We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour
Paralysed force, gesture without motion
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to deaths other Kingdom
Remember us - if at all - not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men
~ T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
I woke up this morning in the land beyond tears, beyond pain. This is depression's more fearful realm: The Nothing.
I haven't been here for a long, long time. But I remember my last visit. It is burned in my memory. When I tell people I've been to the gates of Hell, this is the day I'm talking about.
It began with tears, like so many before it had done. Mrs P trying to start her day, me weeping in the bed, unable to move, unable to quiet my raving inner monologue, or to keep it in. Hate. Anger. Please, help me...
You have to go to the hospital. I'm calling the hospital. She dials and makes the arrangements. She knows the drill. She's taken plenty of sick children there.
And then the sudden quiet. I'm going to the nut house. I am being committed.
Welcome to the nothing.
In the shower, you barely feel the water as it runs down your body. You can't smell the soap. You don't hear the curtain rings as the slide away and the towel barely touches you as you dry yourself off. Clean underwear, of course. Won't need your phone. Won't need your keys. Why have you stopped crying?
It is raining as she drives you across town. How many times have you driven past the place? Wondered what went on there? Who are the poor souls who have to live inside? She slips the car into a parking spot, and you are walking. Opening the door. Reading signs. Payment at time of treatment. Visitors must check in. No phones, electronics, weapons. You sit, and she whispers to the woman at the desk. The TV blinks overhead. Magazine unopened in your lap. Stare at the plant, your back to the windows.
A buzzer sounds, a door opens, a kind woman steps into the room and calls your name. Martha takes your hand, and you walk together into the hallway. It is empty. Clean. Soft light. Like a hotel. The doors swing silently and the magnetic lock latches behind you. You are not going back through that door. Not for a long time.
You sit together. The three of you. The kind lady takes your medical history. What has brought you here today? You answer with a voice you don't recognize, in tones you can barely hear. The furniture was once pretty, but has seen better days. Chips. Scratches. Little things that more loving hands might have mended. Wallpaper. Upholstery. The room smells of tears. She thinks it would be best to admit you. You agree and she goes to prepare the paperwork. Martha is crying. She is so sorry. "It's OK," someone says from inside your mouth. Why can't you feel your feet? Your face? Your chair? You are disappearing.
A pretty young lady comes in with a clipboard to talk about money. Insurance. Financial arrangements to be made. Her pretty lips move and her pretty face is sympathetic and gentle. Martha talks with her and their conversation seems to be taking place underwater. Now, the kind lady returns with a paper bag. I will need to remove my watch. My wallet. My jewelry. My belt. My shoelaces. They don't want me to hang myself.
One last kiss. Words. Follow me, please. Doors. So many doors. Each one with a buzzer, a metalic 'klunk". Silently opening... closing behind..."klunk." Turn into an exam room. more like a long, narrow closet with a curtain dividing the space in half. Please step behind the curtain and remove your clothes There is a second person here now. Another nurse with another clipboard. I step out. You need to remove your boxers, too. I slip them to the floor without comment, without feeling. Two strange women inspect my body. Noting every bruise. Every scratch. Turn around, please. You may dress now.
More buzzers. More doors. More kind faces. I am in a room with two beds. The mattress is plastic. The wooden shelves are bolted down. There are no rods, no hooks no hangers. The mirror over the sink is a metal plate, bolted to the wall. There are no sharp corners. No secure protrusions. No handle to unlatch the little window. You lie down on the air mattress and stare at the ceiling. Unblinking. Waiting.
And you feel nothing. You don't realize it, because you've never been here before, but you have entered depression's darkest room. You walked in the moment you agreed to come here. You are in The Nothing. It's a merciful place, in a way, because there is no pain here. No tears. No regrets. No shame. Nothing at all. You are invisible here. Unseeing and unseen, you sit alone, eyes wide open, jaw loose. muscles relaxed. This is the There But Not There. The Nothing.
And that's where I woke up today. For the first time all week, I am not crying as I type. I am not feeling anything at all. Twenty minutes ago I looked down and realized I wasn't wearing a shirt. I must be cold. I should finish dressing. Love doesn't hurt today. I'm not sure what could hurt me here.
It doesn't last forever, I remind myself. I am not alone. I am loved. I am a child of God. I am in the darkness, but the darkness is not me. I will not disappear. My light will not go out completely.
The words give me no comfort, though I know they are true. There is an ember of hope inside. An observer with a clipboard would see emotionless stillness. But there is a war raging inside. A war for my soul. Cancer has hardened me. Depression doesn't know who it's messing with. Tomorrow I will run. Today, I will wait here. In depression's darkest room. I do not feel afraid. I do not feel anything at all. The disease cannot touch me. Nothing can touch me here. Tomorrow I will run. For my life.
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