Contributed by Yvens Tiamou
Hey Younger self,
It’s always on your birthday where it feels like you’re standing atop the precipice of existence. Beneath you are the decorations of your life lived thus far, stationed together like trees in a botanical garden. This seems like a good enough place to talk to you without interruption so I hope you could lend me your time. I’m not really writing to a specific age – I think any version or any age can pick up this letter. This is more a broadcast message for all the listening Yvens’, in all possible other dimensions.
This time last year, I was celebrating my 27th birthday, and I promised myself that I would start living. However broad a concept of “living” was, I knew at the time what I was alluding to. By “living”, I meant living a life away from past regrets, which means letting go of that old suitcase that I have been dragging along. You know what I mean. Look down right now and I bet you see that worn down, covered in spotted stains, crammed horribly with emotional baggage shackled to you. So that’s what I set out to do, to emancipate myself from it.
For the first couple of months, that new lease of life feel, fuelled me, you know the one I’m on about – the one everyone feels at the dawn of each New Year. Though like the tides of the sea, it ebbs and flows, and that new purposeful feel starts to fade away, leaving your will exposed to the negative vultures circling above you. You don’t notice it at first, but they chip away at you. Subtle gnawing at your flesh in places you wouldn’t clock until too late. Almost defiantly, you blissfully ignore the vultures and continue to go through life, hoping for the tides to come back to shore.
You haven’t been on holidays much in your life, but when you do, you’ve always gone to the edge of where the beach meets the waters, watching wave after wave crash into the immovable sands in a clumsy yet touching embrace. You’ve always had this affinity with water, even though it scares you. It may just be water, but to us, it holds more meaning – philosophical, metaphorical, and even spiritual. So when that tide doesn’t come back to shore, our body dries up. And for that year of our 27th birthday, our body starts to break down; the lights inside our mind start to dim, and our spirit begins to crack. You won’t know until it’s too late, when you are sat at the table, alone, and tears inadvertently start to roll down your cheeks with the same velocity of an avalanche. Were these tears of mourning for the vagabond tides?
The thing about depression is it’s so fucking crafty. Like, for real, that shit is a shape-shifter, the truest villain. You know in cartoons where the character knows for sure that he/she is being followed, but when he/she turns around the culprit has melded itself into a shadow, or contorted its boneless body into the shape of the lamppost or some shit like that. That there is depression, and it insidiously closes in on you, setting a multitude of elaborate traps, waiting until one has been set off. And when it gets you, it never lets go – not in a forceful way, because it knows better. Instead, it wraps you around in this thick, yet soft comforter. It has the same feeling of a security blanket yet - unbeknownst to the victim - it has real ill intent.
It got me man - hook, line, and sinker. It caught me slipping in the ends. Let me tell you that IT (depression) serenaded the fuck out of me. It was so charming, and its method of courting me seduced me into lowering down all my guards. My castle now was bare open to be overthrown, though, not in a way of surrender. It never once felt like I conceded to it. Instead, it was more like it convinced me to unlock the doors, to get down on my knees, and to offer fealty to it. And as stupid as it sounds, it made me feel like I was doing the right thing.
As the months ticked by, I slowly started to relinquish things. My dreams were forgotten. My purpose was forsaken. My will was tossed out to the streets. How did it happen? See, as IT drags you slowly beneath the surface, wrapping you with more layers of that same comforter, you arrive at these checkpoints, where the price of admission is leaving behind parts of you that give a person hope. IT convinced me to leave it all behind. It didn’t matter to me anymore, and where I was going I wouldn’t need things like hope and dreams, and shit. I obliged. For many months more, I obliged, never questioning anything IT told me. I was only cognisant of Day and Night switching shifts, but you could never ask me what actual day it was.
