Birth of an Ember

My ghost is waning, these days. There’s a flicker of hope, somewhere inside, and it’s fighting to find oxygen. It’s starting to catch, an ember, a glow. If it takes a good deep breath, perhaps I can extinguish the ghost, for now.

I find comfort in company, in friends. My family has helped, too. They’ve given me something to which I can look forward. A journey, a mission. Last week it seemed endless, bottomless, this pit. Now I’m beginning to think I’ve fallen so far down that I’m on my way back out the other side. Like a miner, sunk and burrowed to such great depths that I no longer know which way is up; I’m just digging and digging, in one direction now, desperate to break the surface. I’ll let you know if I strike sunlight.

It’s been helpful to know that I’m not alone. I’ve been actively reading the depression tags; following along as others blog about their fears, their heartbreaks. Their anxieties and depressions.

Their ghosts.

One of the hardest parts of struggling with depression is the feeling that you’re doing it all alone. That no one else suffers with you. It’s not that you want anyone else to suffer; true, misery loves company, but this isn’t that. It’s just that, deep down, there’s always a voice, a nagging whisper, and it says, “They don’t understand. They’ll never understand. You are on an island. You suffer alone.” This voice, this is the ghost talking. The ghost craves isolation, for it is detachment that fuels, feeds it.

To the ghost, separation is heroin. Withdrawal is that “one last” cigarette, the last one you’ll ever have, until you have another last one. You can’t have enough, because the last ones are always the best ones. Reclusion feels good because it satisfies the ghost. But that remoteness builds like tar in the lungs until you can’t taste, can’t eat. Can’t breathe.

“TO LOVED ONES LEFT BEHIND”

If my ghost takes me,
Know that it isn’t your fault
I’ll always love you.

In 1962, Michel Siffre, a French underground explorer, spent 63 days alone in a freezing cave as part of an experiment on sleep and isolation. He said, “Mental attitude is everything. You have to have faith.”

When you’re trapped in a mine, the first thing you have to do is find a way to breathe. You need a source of oxygen. You need to filter that carbon monoxide, vent the carbon dioxide, and breathe fresh, clean O2. Every miner carries a self-contained self-rescuer (SCSR) device at all times, or they keep one close by, if they can’t wear it on their belt.

For me, my SCSR is writing. When I feel stuck, suffocated, trapped, I turn to words. Sometimes I can only manage to get a few good deep breaths, put a few words down on paper, but that usually gets me by until I find the nearest exit. The pen is my pickaxe. Poetry, fiction––these are my intake tunnels. Even when I can’t find the strength to swing the axe, to make a dent in my surroundings, I can always throw myself inside a cart and wheel myself back through the tunnels in a good book or a poem.

That’s how I’ve been surviving, these past few weeks. Sylvia Plath, she’s been my guide in the darkness. She’s up ahead of me, right now, dragging my heavy ass through the tunnels. She’s wearing a helmet lamp, navigating the inky black, and every story or poem I read takes me a little further towards fresh air. I only hope I can be stronger than she was, in the end.

So many of you are still looking for your intake tunnel. So many of you don’t even have a good pickaxe handy, and that’s alright. You aren’t hopeless. Do not give up. Find something that used to bring you happiness, and cling to it. Whether it’s painting or drawing, singing or dancing, playing guitar or putting together jigsaw puzzles on the living room floor. Search deep inside and find a tool, no matter how big or small, and start digging.

Sometimes, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, you have to be the one to bear a torch along the way. Other times, a fellow miner will come along and hold it for you, should you be so fortunate.

Let these words be a torch, for those of you still stranded in the mines below. I haven’t made it out, not just yet. But I’ve found a good clear tunnel, and I’m hopeful. Let this be a marker for my own progress as I bore ahead, scraping and clawing my way out. I’ve come this far. Look for a torch in the path up ahead. If you don’t find one, or if you come across my decaying bones, you’ll know I wasn’t strong enough to go on. But if you turn the next corner and see the flicker of a new ember, you’ll know I somehow found the strength inside. You’ll know I’m still up there, somewhere.

Burrowing.

You can make it out too. I believe in you. And I love you.

30 thoughts on “Birth of an Ember

  1. We can be a part of each other’s tribe :)- you aren’t alone, I’m right there with you. Some people will not ever understand but in some regards I feel sorry that they don’t. Keep writing, words and art are my life force as well. Looking forward to reading more of your oxygen tank.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank YOU, for reading and reaching out. I’m always here if you need a beacon. I can’t promise I’ll always be shining bright, but there are others here, too. Together we are like fireflies, and we light the path for one another. Welcome to the swarm, friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Welcome to the Swarm | J.T. Carlton

  3. As an ember, you write like this! I’m anxious to see what you do when your oxygen supply is refilled and your flame burns bright! Thanks for your like on my “Pete and Amy,” since that led me to find you. Brilliant writing and a terrific analogy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow, you are talented with words. I read this while I was listening to Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor by Beethoven and I started crying for some reason. You’re misery is beautiful, and I mean this as a compliment.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Ember” means human being in my language, Hungarian. And thanks for liking my Woolwich Thames Sunset photos a few minutes ago. I like your dark tunnel photo above, and the honesty of this writing. Piroska (piroskamarkus.com)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Love your comments. I’m lucky because I know that the depression of fibromyalgia is something that will pass, it’s just a case of enduring and waiting until the Glums pack up and go. But when I suffered full-on depression, it’s just there, a feeling of being frozen in the dark, not able to think through the dark fog. I wish you a journey through depression to the light of day again, BUT depression brings with it gifts, the ability to go into the dark and, when you emerge, to know you are different, stronger and also more able to understand the pain others go through. Good luck, have a good life.

    Liked by 1 person

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