I can’t remember the first time I thought to myself, “I want to be a writer.” Perhaps it’s something that has always been a part of me. As far back as I can remember I’ve had story ideas weaving themselves together in my head. Images, feelings, characters, places….they circle around, bouncing off each other. Growing with intensity, and then fading into the background. Because for some reason, they continue to stay inside, swirling around, never reaching ink on page.
I know that my constant self-judgment and internal criticism are the root cause. Often the excitement that is felt as a story plays out in my head will hit a brick wall the minute I sit down to write. “It’s simply not good enough,” and “No one will like it,” scream through me at top volume, enabling me to give into fear, and put the pen back down.
I was in a local bookstore this week. One of the last if it’s kind. The empty shell of Borders still lies vacant in Oak Park, but I’m proud to say our independent bookstore continues to stand strong. I’m a lover of actual books. And found myself missing the paper pages between hard and soft covers alike. A Kindle is just not the same. And as I perused the shelves, looking for a copy of our selection for next month’s book club, I cam across this.
I picked it up immediately, drawn to the title. Drawn to the cover. As some of you know, depression is something that plagues me. These last few weeks were perhaps the worst it’s ever been. Something I’m terrified to share. But more terrified to keep hidden. It’s a dark, isolating, fickle disease. One that is greatly misunderstood, and treated with great social stigma in our society. Which, unfortunately, only magnifies the feelings of being alone and forgotten for those who suffer the most.
Given my mental state, the words “Opposite of Loneliness” grabbed my attention right away. Was this another young woman who struggled like me? It’s a work of essays and short stories, which is something I dream of writing one day myself. Perhaps she was in search of “The Opposite of Loneliness” as well. And found her path through the written word.
As I skimmed through the reviews and book jacket, I kept seeing words like “Brilliant Talent, Left Us Too Soon,” “Voice of a Generation, Gone Too Soon.” And that’s when I was sucked in. As I projected my own problems onto her, I wondered what had happened that she was no longer with us.
Though I haven’t read this collection of work yet, I have come to know that she was in a car accident that took her life only five days after her college graduation. And in their grief, friends, family and teachers compiled her works to publish this piece. She hadn’t taken her life, which had been my fear. She was a promising young writer, and suffered an immense tragedy that robbed her, and the world, of her voice and talent.
But death is always a tragedy. It always feels like they were gone too soon. Even at 90 years old, I feel it always leaves those of us who stay behind with some kind of regret for what was. As well as wondering what would have been. And without having read a single word that she has written, this book has already changed me. She left this world too soon, but left behind something I hope will be truly inspiring. And as I battle my own demons, and fight to find my own “Opposite of Loneliness,” I realize that death and depression have a few things in common.
Depression has robbed me, and the world, of my voice and talent as well. But I’m still here, and I can still change that.
Depression is not to be taken lightly. And if it is something you struggle with, I urge you to seek help. It’s hard to know who to talk to, and who to trust. Though I know it feels like it, remember that you are not alone.
You may have noticed that the stretches between posts are getting longer and longer. Truthfully, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this blog. I had wanted it to be a place of hope and inspiration and health. Which is really hard to do in a depressed state. But I’ll leave theses pages open, and I welcome your comments and ideas on where to take this next.