“So don’t forget to love me in damnation/
For the living I have earned on love gone wrong/
And we’ll open up old wounds in celebration/
If we don’t bleed it don’t feel like a song”
John Moreland, “Old Wounds”
These past few weeks have been troubling, indeed, as it comes to those who can’t escape the prison of their own minds, sometimes leading to a final act of escape that seems inexplicable to those of us left behind. People in the background have lost loved ones to a wide spectrum of causes, but nonetheless they’re gone and we try to piece together their reasons, trying in vain to speak a language we don’t even understand. Stigma keeps us from talking about it if we hear the murmur of “mental health” or “depression” or “anxiety”. Those are problems that OTHER people have, thank God, but we FEEL for them, right, we WANT to understand, we WANT to help, but deep down we run the back of our hands across our foreheads and think “so glad I don’t have to deal with THAT”. And if another celebrity succumbs to the pull of ending their frustrating journey, or a loved one escapes one last time down the barrel of depression and addiction, we publicly mourn the loss and we wonder what we could have done differently FOR them.
But here’s a relatable truth: we’re all battling our own versions of sliding down the hill, into an abyss. I honestly thought for the majority of my life that depression was a case of cynicism pleading for attention. You have a roof over your head, food on your table, what in the hell do YOU have to be depressed about? And I was a mile off the mark, again, trying to tell folks I was fluent in a language I’d never bothered to learn.
I’ve come to understand over the last decade that the funniest people we know can be the most depressed, behind their own doors. That the creative and less logical among us are highly susceptible to the roller coasters that are the cycles of anxiousness and flights of fancy into dark places. That folks who see things that we’re not wired to see psychologically have deep cuts inflicted upon them, and sometimes those never stop bleeding. That no matter the willpower of some among us to “just suck it up”, we are haunted by those old wounds and ghosts, and if we’re not careful, every moment of the present can be ruined by roaming the hallways of the past.
If you’ve ever read any old essays or you and I have talked in person for more than ten minutes, you already know the pathways that lead me to where I am today, and despite the tantalizing lure of resignation to a life without much peace, I still maintain a faith that better days lie ahead. Not in a unicorns and rainbows way, I gave up on the Easter Bunny in 1982, but rather, that the life lessons and wounds and scars have allowed me the chance to look for, see and appreciate the delicate balance we encounter daily. I’m drawn to the survivors, the fighters, the broken and the breaking down because I can relate on some level, and I just love that aspect of the human spirit.
Life IS funnier, more fulfilling, more precious to me as the years roll by and I see people come in and out of the story, each one trying their best to just make sense of it all and get through their own lives. And for those who just can’t do it anymore, I get it. I’ve not been there, but I get it. And I hope in those darkest of moments you will call me and try one more time and we can try to make sense of it together. I promise you that you’re not alone, and more of us than you think have peered over the edge, terrified by what might happen if we lose our footing and slide down.
“So let them judge and shove us under/
And let them do the Devil’s work/
Let them calculate the crimes in all our broken rhymes/
But let us find the heaven following the hurt”
Amazing lyrics and never more true than today for many of us, halfway through 2018 and still trying to figure out our place among the rest of the world. Perhaps a better day for you begins with some coffee or a beer on the porch with me. If that’s the case, look me up.
•John Moreland’s “Old Wounds” can be seen here!