Depression wakes me up in the early hours of the morning…
That’s the first line of a poem I wrote last year- an homage to my unwelcome constant companion, stealth in her ability to show up unannounced, unexpected. The gatecrashing party-pooper.
My first memory of her visit is of me as a little girl, perhaps four or five years old, in mama’s classroom at the crèche where she taught. I was the only child left in the classroom, perhaps even in the entire crèche, waiting for knock- off time to arrive so mama and I could go home at the end of her work-day.
We were sitting in her classroom, with me playing by myself, I would imagine, and her, making some beaded piece of art. Mama was a masterful crafts person, able to churn out stunning art and domestic pieces, some of which I still own.
Engrossed in her beading, she was whistling this soulfully wistful tune, evocative for one so young. As I listened, a haunting sound came through, substantial, like a Being. It was the match-maker, there to conduct the formal introduction of this little girl to her lifelong spouse, Melancholia, sealing the deal with an immediate honeymoon of deafning sadness.
My companion loved me only as a spouse loves their beloved, insisting on my attention whenever she felt like it. I never knew how to decline her exigencies, and would meekly follow her to her cavernous darkness, her irresistible abode, where she would keep me as long as she wanted, a soul trafficker showing a jealous streak that I had to surrender to. I just didn’t know how to leave.
When I eventually mustered enough nerve to leave, she would follow me into my world. She loves surprises, often showing up out of the nowhere, and making it impossible for me to prepare myself for her visits. In truth though there are some outward experiences that acted like a telegram to her- “come now, urgent!”.
One such beckoning scene is from a long time ago, and is of watching Mama in our dusty backyard, sitting on a patchwork cloth she’d made herself, pounding her African traditional medicinal herbs on a big stone mortar with a huge, rough riverstone which she used as her pestle. She would be singing, mostly humming a song which she loved very much, hardly noticing me. I too loved that Tswana song, and was desperate for her to teach it to me, although I couldn’t get myself to commit to learning it since it always made me so sad. Looking back now, I never understood the source of the sadness though, whether it was the song, or the entire picture of my mother and the patchwork cloth, and the medicinal dust bellowing up in our backyard.
My companion also loves music, which she uses as her most favoured portal to get to me. She’s equally fond of a stunning nature scene, a good book, a memory, family photographs, images of love- actually she’s not particularly choosy. She has an ability to show up in these moments of utter beauty, tapping me on the shoulder to sway my attention with a smile, only to punch me hard in the stomach, and drag me to her hole.
She also uses me as her vessel, and gathers up other people’s tears, handing them to me to hold, and shed for them, leaving me wondering exactly whose tears these are?
She is very skilful in asking me difficult questions that I can never answer- ‘why are you here, Makgathi? What does your contract say?”. I always get flustered when she asks me this, and immediately unknow everything I’ve known all along. The answer is probably very simple, and right in front of my eyes, but I can’t see it. Instead despair shows up each time I’m unable to answer, and with it, hopelessness, guilt, disappointment in me. Can anything be saved, of this life?
It is in these moments that she introduces the topic of death. Of not being. Of being dead. Had I not known that death is not an end, but a mere lillypad for the ultimate self reflection and love-recharging opportunity, a pause point for integrating all that one has learnt during life on Earth, I might have followed her urging a long time ago. But I do know better, and perhaps this is my surprising act of rebellion, of self-assertion. No, I won’t!
I don’t really know why she’s chosen me, but I feel as if we’ve known each other through many lifetimes. She is that one relative that defies death, that is there at the moment of death and new incarnation, script in hand, compelling me to review in pedantic detail, a life lived, at death, and pick up from where we had left off as I enter new life. I think she just wants to make sure that I’m learning something from her companionship, even if it’s as simple as the recognition that my choice to live, is a choice which I need to exercise every moment, from the minute I recognise it as a choice. You see, that’s why ending my life has never been a consideration for me, since she would just be waiting for me on the other side anyway, asking me difficult questions whose answers would be too late in coming.
So, I promise her that “I’m goin’ deal with you personally, personal-personally”, to borrow from P-Square. But my journey with her continues.
Yesterday she woke me up again in the early hours of the morning, and found me fair game. But she doesn’t know about my meeting with my Ultimate Observer Self during my cannabis/hashish experience. She doesn’t know that I’ve been taught to observe without attachment, without building up a story about the event. So yesterday when I prayed for help as she was preying on me, I was open and receptive to the help. But that didn’t stop her- she wanted to make sure that I am learning…
So as I was sitting at my desk working later in the day, she added pressure, reducing me to a fitful bout of gut-wrenching crying that made even me worried. I opened my psychology books through my tears to read up on depression, and considered asking my therapist friends Lizbe or Dimakatso for help. Before I could formulate my SOS, and literally mid sob, a WhatsApp text came through loudly on my cellphone, and for some reason I picked it up to read the text.
It was from a neighbour on our neighbourhood chat group, asking for urgent use of someone’s wifi in order to complete an eminent piece of work. I responded by inviting them to come over my house to use my wifi. Then I remembered that I’m still full of tears, and my eyes bloodshot. How do I explain this pitiful scene? Plus I needed to put on a bra before he arrived.
To prepare for the neighbour, I splashed my face with water, put on a bra, and waited. Then another text came in saying he had received help from another neighbour, so I was saved. In every way, actually.
When I returned to my desk, it was to quickly get up when I realised how hungry I was. I went in the kitchen and made myself my first meal for the day, stupid, considering it was after midday already. But here’s the thing, as I was making my meal, I felt so light, so lightened, as if a heavy cloud had just been burnt away by the sun, like an impenetrable fog had suddenly given way, enabling me to leave. I hadn’t felt this randomly light in a long time, but also so spent that I was in bed by 7pm. Well done Divinity, that wifi request was simply artifice!
I do know though that I need to address this properly, and am thinking alternative therapies will help. In any case, there is a lot of help from the medical and mental health professions to address all manner of needs. Depression is hard, and I know I won’t be handling it alone.
Also, I am ready for a proper life companion, and this one must go. She has served me long enough, and it’s time to part ways. I thank her for reminding me that I have chosen life, and yes, now I get it. But she cannot have her way with me any longer. I want my real soul companion to be the one to have his way with me instead!
Ka Lerato Beloveds🙏