By Kean Loong //
He is next to me, at the head of my bed the moment I wake up. He smiles, then kicks at my head, and jumps on my chest. He sneers, “So what’s lined up for today? Shall I tell you the ways I can interfere and make sure your life doesn’t go as planned ?” I ignore him, when I can.
He’s there looking at me when I brush my teeth. He laughs at my medicine when I take it. He knows that they work though. I’m more able to identify his lies when I take my medication on time. He laughs, because that’s all he ever does. He has nothing good to say to me. Or about me
He’s always there, all the time. He mocks my conversations with others, even with my wife and children. He laughs when I’m being a husband, telling me that I’m a fake. That I’m not a good husband, no matter what I do. He pokes fun at the way I deal with my children, and when I lose my temper, he pats me on the back. He tells me, “I told you so.”
When I walk, he walks with me. He whistles, his hands in his pockets, jarring my senses, making sure I don’t pay attention to anything but him. When I lift up my head to look at the sun, he pushes my head down, and scolds me for even trying. I shove my hands in my pockets, and he dances around me, blocking me from others, making me feel like recoiling from the people around me, so that he stops his wild capering.
He always tells half-truths. He never lies outright. That would be too easy for me to tell.
He takes the negative truths, the truths that paint a picture of how terrible I am as a person, and he magnifies them.
He makes an opus out of them, and sings it at the top of his lungs, in all my interactions. When I do something well, he sings even louder, glaring at my rebellion. He throws his words at me, drowning out the well wishes of others, drowning out their words, making light of my achievements, playing up my weaknesses.
I sometimes lash out. I get angry. I get frustrated. Who wouldn’t? But I can’t lash out at him. He always dodges, and I always end up lashing out at those around me. Especially those who love me. They’re around when he’s looming largest, when he makes me want to fold into myself and just cry until I fall asleep. They don’t see him. He makes sure of that.
Which makes it harder when some of my friends and family don’t believe that he exists. They tell me that I can do this on my own, that it’s just a problem with me that can be settled easily. They say, just be positive, look on the bright side, deal with your problems. They say, be a real man, be strong— and he’s laughing so hard because his job is being done for him. And when he’s finished laughing, with a soft voice, he goads me, telling me that I’m weak, and that I’m really, just a burden. Useless. Weak.
Medication. That helps me to keep him away. That gives me time and space to ignore him, to deny his words, to look at the facts rather than his distortions. That allows me to go talk to my therapist, who teaches me ways to handle his words and his goading. Therapy helps me to work out my issues better, and his words carry less weight, bit by bit. Sleep is so important. Good sleep, sufficient sleep; that helps me deal with him when I wake up. That helps me to push him aside, so that his voice becomes a whimper.
The love of those around me carries me.
Their unflinching support even during the darkest of days reminds me that even if I lash out, they still hold on to me. They believe in who I am, what I do, and they believe that there is something in me to love. He tries to make me disbelieve them, but with the help of the medication and therapy, I am more able to tell who’s lying. Only one party can be telling the truth, and it isn’t him. I keep learning this again and again. His arrogance and his insistence on his truth has ruled my life for a while, and I am slowly unlearning his toxic ways.
But even then, now and then, he still pops up when he’s least expected. A word here. A statement there. A laugh now and then that echoes through my skull, that reminds me that he’s still around to haunt me, that he’s waiting for me to slip up. He waits for me to make a mistake that will allow him to claim me again for his, as I despair of life itself.
He had a hold on my life, and his hold is weakening. But sometimes, he whispers in my ears, and it’s hard to ignore him. I have to repeat my newly learned messages to myself when I hear those whispers, but at times, it just seems easier to not struggle. Not to fight. To just give in, go with the flow, and bow out.
But I have my wife and children. My parents. My family. My church. My friends.
So I’m not bowing out. It continues to be a hard fight, as he knows my deepest fears and some things about me that I’m only starting to find out about with my therapist’s help. But I’ll fight on. It’s not fair that he should win. It’s not fair that such lies and half-truths should triumph over love and truth and all the things that matter.
So I’ll not let him win, even if it’s hard at times. Depression, you may still win some battles, but know this: The war is never lost, until I decide it’s over.
Kean Loong is an IT engineer turned mental health care advocate. He is recovering from depression through writing and learning to care for others. His first Tapestry story can be found here: https://thetapestryproject.sg/6-things-to-say-not-positivity-cliche-kean-loongs-story