For the most part of my life I have been living in extremes. However, for the past year I have been living in a such a tortured space that Dante’s “Inferno” is probably the only thing that comes close to expressing what I have been experiencing. I have been either so frozen by depression and feelings of emptiness or tormented for days or weeks by an episode I call a “black high.”
I will try my best to explain something to you that I don’t even understand myself.
Close your eyes and think back, in every little detail, on a big moment in your life. Say for example, your first day at the beach — what did the ocean smell like, what sounds did you hear, what did the sand feel like between your toes, were you scared of the big waves or did the power excite you? Your first dance — see the yellow, red, orange and blue disco lights turning round and round, smell the smoke machine. What song was playing, were your palms sweaty, were you in love, what did you wear, who did you dance with? Let’s make it a bit simpler than that. Think of any day you had to run an errand — what was it for, did you buy something or was it just a to-do item, were you hurried or relaxed, were you driving or walking? What about a day you went to see a movie — what was the movie about, did you like the actor/actress starring in it, is he/she married (if so, to whom), do you prefer movies or books? Now, imagine having these types of thoughts split seconds after each other, racing through your mind on loop about any and every topic you can imagine for days (sometimes weeks) — that is somewhat my “black high” feels like.
I have used examples of pleasant thoughts to better explain in what detail I think about things, but generally I do not think about pleasant things. My thoughts would cover topics of failed relationships, self-doubt, feelings of worthlessness and mistakes I have made and how I could never go back and change them. However, above all, the biggest part of this “black high” is the critical voices that comes with it. These critical voices would speak to me all.the.time. They never leave my thoughts, and they suck the life out of me. They would create a fear and anxiety in me that make me feel as if I am going to lose my mind. They would leave no dark corner of my mind unexplored about how little I think of myself, and they would release every terror, anxiety and phobia I have. These fears and anxieties becomes worse at night time because I fear for the sun to set and for the day to end because then there are no distractions, just me and the silence of the night. I fear for the hustle and bustle to stop outside, for the sense of loneliness is overwhelming. When night settles so does the dark and the racing thoughts are overwhelming. There are no beginning or end to these thoughts and critical voices; they flow into each other like an infinity sign. I am not sure if it is part of “me” or if it is the “good” critical voices, but something is trying to fight the darkness off. They tell me I am going to be OK. The sun will come up tomorrow, and we will face it together.
Why do I call it a “black high”? Well, “black” because of the darkness it represents to me. It drains the life out of me and prevents me from living my life in every way. The depression keeps me from getting out of bed and living my life, but this “black high” hurts my soul in a different way. It takes away what is most precious and dear to me — my own thoughts and my ability to write. I have been trying to write this contribution for weeks now, but I could not string more than a couple of sentences together because I couldn’t concentrate long enough. The words and sentences would become gibberish, I would not be able to spell, and my understanding and ability to edit and spellcheck would become completely voided. Not only that, but I would not remember anything of what I wanted to say. There was one incident where I took a walk around the pond to try and clear my thoughts and I thought of these amazing things I wanted to say. I rushed back to the apartment, sat down at the computer and started typing, and every single thought I had disappeared from my memory and got replaced by who knows what; it broke my heart. The thoughts still haven’t returned.
A “high” — well, because what goes up must come down, right? As I slowly start to emerge from this tormented hell I have experienced, I am exhausted. Exhausted from fighting my own mind for days (or weeks), I am back to having no energy for anything; doing everyday tasks, seeing friends, public and noisy places, etc.
I feel the sadness and despair start to overwhelm me again — how is it that my life came to this? A never-ending seesaw ride between needing noise and people, daylight and focus, to silence and isolation, darkness and distraction.
Through all of this there has been only one thing that has remained constant — one piece of advice that has carried me through all of these worlds. My sister once told me when I found myself in a desperate place and felt I had do a million things and couldn’t even see myself doing one, all I had to was the very next thing. Don’t think two or five or even one thing ahead, just do the very next thing. Even if the very next thing was simply to get out of bed, then that is what you do. When you have done that, what is the very next thing? Even if the only “very next thing” you did was just to get out of bed for the whole day you should be proud yourself because “tomorrow” is then very next thing you are going to try.
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Thinkstock photo by DAJ