There is this pit which, I believe, we all walk around the edge of at some time in our lives. Though the lucky among us may never notice they are doing so, the worst they may experience is a cold shiver on the back of their neck, and an urge to tread carefully or even tiptoe around for a day or two, without even knowing what it is that makes them feel that way.
Others will only perceive the pit, tread carefully for a while and then move on.
Others still may find themselves walking around the edge for a long time at different parts of their lives, but through luck and perhaps the odd guiding hand they never slip into it.
For some, however, occasionally the ground will give way under their feet, and they will stumble. If you’re really lucky at that point, you might catch yourself, or you may find a handhold or a ledge to abate your fall. Someone may reach out a hand and grab you, pulling you back to firmer ground. Yet they still may find themselves slipping down into the pit all the same.
And some of us just fall when the ground gives way.
It’s dark down there in the pit, dark and cold, and a long way down. The people walking around the edge seem like shadows, which taunt you and remind you that you too were once only walking around the edge.
Yet even in the deepest parts of the pit, you can see the sunlight. That’s why you can see the shadows. You can still see the way out, for all the sides are steep. You can still imagine that if you call out someone may drop a rope to you, and half pull, half drag you back up to the rim. There is, you see, allows hope while the sun shines…
Except at night there is no sun, at night there is only darkness, and those shadowy figures of hope are but noises in the distance. Half-forgotten. Until even the sun is but a memory, daylight a myth.
It is there, in that darkness that I have dwelled more than once in my life, dreaming of the days in the sun I can no longer remember.
Depression can take anyone. It’s not what it seems, it’s not what people say, it’s not weakness, it’s not just a dose of the blues either. It is all too human, and few, lucky people have ever passed through their lives without glimpsing that pit at some time. Many may never fall down the whole way, but most stumble at some point, and all too many fall for a while.
As for myself, I am perhaps more inclined towards it than most. Some of us just are, it’s in our make-up. For me, to the extent for a long time, that pit has been my norm. Something I have only come to realise of late because when you dwell in the pit, or around the side of it for a long time, the norm is what it becomes.
Knowing that does not really help a great deal, save that in recognising the place in which I dwell for what it is, I can try to find a way to climb out and walk in the sunshine for a while.
The first time I dallied with none existence, with seeking an end, was in my early teens. I am not sure I recognised it at the time for what it was. It was not a desperate cry for attention, as some would consider it. Nor was it some expression of teen angst taken to extremes.
More than anything it was an aspect of control I could exert upon my life where I had none. I made a choice to survive, to continue, and not to end it. It was a choice in my hands that it was being able to make that choice I believe saved me from the ultimate expression of the logic of nihilism. I did not choose to end my life because I could choose not to.
Both my novels draw influence from my own experience. As the old adage goes, ‘write what you know’.
In Cider Lane both the main characters have their struggles with the pit. In the case of Susanna, the pit is morphed into the cave of her psyche. That dark place to which she retreats. While hope and the sunlight play a major part, it starts to form the pit in many ways.
Passing Place deals, among other things, with the grief, the main character feels after the death of his wife, who herself took that ultimate choice we all have. While the novel covers many other things, my pit looms deep with its pages also.
One of my favourite reviews of Cider Lane states
‘ Hayes captures the essence of trauma to perfection in his book Cider Lane: Of Silences and Stars. It’s a difficult feat to write emotion. First, you must submerge yourself within the walls of the pain that we try so desperately to avoid.’
It’s a strange review to be pleased with perhaps, but it makes me feel that I managed to put across some of the themes I was aiming for.
Why and I taking about all this?
Well for several reasons, including the desire to write this stuff down, as writing things down is one of the ways I deal with the world. Which is probably why I feel driven to write novels and just in general. It’s my form of therapy.
But also a recent Facebook post from a friend reminded me of an organisation I have never used, but who’s number I carried with me at times when I walked the pit. It was a simpler post with a few words and the phone number of the organisation.
The Samaritans are a charity that takes its name from the biblical parable of the good Samaritan. They have their detractors and plenty of mockers, but it’s an easy target to mock because no one wants to believe they would ever need them. Even those that dwell in the pit.
As I said, I carried their number about for years, in a fold of paper tucked in my wallet. I never rang them, but the number was there if I ever felt I needed to. It helped, in a strange way, and was enough to have the number.
For many others just having the number is not enough.
Samaritans respond to more than 5.4 million calls for help every year. If even a fraction of those calls actively prevented a suicide attempt, then that is still a terrifying number.
The pit is deep, and dark, and sometimes you cannot see the sun, but there is always someone standing on the rim, waiting for your call.
You can call Samaritans for free anytime from any phone (UK) on 116 123 (USA) 1 (800) 273-TALK this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill, email email@example.com, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.
I have written about depression before here, so this is not a new subject. The first post can be found at the link below.