I went unnoticed, for quite some time. IT had created me a mask, a mask I was to wear for the benefit to throw people off the scent. Loved ones around me couldn’t discern what I was going through, how deep I was in IT’s clutches. It was the type of mask that let off the most convincible, “I’m fine” told in history. And I suppose this mask gave off the aura that made people gullible to my lies.
So I bet you’re wondering how I got out? How I bussed case? How I was able to curb the demons, or if I ever got out?
**Spoiler: I did get out.**
There’s always been a stigma about it, and I don’t even know how I plucked up the courage to pick up the phone and tell a stranger, “I need help. Help me”. I bet you’re wondering why I didn’t lean on our friends. I did, but not in the ways I should’ve. The fact is, I still couldn’t tell them wholly about my bout with IT, and I guess this will be their first time they’ll truly soak in my ordeal. I wasn’t scared to tell them, or maybe I was. It was more, “can I really burden them with something I don’t fully understand myself?” Still, they did help me, in ways they may never truly know. See as friends you enter this tacit relationship where regardless of what happens, you have a safe haven, where the things you say and what you do are readily sheltered from outside judgment.
I chose to speak to a stranger rather than my friends because there exists this paradoxical con where having friends that offer you unconditional love and support is weak against the powers of IT. That light is immediately engulfed by the darkness. I still don’t know where I found the courage to pick up the phone. I have this theory that one day I just woke up and was tired of losing, tired of the darkness, but perhaps said theory leans onto my love for fictional tales.
Anyway, so there I was, sitting opposite this stranger, unloading, and unloading, and unloading some more. Thoughts that have been backed up in my mind, emotions clogged up in every orifice of my heart coming together to pour out of my mouth. I think they call that word vomit and trust me; I soaked that stranger with many layers of it. How did I feel when there was no vomit left? As naked as Adam and Eve felt when they ate from that taboo tree. And that’s what I did, once a week for a series of two months, unloading, and making sense of the emotional mess I left all over the room. That stranger, who I will never forget, first helped me build a ladder to climb out of the pit, and once I was out, I was able to feel the sun’s rays. It was beautiful. It felt like years since I last was able to see light, and that first taste of it on my skin was enough for me to keep moving forward.
But you know even though I got out, I had to go back inside to sit down with my demons. Don’t worry; I had a rope tied around me before I went down. The conversation was quite chilled, actually. Yeah, more tears fell, and frustrations were let out in small manifestations of lashing out, screaming into pillows, and punching any wall that dared look at you funny, but you know, looking back, it was like just chilling with your homies, you know. And the funny thing about this all is, that I hold no ill will to IT. Like me, I have a life and purpose, so does IT, and IT was just doing its job. Dare I say I’m almost thankful for that experience, and I don’t mean this in an ignorant way, because I know how damaging it is for others who have experienced and/or still experiencing it. Though, at the same time, this is my own story on how I went toe-for-toe with IT and came out the other side to tell the tale.
This brings me to what I really wanted to talk to you about. Bring your eyes closer to this bit. To all versions of me – be it old or young – learn to commit to yourself. This is the biggest demon that we have to pool together all our strength to slain. It’s the monster that has reigned tyrannically over us since you learned introspection at such a young age. That’s what I realised while I was down there revisiting my old imprisonment. So it’s best you start to cultivate the grounds of commitment and feed it the right waters and nutrients. Don’t worry the tides will come back. On everything I love, it will come back.
So I guess I’ll sign off by telling you where I am now. It’s a weird space I’m in right now. I feel as though I went through a series of unrelenting sessions where my being was broken down and reconstructed over and over and over and over again, going through many manifestations. Now, it feels like I’m just searching for contentment. In everything I do now I want to feel contentment, so in the long run, I can accept the life I am living and have lived. For now, I am just rebuilding. You know that shit you got to do after the hurricane finishes doing its petulant devastation. Once I finish rebuilding the broken parts of my life I believe that the next thing on my agenda will be to search for this elusive thing called peace.
Yeah, Peace, I would like that.
Love from your 28-year-old self