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Unicorn Season

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Written by Matt Rios.

I live with depression. I don’t suffer from it, or occasionally get depressed when life sours on me. Depression rests in the backdrop of every moment of my life. It is a difficult thing to explain what it is like to live with this. Some could imagine a cartoon me walking about town with a personal rain cloud following over my head. That is not what it is like. I am not in a perpetual sense of rainy day blues. Most days you would be hard pressed to see any sign of depression in me. I laugh like thunder claps and smile like Chris Kringle at midnight on Christmas Eve. I laugh and smile because I love life and those I am experiencing it with. Depression doesn’t void my soul of joy. The problem is not that I don’t feel, the problem is what happens in the evil Wonka factory of my brain when Charlie Feeling comes a calling.

Imagine standing on a tiny island of rocks in a sea. Waves splash water onto you as they break onto the raised rocks around your island. Most waves become mist onto your soul. Some waves are so strong and powerful you are swept right off the rocks into the sea. Those big moments, those swells of emotion consume us, engulf us in emotions, negative and positive. Instinctively, when swept into your emotional depths, you swim up for air. You slowly climb out of the water and back onto your assortment of rocks.

Do me a favor and stop imagining plain rocks. In this analogy everyone’s rocks are decorated brilliantly. Remember these are the rocks of your soul in your emotional sea, so put some effort into it, yo. Now back to the analogy.

Sometimes you swim in the emotion for a while before pulling yourself out. Like when the person you wanted to break up with breaks up with you first and you binge on Adele for a week because you just want to feel alive. Emotional waters can be very pleasant to bask in. Keep in mind pool rules should apply. Anyone in a body of water for too long at some point is basking in their own fluids, if you know what I mean.

I, like you, have my island of rocks, they’re very colorful and brilliant I assure you, and yes I have named them. There is Rock McRocklin, Roco, Jon Stone, Mary Marble, and Herb. I gotta be honest, if I could, I would roll Herb right off the island. Herb is the rock equivalent of a dude with a handlebar mustache and skinny jeans asking about salads at a burger joint. WHY IS HE THERE? WHY ARE YOU AT ALL HERB? YOU’RE THE WORST HERB, THE ABSOLUTE  WORST… I may have gotten away from the point. Let me move us back onto a track free of the eye pain that is Herb. Like you, I have my emotional sea. Where our minds and souls begin to find division is in the waters of our seas.

Below the surface of my sea is a riptide. I can swim but at the sea floor of my mind a crack in the earth pulls me down to it. I like air and find myself as needful of it as anyone, but the riptide cares not for such things. The riptide just pulls and pulls. The air my lungs need becomes distant as I am engulfed in the black lightless bottom of the sea. When at last my body touches the seafloor the riptide releases me. It is as though the seafloor is a pressure plate that deactivates the pull of the riptide. I can then make my way up to the surface and the air I need. Sometimes the sea is cruel and wave after wave and being pulled to the bottom of the sea takes a toll. Yes, I fear that someday I won’t be able to resurface before it’s too late, or that the riptide won’t let go. Fear aside, this is how we are different. The difference between us has nothing to do with our swimming abilities. It is all subject to the sea we found our rocks resting in when we came to be.

You know or have known of someone that’s sea is akin to the sea surrounding my island. You know the cases of those who never surfaced and died in their waters. Too many waves and too many journeys under the water’s surface took its toll on their soul. No one wants to drown but some rip currents don’t let go, and that is what so many suicides are. Yep, this piece has been so fun I decided to increase the rhythm of the beat by rewarding you for reading this far with suicide. It is a real Herb like move. I told you Herb was the absolute worst.

We all know or have known of someone who committed suicide. A very infamous case is Robin Williams. A man who after years of battling his sea’s pull succumbed after having loved and been loved by millions for longer than I have lived. When you heard of his passing you may have thought: why? When I learned of his passing I felt fear. If Robin Williams couldn’t beat the pull, if Marilyn Monroe, if Vincent Van Gogh, Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Amy Winehouse, Sigmund Freud, and Alan Turing fell to fatigue in the sea, is it an inevitable fate that someday I won’t be able to resurface?

I often feel that death is a hunter. It hides in the tall grass as I go about my days. As I play and live it hunts and waits for the perfect moment to take the shot. Being unique is not always fun. Some see a unicorn in the forest and are struck by its majesty. Some see a trophy, something to hunt. Make no mistake death is the later.

In a moment that I am weak, where my soul is fatigued, and my mind too tired to hear the rustling of the hunter in the brush, it will finally have its trophy and I will not resurface. I don’t want to drown and I have no intention of doing so, but I must stay mindful that below the water’s surface rests a pull that could, if I don’t stay mindful of it, take me.

Everyone who knows someone like me worries that their loved one may not resurface someday. The love you have desires to protect them. Worst yet if they don’t return to the surface you wonder what you could have done. The truth is there are no magic words or actions. When my strength falters in the sea, love pulls me up. Not just being loved but having love in my heart for those I share my life with. My nieces Sierra and Victoria, friends and family wrap around me like a life vest that acts to bring me back up even while I am being pulled down. That is my secret weapon: love. In the darkest, blackest part of the sea it is like bubbles of air that quicken my swim away from the seafloor.

No two minds are the same though and what allows me to resurface may not work for another. Many who are loved do not resurface. The best thing to do, maybe, is to just live and love while we are here. For those like me, living in fear of the future is dangerous. If we spend too long looking into the sea, we don’t see the waves coming and eventually find ourselves unprepared. We, too, should not pretend that the sea is without danger. We need to talk to those who wish to help and monitor ourselves to know when the big waves may be coming and stretch for the swim. I must always be ready to counter the pull of the sea with the pull of the light that is the love in my life.

Oscar Wilde wrote in “Canterville Ghost”: “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”

Indeed there are moments where these words speak to me in ways that my loved ones wish they did not, but they do. What I find more powerful than the sentiment above is watching my nieces and nephews grow, the joy of making friends laugh so hard they cry, and the warmth of a good hug. I do fear that someday these sentiments won’t be enough and that fatigue will take me to a depth I cannot resurface in time from. We all have fears and we cannot let these fears rule our life. I cannot traverse my life in fear of an outcome that may never come to be.

The World Health Organization has reported estimations of the number of people living with depression globally at 350 million. That is a larger population than lives in the United States. I do not often wish to be the sole anything but I do wish I was the only one living with depression.

If I had the words to ease the fear for those like myself and their loved ones I would share them. Those words don’t exist though. As I said above there are no magic words and no two souls are the same. What I have to share is hope. I don’t know what my future is anymore than you know your own. Maybe I drown in the sea like the names above. Maybe years from now I will sit in a movie theater on Mars after watching “Avengers 12: Avenged” at the age of 99. As I sit  in my Make Tony Stark Great Again cotton blend shirt, I say, “Loki again, That’s it I am out.” and go to sleep like at the end of the notebook with a space soda on one side and half eaten bag of Reece’s Pieces on the other.

How we end or begin are fairly frivolous things. What matters is the content between each outcome. Live and love with no apologies. Don’t hesitate to laugh, hug, high five, toast, fist bump or share joy with friends and family. That is my life and it is a good one, in fact it is great one, and no riptide can change that.