My dearest ______,
If you’re reading this, then it could only mean one thing: I’m in a much better place. If you’re reading this, then I have finally done what I should have done a million years ago. If you’re reading this, it means that I was too tired of fighting, of everything – the voices, the constant dread, the hell I was in, my skin that seemed like it was never my own, everything about myself – and needed that way out. That final step.
If you know me, you’d know by now that I have clinical depression. It bears repeating. I have clinical depression. I HAVE CLINICAL DEPRESSION.
What you might not know is that it’s not just some passing sadness or random spouts of down times. It was, for what seemed to me was all my life, a twenty four seven prison. I couldn’t just walk out of that prison. You see, that prison was inside my head. That prison was my body. That prison was my mind. I spent all my life in that prison, fighting with the inmates and the correction officers. Fighting with myself, arguing with myself whether or not I deserve to be in that prison or not. Most days, I just accepted that my time in there would be a lifetime sentence. On the rare occasions when I see a glimmer of hope, I wish to the heavens above that I’d be set free. On the bad days, and my version of bad days is your worst days multiplied by infinity, seemed like my only course of action, of escape, was to end my own life.
I understand that you might have a hard time grasping the gravity of my illness. As a poet and writer, I’ve expressed what I feel and what weighs down on me in, well…poetic terms. I can’t describe what I often feel in detail, or in technical and scientific terms that a normal person would understand. I can only describe them through my own words – words that make sense to me. If you feel like you don’t understand what I’m going through or what I feel, trust me, I rarely understand it either. Up until I went to a better place, I didn’t even know what an anxiety attack was. I felt it almost always, but I didn’t have a name for it. I didn’t know what was happening to me or why I was feeling that way. I didn’t understand why my body wouldn’t want to move. Emotions such as love and remorse, spite and affection, all that and more, I felt. I had a vague idea of what they were, but I was truly unsure of them. Or if I should even feel them on a given scenario.
Even now that I’m in a much better place, I still get confused by what I feel. What used to make sense to me, what I made sense of, doesn’t make sense anymore. A lot of the things that I learned in prison doesn’t apply out here. Like a child, I’m learning new things. I’m learning everything. And in my advanced age, it’s tough. Really tough. I was imprisoned for thirty years. I’ve made sense of what I learned and what I experienced in there. Now that I’m out, my way of “life” has been redefined. It’s a life anew. Maybe even an actual life for the first time.
I’m adjusting. Adapting. And it’s proving to be extremely difficult. There are too many changes happening and I get overwhelmed still. Sometimes I retreat back to the dark because the light gets too blinding. Sometimes I turn the light off completely. Sometimes I think about going back to the prison where my life has the illusion of safety and comfort. It’s an illusion, but it’s an illusion that I once considered, devoid of any other alternative, as reality.
On the hours before my latest breakdown, I splashed my face with water to snap me out of the shadows that were dragging me back to hell. It didn’t work. I looked at myself in the mirror and I didn’t even recognize myself. All my life, I’ve always seen myself as a monster. A monster that didn’t deserve to be loved, to be cared for. I saw myself as a monster in every sense of that word, so repulsive that no one would touch or even look at. A monster so evil that I didn’t deserve to be in sunlight, that I belonged in the darkness where no one would see me. I know, I know, I had people around me – family and friends – who loved me and would do anything for me. People who didn’t see me as a monster, but all I’ve ever seen in the mirror was a monster.
What I saw in the mirror when I splashed my face with water in that Starbucks restroom was not a monster, but an actual human being. A human being who was deserved to be loved. A human being with a kind heart and was in his most trying time ever. And it scared me. I finally saw myself the way other people saw me and I was afraid. I didn’t want to be a monster. I never wanted to be a monster. But since I got out of prison, since the veil of depression has been slowly lifting and the light is seeping through, I was suddenly thrust in a precarious position. One that requires an answer to the question “who am I?”
If I’m not the monster that I believed that I once was, then what am I? If I wasn’t the darkness anymore, then who am I?
That’s one of the many questions that has been echoing at the back of my head me since I got to this better place. Am I finally myself? Am I finally who I am supposed to be? Who is that person? Who was I supposed to be?
