Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winning Against Depression.

He'll be back.

Louis Shalako

When I was about fourteen, my parents got all worried about me. I had been a good student, and I didn’t want to go to school. I was sleeping all day, skipping school. I wouldn’t participate in family activities, such as going roller skating together or to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, all stuff I had once enjoyed. I was up all night reading books, refusing to help out around the house unless I was paid for it, hanging out with all kinds of kids they hadn’t seen before, you know—Mom’s bottle of London Dry Gin began to mysteriously fall in the level and no one could really say what was going on.

They took me to a doctor who asked me if I was on drugs.

(I wasn’t.) As I recall, that one caused a little resentment.

What a bunch of idiots, I remember thinking.

At some point they determined that I was anemic—low blood pressure, low count on the red blood cells, low iron, and all that sort of thing.

And I ended up getting vitamin B-12 complex injections once a week for quite some time. So what was all this about?

My parents were getting separated. They were certainly talking about it, and they did so shortly thereafter.

And in some ways mood, atmosphere, it’s a little bit contagious. It’s not like I didn’t know something was wrong in our family, because it sure was wrong.

But it was a whole lot of things coming together.

I had grown two or three inches that year—it was the early stages of puberty, when the hormones are all over the map, teenagers get gawky, and introspective in my case, they get pimples and weird long curly black hairs popping up all over the place. You’ve got all sorts of opinions and deep inside you know you’re still a kid.

More than anything, you would like to be thought of as an adult. Of course you’re not, really.


It’s too easy to look back and state that I ‘suffered from depression since I was a kid.’

The fact of the matter is, all seventeen year-olds think they are going to be alone for the rest of their lives. 

They think their life is the pits, and that their parents don’t treat them well. The world can be a cold dark place when it seems like everyone else is having fun and adults have all sorts of special powers.

Kids are impatient. They can’t wait for childhood to end so they can have a bit of power over their own lives.

They can go places, do things, buy things, and decide how their own life is going to be run.

A kid of a certain age is dependent, when all about him look like fools.

I do not want to let depression define me. The truth is, I was deliriously happy from about age 18 to age 25. 

And yet even then, there were those days. I can’t deny it, and certainly there were no secrets between my girlfriend and I back then.

She knew. There was no denying it. Those days happened. Even then, it was a big mystery.

What in the hell was wrong with me?

The answer seemed pretty clear, years later: Why, I must have been suffering from depression.

I was suicidal at age 26. That was a bad day. I had the gun loaded and up to the side of my head.

A lot of shitty thoughts went through my head that day. I guess maybe I got a real good look at myself that day—and I wasn’t much.

I didn’t have much going for me, and I knew it. But there was something that stopped me. Call it ego, or something.

It took that much to realize that what I wanted was not to die. What I wanted, was to live—and for some reason it really didn’t feel like I was living.

I think a lot of suicides just want to end the suffering.

That was a long time ago, and the actual circumstances of the story are pointless.

That one didn’t last for long. Somehow, the real danger zone didn’t last too long, and although the aftermath, the so-called recovery, took two or three years, and two or three cities. The fact is, that I went through times when things were all right. Sure, I got down once in awhile, but who doesn’t? Everyone has a bad day, when things seem pretty black and it seems like all the shit will never end.

Whatever the hell was going on back then, when I had work, when I had money, and friends, and things to do and places to go, things went fine. Not that I didn’t have my days, my little outbursts of anger, my sudden little snaps of aggression. All of which are entirely normal within the daily parameters of human existence.

They are also symptoms of depression. Was I any different from any other person? 

I don’t know. It’s hard to say.

It's pretty easy to buy into the notion that you are different, and that there really is something wrong with you.

The question is, how do you deal with it?

Blaming depression or saying that something triggered it was an easy answer.

I went through another real bad time in my life. That one lasted for years. Literally, years, in fact from late 2004 until early in 2006, during a period of about a year and a half, I thought of suicide every stinking day. 

And I won’t say there was nothing wrong in my life, because there was.

The problem was that I couldn’t deal with it. That was the real struggle. I couldn’t get everything I wanted, not even what I needed.

Something really got to me.

Again, the actual circumstances are pointless. Because it’s all relative. It’s all very subjective—some other person, if I told the story, would say, “Well, that doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s sure not worth killing yourself over.”

Yeah, and they’d be right, too.

And the truth is that it wasn’t all that bad. I just couldn’t deal with it, for whatever reason. Looking back, it’s over now.

I got through it, somehow. No matter how bad it felt, or how long it took…it’s over.

It was real enough at the time, to me if no one else.

The first thought that went through my head in the morning was, “I have to kill myself.”

The last thought that went through my head at night was the same: “I have to kill myself.”

With that sort of shit going through your head you really have to wonder what stopped me.

How in the fucking hell did I ever survive that?


I got to a point where I dreaded winter. Winter is long, cold and dark, poverty sucks, my few friends were all the same kind of loser and yet there could still be moments when I was happy, or at the very least not suffering.

It was a question of putting in the time and getting through life.

A strange attitude, looking back. That attitude resulted in a lot of wasted years. Every day was a quest for diversion, and not much more.

All I wanted was not to suffer. I avoided anything I couldn’t deal with.


My old man got sick. After some years we had to sell his house, get rid of his stuff, put him in an old age home, and ultimately watch him die.

That was a very dark time. And winters are still the worst in some ways, because of all that cold and darkness.

The sheer, unremitting boredom, the loneliness, the isolation, the lack of hope for any real changes…the list is a long one.

And yet, looking back, this had been my best winter since about 19-fucking-99.

Seriously. By any way I care to measure it.

I keep as busy as I can. I work my ass off on something that is important to me.

I have skills, and some mighty good ones.

I have my own place. I have a car, I pay my bills and I have a few books and stories out there in the world.

Nobody really messes with me any more—not for long, anyways.

(It’s just not worth it, right.)

And I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks.

Today, yeah. Not my best day.

It could be worse—and I damned well know it.

The thing with depression is to survive the battles, and in the end, maybe, somehow, win the war.

It didn’t stop me from writing this story, did it?


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