“One need not be a chamber to be haunted,” wrote Emily Dickinson. Since my teens this poem has made the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It is how I have always felt. Haunted. I used to dread my nightmares as a child. I would dream I was watching a scary movie, and when I covered my eyes, I could still see it because the images were coming from my own brain. I couldn’t escape.
I’m doing well on my antidepressants. They have enabled me to cover my eyes and not see the scary parts anymore.
The house I rent has an entire wall in the living room that is all giant windows. It gives an excellent view of the mountains and allows tons of light to flow in. Unfortunately, every now and then, a bird will smack against the window with a sickening thud. Usually they are merely stunned and fly away immediately. Sometimes they linger on the deck for a time, dazed from the collision. Once or twice I’ve had to scoop up a dead bird with a broken neck.
That’s what my intrusive thoughts are like now. Zoloft is the window and the horrors in my mind are the birds. I’m still aware of them. I see them coming. But they can’t get in. If I focus my attention on them, I can bring them back, sure. I hear the thuds of them trying to get through. The medication has given me the choice to turn my attention elsewhere.
I don’t like having to take pills to feel normal. I’m not immune to the stigma. Maybe I should be able to get exercise and sunshine and feel better. The thing is, I hate sunshine. It makes me irritable. Exercise feels great while I’m doing it, and for some time afterwards, yet it has no effect on the thoughts I cannot banish. My muscles are not armor enough for those midnight encounters with the dark corners of myself.
Everything else about me is the same, which believe it or not is a relief. I’m not happy all the time. I don’t want to change my blog into a photo essay/poem devoted to the joys of my blessed life. I have no desire to make wreaths of wildflowers to adorn my hair. Okay, maybe for like twenty minutes on Tuesday I did, but it passed.
Years ago, I stopped taking my medication because I didn’t want to be “one of those people.” I didn’t want to need it. I convinced myself that I did NOT suffer from clinical depression and anxiety. Rather, I believed that my mother, who is clinically depressed, projected this onto me from the time I was a child in order to have a companion in the darkness. I rebelled against that and stopped the meds in order to prove her wrong.
Like the horror movies in my dreams I could still see through my covered eyes, I know those intrusive, terrifying thoughts are still there. They can come back and destroy my peace any time.