Krakatoa: Winning Control over My Depression.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to die. A calm, ritualized dance to the finish. To the conclusion of my own life. A song, sweetly sung. A universe, unraveling in my palm.
Death, as death does, would greet me and smile. Death would hold my hand and lead me to nothing. Death would love me, show me a great kindness in the process. Growing up with lifelong, untreated depression, death was anthropomorphic. And in the many decades I romanticized death, I could no more have created my own perfect match. Death was perfection, symbiotic with freedom from suffering. And oh, how I longed for her sweet grasp!
But, like most mistresses of flight or fancy, death was an impossibly benign cure to my lifelong blues. Death easing my suffering was mildly pedantic and impossible; in the way of trying to piece a butterfly back into its cocoon, I had grown.
It is not extraordinary to adhere to the conjecture that life is suffering for certainly anyone who has lived even one day knows this to be truth. My struggle in depression is to not see this truth as absolute. There can be so much beauty in suffering, in pain. And on the best days, pain is humor. Wild, unapologetic humor.
Human life is nothing if not a canvas thirsty for beauty, for art. Life affords us a chance each new day. Every minute, each breath, one is allotted the chance for metamorphosis. If one can see this, it should be seized. A transformative life, lived in the pursuit of beauty and hope, is the eternal dream. This dream should be held on to, as one would a wayward kite in a hurricane.
What can be quite extraordinary though is to stand up to death and make death back down. To live life-facing. To shout, literally, to the sky. Scream. Rage. In the lightness and the dark. Chase down death into the obscurity you want a reprieve from. Pocket death safely in the darkest of dark places and be wildly unafraid.
In life, sometimes the smallest of intentions can shake out the biggest impact, a tiny atom bomb of necessary encouragement from a friend, a lover, an accidental stumbling across a psyche journal that read like my memoir. I am turning 35 on my next birthday, and I recently started seeing a psychotherapist to work on my blues and my catastrophic-thinking anxiety.
At 35, I have already lived a lifetime of suffering. I am winning control over my depression, or starting to. For the first time since second grade, when I heard about a tragedy, my initial thought was not “Those people are lucky, I wish it was I who died in that freak accident.” This is huge for me, like walking on a tightrope to the moon.
For most of my life, I imagined therapy was inconsequential to my sadness, it would not help me. I knew it. When people suggested it, I scoffed, hunkered down into myself, positive no one could help me.
In the path to mindfulness, to finding my center, to finding a purpose or meaning in this life, I felt like an outsider in the journey. I grew up with parents who never once hugged or kissed me, never said they loved me. While growing up, I sometimes went multiple years in school with not a single friend, but many simultaneous bullies. I grew up with an older sister who hated me and made sure I knew it.
I was molested ages 4 to 5, continually. My molester was the first and only person to call me beautiful for the first 20 years of my life. My daughter is a child of rape, whom I decided to keep and to love. Some experiences in life are so loud, they drown out any other noise. They drone in your ears, your heart, your brain, and dislodge any goodness that tiptoes in.
At times in my life, happiness seemed an impossibility meant only for others and not me.
Some experiences in life are hollowed out and scrapped of meaning, categorized as cliché in a way to downgrade their ability to be transformative. But sometimes things or people change your life in brilliantly unexpected ways, even without intention. So… this year I met a woman. A woman who told me I was not nearly as crazy as I think I am, nor as crazy and weird as I have been told I was my entire life.
Here was a stranger of recent, who called me extraordinary. Who told me I was beautiful. Who told me she cares so much about me she just simply wanted me to be happy, genuinely. She held my hand and talked with me until I felt better even at 2 in the morning. A woman who cared, cared for me.
It matters less where the inspiration to make one’s life better is discovered, what matters is what you do with that opportunity.
Maybe to some happiness comes easily, comes silently, comes alone. But for those of us who struggle, most days, to be happy and be alive, I offer you these words that changed my life, words I cling to on my darkest days. “Take love where it finds you, welcome happiness into your heart when it knocks, and know you are not alone in your strife.”
Cherish the goodness you experience whether you actively sought it out or got lucky. Find solace in unlikely places. Trust. Take a chance. And then take another chance. Have faith in people, I promise you there are good people in this world. Find them, make them your tribe. Be kind. Fight infinite grief with infinite kindness. Be so brave. Be love, always be love.
Life is lived in moments. Sometimes, these moments need to just be. Stand still, and breathe.
Elizabeth Anne Olsen is just another wildly depressed girl in the mix of this world. Searching always for happiness and purpose, she has sought meaning through writing, random adventure, and daylighting as an accountant. She writes poetry almost daily on her Instagram account, and has authored one poetry book, entitled Intentioned Love Intentioned Sorrow. She is arguably the most hopeful nihilist, and spreads kindness like wildfire.