Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Killing the Black Dog

I decided to kill myself while sleeping over at a friend’s house. This was ten years ago, when I was stuck in a bad marriage and fighting the blackest wave of what has become a lifelong battle with depression.

What I remember most about that night is all at once slipping from despair into a sense of joy and relief. Befriending the darkness made me no longer afraid of it, and the promise of my impending death became a security blanket, a silent friend promising peace at last. I realized that all of life’s misadventures - from the mundane to the dreadful - I no longer had to endure. Taxes, traffic, counting calories, the unexpected arrival of delayed hospital bills,  - weren’t my problems anymore. It was like someone once said, suicide is your way of telling God, “you can’t fire me, I quit.”

Obviously, my attempt failed, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this tonight. I’m happy to report that in the years since, I’ve taken the necessary medical and therapeutic precautions to keep the black dog’s barking at bay.

Tonight I’m back at my friend’s house again, babysitting her adorable kids while she and her husband spend a night on the town.

My friend has done well for herself. Her massive home is a three-dimensional canvas of soft patterns and silk creams, testaments of her success expressed among the polished oak floors and chiseled crown molding embellishments.

But I hate it here, and I hate that I hate it here, for it’s only in this beautiful home with its high ceilings and expansive rooms that I’m confronted with the ugliness of my disease and the reality that it almost consumed me. I can be anywhere else and fake it, be at home or on the street or in another country, and act completely at ease - but not here. This house, it knows my secrets.

So I hate it here, and now that the kids are asleep, I’m alone and the silence sharpens the past, brings old ghosts into focus, and the last ten years stretches open and waves at me with a dirty hand.

Then my phone chirps with a text.

It’s my daughter. It’s a video of her singing and playing a song that she wrote. It’s grainy and she’s out of frame and her voice is drowned out by the keyboard, but it’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. Her short description, “Hey Mommy, here’s the song, I love you, goodnight,” is everything I’ve ever needed, and I’m going to hold it close to my heart as I drift to sleep tonight. Thank God. Thank God I am alive to hear my daughter’s messy, beautiful song.

And I hope somewhere out there if you’re reading this and the black dog is barking for you, that someone or something reaches out to you, and tells you that are redeemable. You are loved. That you are more than one moment, more than one verse - that your life is a song, and only you can sing it.
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