I am living a new life. No, cross that. I am living a life. For the first time since I was born into this beautifully chaotic world, I am finally living. I am an infant who opened his eyes for the first time. And like an infant, I am still vulnerable. Vulnerable to real dangers and threats in this world, not just those created by my mind.
When you first met me, when you were first born into this world, when you first swore to nurture me as best as you can, when you first said that you’ll have my back no matter what, when you first fell in love with me, when you first shared a beer with me, when you first became friends with me, when you first saw me cry and breakdown, when you first picked me up when I was puking my ass off on the street, when you first decided that I was worthy of your attention, when you first congratulated me for an accomplishment, when you first held my hand and told me that everything was going to be okay, when you first read my poems and sonnets, when you first spoke to me, when you first heard me sing, when you first saw a photograph of you that I took, when you first cried to me because of a romance gone wrong, when you first shared a pizza with me, when you first told me that you love me, when you first accepted me for who I was … I wasn’t myself then. I apologize truly, but in my mind, it was a monster imprisoned that you had all those moments with. I wasn’t who I was supposed to be. I wasn’t me.
I finally see myself the way you’ve always seen me. I’m finally human unchained. Free of the prison that I thought I deserved to be trapped in for all of eternity.
Now that I’m a free man, now that I’m a monster no more, I’m chasing after the happiness that was deprived from me by the depression. I’m chasing after the things that would make me feel good because…because the alternative would be to do absolutely nothing. When that happens, the darkness creeps back in. I become the unloved monster once again.
With my efforts to be happy, an undertaking that is immeasurably taxing as I’m starting to learn, I understand that I might not have time for you. The distance, whether by measure or by metaphor, might be great, but the monster-now-person that you love is still here and wants you to still be a part of his life. You will always have a place by my side, as I hope I’ll always have by yours. It is not my intention to push you away. It will never be my intention to push you away. You’ve always seen me the way I deserved to be seen. How can I even think to push you away after everything? What I see in the mirror now is how you’ve always seen me. I cannot and will not even attempt to set you aside or replace you. My battles with myself and my demons leaves me tired, too tired to even function, but I will still fight to have you in my life.
Patience and understanding is all I can ever ask of you. Despite being in better place now, I am still in a fragile stage in my life. I am still figuring this all out, this “life.” I am still reading up on the manual on how to live, on how to be a normal person. I would love to have you in this journey as you have known me the longest, you have known me at my worst state and “good” state. You were there with me to watch me grow up and take care of me. You were there when I was born. You were there when the person who bore me was taken from us by the illness that now plagues me. You were there getting drunk with me and I cried because I got my heart broken. You were there when the ringtone that started our friendship rang. You were there with me in my bed like two brothers. You were still there with me when I kept pushing you away because I didn’t want you to see the monster that I was. You were there when I sang and defied the many voices in my head to a crowd of faceless persons. You were there walking with me on streets that we didn’t belong in. You were there with me on out of town trips where I felt even a sliver of happiness. You were there with me keeping me awake while I drove you home. You were there with me as I watched you grow up and become the amazing person I know you can be. You were there with me getting drunk and started talking about ourselves. You were there with me as you started having a family of your own. You were there with me as you proudly defied the odds and became the resilient person you are now. You were there with me when I watched you walk towards a brighter tomorrow. You were there with me in trying times when all hope seemed lost. You were there with me. You were there for me.
You know me. You know me perhaps more than I’ll ever know myself. It is with you that I can be who I am, who I was always meant to be. It is with you that I can be alive and happy. It is with you that I can learn how to be strong and stand victorious against what drags me back to the deepest and darkest part of my mind. It is with you that I can teach myself how to be human and live. It is with you that I can be finally, finally, be free of the darkness.
I need you. Now more than ever. Please abandon any thoughts of losing hope in me. Please don’t ever think that who I was before is preferable to who I am now. I don’t ever want to go back to prison. I don’t ever want to be feel like a monster again.
Patience and understanding. And the person writing you this letter to still be a part of your life. That’s all I can ever hope for.
With all the love in the world,
John Mari A. Marcelo