The Great Cloud
And I’ve got an emptiness deep inside
And I’ve tried
But it won’t let me go
And I’m not a man who likes to swear
But I never cared
For the sound of being alone…
– Neil Diamond, “I Am…I Said”, c1971
SF: I realize that I always defined myself in terms of what I wasn’t. I wasn’t a good soldier like my father. I wasn’t the job. I wasn’t a good prospect for marriage or kids. Always what I wasn’t, never what I was. And when you do that, you miss the moments…and the moments are all we’ve got! When I thought I was going to die, even after everything that’s happened, I realized I didn’t want to let go. I was willing to do it all over again, and this time I could appreciate the moments. I can’t go back, but I can appreciate what I have right now. And I can define myself by what I am instead of what I’m not.
JS: And what are you?
SF: Alive. Everything else is negotiable.
– Dr. Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs) and Captain John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) discussing Franklin’s epiphany after his multi-episode walkabout in the Babylon 5 episode “Shadow Dancing,” (S03E21).
THE GREAT CLOUD:
Battling depression is like trying to knock down the Great Wall of China with an assault of paper airplanes. I have nowhere I have to be today. I have amazing friends and family. I have a new bed, a blog to work on, and all my medications are filled. I am blessed to have hobbies I enjoy and a comfortable environment in which to do so, and I am truly grateful to God and to my mother, and to those others who have been there for me along the road. Furthermore, the past week has been truly amazing overall.
And yet, happiness eludes me. My mind and memory cling to the past in spite of concerted effort to move on in all fronts where that might be an issue. Contrary to seemingly popular opinion, it’s not a switch that can be turned on at a whim. I’m not even dwelling on those things I would consider vital that I don’t have. I just feel a sense of…incompleteness.
My dad suffered with the same thing. He identified heavily with Jack Nicholson’s character. Melvin Udall, who asked, “Is this as good as it gets?” Is this all there is? I don’t even know if he found more before he passed, almost 5 years ago now. The perception of loss always outweighs the sense of gain. All belief in tomorrow seems clouded by an invisible nothingness. And hope itself, which we are told to have all measure of, is simply absent when I feel this way. It’s a blankness—a darkness that wraps itself around you and snuffs out all enthusiasm, desire, and passion. And there never seems to be anything to be passionate about, anyway.
But let’s just turn it off, right? Tell myself to just be happy and, as so many people have told me over the years, just “get over it.” Or better yet, decide that I’m simply not a positive influence and slowly drift out of my circle as though I had leprosy. My only defense over the years has been to bury my head in my pillows as I try to sleep and to tell myself over and over that “it doesn’t matter; nothing matters. Just live with it. This is your reality, and you will always battle this.” Just as surely as an alcoholic is still an alcoholic after thirty years of sobriety, even on my best days I will have to combat this state of being. And one day, maybe I’ll truly start to believe that it doesn’t matter, and then I’ll take a risk knowing I’ll be shot down before I even get off the ground. And on that day, maybe I’ll find something that does matter. And only I will get a laugh out of the pure irony that in that moment, when I finally take those risks, I never had a shot at anything that mattered. Finding out what I wanted, or what I was missing, will always end in wishing I had never wanted at all. Entropy, futility, and death are the constants of the depressed mind, and only the depressed seem to get that. “I am…I said.” Or am I?