condescending terms. Telling me all the things I should do to try and fix my relationship with God only adds burden and obligation on my conscience; it does nothing to lift the guilt and sadness I am already carrying around with me.
Two nights ago, I hit the lowest point I have been at, probably ever. Some very dark, VERY dark thoughts were intruding into my mind. I felt nearly hypnotized by them, by their simplicity. I became frightened by the fact that I couldn’t push them away. They weren’t really even intruding that hard; I just had no energy to fight.
So I cried out to God. I told Him the horrible truth, the embarrassing reality.
I have nothing to offer. I have no motivation, no desire, no energy, no strength. I am a ghost, a shade. I have been sucked dry, my bones are brittle and my heart is weak. I didn’t even bother to tell Him I couldn’t do this on my own; I simply said that I couldn’t do it at ALL. I couldn’t even offer to limp along while leaning on Jesus, or put my arm around his neck while He carries me. I am dead weight, I am broken and worthless and have nothing good about me to offer in exchange for what I need.
I told God that I needed Him to do it all for me. I didn’t make empty promises of changing my life, following His call, helping people. I straight up told God that I needed Jesus or an angel to walk into my room at that moment, and put their arm around me, and comfort me. To keep me from making decisions I couldn’t come back from. I told God I needed Him to heal me, to fix me, and that I had no way I could repay Him. I told Him I simply couldn’t take another step, that every breath I was taking felt like it might be the last one I ever took. I didn’t think the words to Him, but my heart was telling me that I was in the shadow of death, that Death and Satan were in my home with me and they were seeking me out, and my heart was crying out to God to chase the monsters away and tell me it would be okay.
Somehow, I was carried into sleep during this desperate prayer. I couldn’t say if exhaustion took over, or if God carried me to that safe place, but I made it there. And when I woke up, I was tired. I didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work. I was still miserable, still hurting. I still feel numb and empty inside. But as I finish typing this blog post, I no longer feel a malevolent presence in my home. I find my thoughts coming to me more clearly, thoughts that are finding words and flowing through my fingers. I feel less like a deflated balloon now.
I am still in the dark, but I perceive now that there is indeed a road ahead. It looks quite long. I don’t see its direction, I don’t see its length, its end, its terrain. I know none of the details about this road whatsoever. But something in me tells me it’s there. Whatever the details of the road, the fact is clear.
There is a road.
And in the dark corners of the prison I’ve built in my mind, I hear a word come floating on the air. Just a whisper, weak but still audible.
If you read all of this, thank you so much. Really. Thank you. But I need to ask a favor of you. It feels desperate to ask, because it is, so I want you to ponder it before you do anything for or say anything to me.
I need you to realize that we are God’s hands.
God guides us, has power over our lives, but we are the ones who do His work. I don’t think He randomly, whimsically blesses us with good feelings. He doesn’t cause people to go homeless or go through pain, and He doesn’t just “let” it happen either. Life happens, and He uses us to provide each other with kind words and deeds to encourage and exhort each other to get through it all. I asked God to miraculously save me from myself, but I will accept Him sending some of His children to do it too.