We all have our own daemons, everyone is different and so are their tormentors. Even if they look the same on paper, chances are they’re all unique either in their manifestation or effects.
Daemon’s are hard to live with, obviously, but something I have learned recently is that they can be lived with happily. If you let them take over, then you’re stuffed, but if you take a deep breath and accept them then you can learn to live with them in a delicate balance. You can dance together along knife edges and it can be beautiful even if it’s never easy.
My daemon is depression (post-natal), but in my head I generally refer to him as Dennis (I like to give things names, always have). Reflecting on my life recently I have decided that Dennis has probably been around for longer than I realised, lurking in the shadows and taunting me from behind my back.
Dennis frightens me. In fact, he frightens me a whole lot more than I ever really admit. These days most of the time I can push the fear aside, forget it even, but not so long ago it was almost as all consuming as the depression itself.
On the days when I was feeling pretty good it was there, catching my breath occasionally as the thought ‘how long will this last?’ flicked through my mind, pressing down darkly on the corners of my mind as I went about my day. Slowly closing in until it felt like I could see Dennis physically hiding in the shadows of my peripheral vision. That sounds ridiculous, even to me, and I experienced it.
Other times, when Dennis was sharing the sofa with me and I was struggling to control him and build up the energy to feed and dress my children, I was afraid of just haw far Dennis was going to push me. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to push him away again and get myself back. I was losing sense of what was me and what was Dennis. Was it rational me thinking or Dennis pushing irrational thoughts and words into my mind?
I was so afraid I just wanted to shut my eyes, bury my head and disappear until it all went away.
I’m still afraid now, just not in the same way because I have recognised Dennis for who, and what, he is. I have stood up to him and I have asked for help, both medically and from friends. I have taken myself out of the nest Dennis had built around me, too. Changed my life for the better and started trying to learn the steps to the dance Dennis is leading me on.
As Kylie so wisely sings, it’s better the Devil you know. I know Dennis and I am slowly but surely beginning to recognise him and his ways in my life. I am learning the things that trigger his appearance and I am learning the things that make me more susceptible to his seductive mutterings (like tiredness and alcohol, especially combined).
I still have days where I start to falter and wobble in the delicate dance, I can feel Dennis creeping closer and wrapping his arms around me – tempting me to relax my guard, slip from the knife edge and wallow in the semi-comforting embrace of misery and depression. It’s odd how feeling so detached from feelings and life can be comforting but it is in the strangest of ways because I became so accustomed to it. It was normal.
That in itself is frightening.
Luckily now I have discovered something better than that dark comfort – life and all it entails. I don’t want to be in that easy dark place where I can torture myself and watch every day merge into the next in a big blur of nothingness and depression, I want to be up in the light sharing the laughter, stress, excitement, anticipation and anger of every day life. Now I know what I want I am more often than not able to duck away from Dennis and, after a few shaky Argentine Tango tussles, leave him behind me again.
That doesn’t mean I don’t slide. Doesn’t mean I don’t spend an evening biting the side of my hand so violently it bruises and hurts for the next few days just because I need the pain to focus on and feel alive. Doesn’t mean I don’t completely fall and crash violently and find myself struggling at the bottom of my consciousness trying to remember what the point of climbing back to the top is.
It just means I’ve reached a point where those times are the exception rather than the rule.
It takes two to Tango and for a long time I have been content to let Dennis lead me a merry dance and ditch me at will. Well not any more, you hear me, Dennis? I’ve been watching Strictly Come Dancing. Your girl is learning the dance steps. And winning.