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FIRST PERSON: The Invisible Civil War

There is a war going on right now within me and hardly anyone knows.

It rages on while I’m on the train.  It’s happening on the bus.  It unfolds unbeknownst to you as I’m stuck in traffic.  The war rolls on when I get to work.  It’s all going on during my lunch hour.  It’s happening as I make my way home.  Another skirmish kicks off during dinner and just as I close my eyes and nod off, the war continues as I sleep to dream.  This war a fight to the death between myself and myself… and believe me, I’ve come close to losing on at least two occasions.  There have been tears shed; blood spilt; substances abused; dull & rusted razorblades used in order to self-mutilate and even go as far as ending it all; a subsequent extended stay in a psychiatric unit; antidepressants; moving from pillar-to-post on both sides of the Atlantic; estranged relationships (some of which have never recovered); and much, much more.  This war is brutal and cerebral and takes only one prisoner: yours truly.

This is what living with depression has been like for the past fifteen years since I was first diagnosed and usually, I’d take it upon myself to suffer in silence.  I would believe everything negative running through the confines of my weathered mind and I’d believe whatever is feeding my conscience that no one cares and no one can help.  I’d tell everyone that everything is fine when asked what’s the matter, in some vain attempt to keep the one’s closest to me from getting caught in the line of fire.  I withdraw and actively shut people out all while remaining desperate for someone to come along and save me from myself and this illness.

I hate calling it that but I realise this truly is an illness of the mind.  It’s as terminal an illness as cancer, arguably just as aggressive.  It destroys like a virus and everything feels as if someone or something sucked out your soul.  This is the invisible civil war that I fight in every single day and it’s exhausting.  Desperation and loneliness are my constant companions.  Self-mutilation and self-depreciation are my vices.  Misunderstanding, harsh judgements, and wilful ignorance from others are definitely unwelcome but here’s the twisted bit about depression: I easily believe what others say about me even though they haven’t a Scooby Doo-sized clue about what I’m really feeling and fighting with each and every fibre of my being.  “Sticks & Stones” is the biggest lie that anyone ever told me for I know from experience how much of a weapon words can really be… and it’s often what I say [and subsequently believe] about myself that causes the most damage.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve thought that the only peace I’d find is through suicide.  I can’t tell you why I’ve not been successful in taking my own life with past attempts.  I can’t even tell you what possessed me to write this piece today but I can tell you that I’m not the only one fighting for their lives in an invisible civil war.  I can tell you that someone right now is suffering in silence just like I do.  I can tell you that there is someone that you know personally that is desperate for a cease-fire.  I can tell people that make those cynical observations about those that are suffering from depression or indeed any other mental illness would be better off saying nothing at all and find it within themselves to empathise with those that are fighting their respective invisible civil wars.  I can say that depression isn’t something I would wish upon anyone and that there is no strength to be found in remaining silent about what ails you.

As a matter of fact, I can’t tell you what real strength is.  What I can tell you is that despite this invisible civil war being waged and each of the battles that have failed to see my demise made manifest, I am still here.  I know that someone out there is dealing with something similar; whether it’s more mild or more severe is totally immaterial.  I just want to say to those that are fighting that there may not be an explicit cure for what we have but you are still here.  You have a testimony.  You’ve been to the very depths of hell and back, tormented by every demon imaginable along the way… and you’re still here.

Fight on, we must.  So fight on, I will.

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