An old cherry tree sits just outside my bedroom window. For several seasons I've watched it blossom to life -- ripening with evergreen and fruit. I've also witnessed that life slowly drifting away in the cool autumn breeze. As the branches empty one by one, I sit and gaze without expression.
Each leaf that falls reminds me of a 10-year-old girl buried deep in a closet, hiding behind bags of old clothes. Ashamed of the tears, she desperately tries to hide her sorrow from the world. A tattered Mickey Mouse muffles her sobs.
She'd soon become a rebellious teen, a soul standing on the edge contemplating the short distance between life and death. Inside a little miracle grows. It's a flutter of hope that halts that final step. Yet sadness still consumes her.
This is depression -- a demon that has followed me into adulthood, slipping past the walls I've built. It's a vicious predator that forces its way into the essence of who I am, rendering me a troubled stranger. In times of weakness, it defeats me. My vulnerable armor defenseless against its will.
Unlike the cherry tree, the seasons of depression are unpredictable. A familiar song. A harsh rejection. What awakens the demon waiting beneath the surface is erratic and unknown. There is, however, certainty. When it emerges, I lose myself... lingering dreadfully between hope and desperation. No amount of laughter or the presence of blue skies can "fix" what breaks inside of me. And I am broken when I enter this state of mind.
Depression is an ominous existence filled with darkness. I imagine a single, fragile rope outstretched across a bottomless, shroud-covered ravine. I'm suspended, too far from either side to see with clarity. Only once have I ever felt completely and irrefutably hopeless. Thankfully, I pulled back before despair consumed me. Some are not so lucky.
What causes one to forge on and others to let go is a reality I'll never understand. And I've battled this demon for more than 40 years. I'm united with countless victims in the black halls of desolation, fearful of never knowing and what lies ahead.
The demon chases no one in particular.
A stranger on a bus.
The neighbor next door.
This is depression.
Looking through the window, I can't help but notice a subtle yellow hue. For the cherry tree, it's time for a new season. For me, I'm desperate for this one to pass.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.