Saudade*– A Short Memoir of Depression
“I am a collection of dismantled almosts.”
– Anne Sexton, A Self-Portrait in Letters
Part 1: Fossils
Leaving behind the curse of my depression, I am holding hands with the clock and moving forward. Each step I take marks my new territory – I am a savior, I whisper to myself; my heart and the pills lying in the second shelf of the cupboard laugh. I chant my mantra and push my body to breathe, to live.
I walk on snakes’ tongues. Their venomous teeth touch my feet – nothing happens. The mental condition I go through has made me immune to every such danger. I am my own killer, my own rescuer.
Auditory hallucinations wake me up at night. I, sometimes, tremble with fear – strong my acquaintances call me; little do they know about this side of me. Those days, when the moon rolls itself on fire, I weave a net and try to keep myself intact by trapping each of my cells inside it.
A few days back, a friend asked to observe the moon every night. I inquired about the reason. He replied that it may help me heal soon. I laughed and agreed – I did not have any courage to tell him that watching the moon alone at night triggers my migraine for I see the face of a now-lost-once-a-beloved in it.
My whole body is a warzone. I fight against my genes; my mind battles against my desires; my heart against my existence. Who in their early twenties take 20-30 minutes to get up each morning? Each time I open my eyes after a nightmare-struck sleep, I find my heart racing inside my chest as if it would break the ribcage and get itself free.
Part 2: Delusions
Monsters are lonely creatures: nobody loves them and they hate each one equally.
Perfection is boring. Let me be as edgy and as imperfect as I can. The rawer my existence, the better I could handle the monster I have been turning into – nails sharper than blades, words toxic enough to compete with the inland taipan’s fangs inserted in your calf.
We are a generation who fascinates the idea of being virtually alive. Knives for teeth, radioactive bodies and copper wires for hair make up our definition of perfection. What’s wrong with our minds is no one’s concern; how to beautify our bodies and fit in the stigmatic society is what we actually strive for.
Sins – as bitter as your morning coffee – fill in the empty human-shaped vessel that you identify as your body. At times, you droop under the burden of each of your deeds such that your past forces you to share it with some mortal. You walk through mountains bare-footed to find that person and once your efforts bear fruit, your heart encourages you to transfer your mistakes on their backs – a process known as love in a common man’s language.
The more you try to lessen your baggage, the more you give them access to the ruined alleys of your soul. In return, maybe after a long time, you get a cold shoulder. You regret your actions but you have become so used to the presence of that person that you hide your disappointment and pain behind pretentious happy evenings and deadly stares of your already trembling future.
You live with each other not because you love one another but because you need someone to deal with your messed-up habits as a part of their routine. The older you get, the more you realize the superficiality of your relations; the less you have strength left inside you to leave behind everything and step out of that hellhole.
Still you think you have given the best of yourself to your partners by showing them your wretched guts and bloodied feet – in reality, you haven’t. You never get the courage to take them to the basement of your existence where the spiders’ webs hang over the walls and the corpses of your slain dreams and butchered desires lay naked in the dark.
Part 3: Anhedonia
I trip blindly over the skeleton of rotten faiths and predefined code of living. Caterpillars, birds, papers scattered on the floors, scared right cheek of the beloved, sky adorned with kites and sharp-edged knives define beauty for me.
A whole new world unfolds itself to me when I open up the wounds of the human race and step inside them. As the blood colors me crimson, I walk in the steep paths of the veins and remove the lymph by my fingers. Each new opening paves the way to reach the heart; I spend a few moments sitting inside the right ventricle.
Overwhelmed by the rhythmic pumping, I crawl to the brain. Each world printed on its dusty corridors triggers my anxiety; I cannot erase the brutal customs and values engraved in there. I seldom find any synchronization between the shouting heart and the dead brain – saddening it is for it forms the basis of almost all the vices roaming around the universe.
Such bodies are unaware of real happiness; they are the slaves tied to the invisible chains of the religion or the cultural values of the clan. They feel joy when their torchbearers – as they think – ask them so and become sad in the similar manner. The unkindness of waiting or the bittersweet joy of listening to the lover’s voice after months of separateness – the hijar**, the wasl*** – holds no meaning for them. They have been blinded by the illusions of the divine rewards imposed by their ideals on them.
Ranging from Prozac to Celexa, from Rimbaud to Nietzsche to Manto to Meer, their cures are well-known but they fear touching them; the light from the heavens would burn them for their deeds – a god I laugh over, a life I abhor.
Part 4: Reflections
“There are lies, there are damn lies and then there are statistics,” once a professor of mine said while delivering his boring lecture.
Keeping his statement in mind, let us not go for the glittery numbers or dumb percentages for a while as anxiety and depression have become so common that I fear the numbers or percentages may change while I gather data and present it here.
If we would not take proper measures for it now, the problem that has crawled into our world will not leave us any sooner. The more open-heartedly we embrace the mental condition we and our loved ones go through, the easier it would become for us to fight this devil. A lot of patience, understanding and an adequate medical treatment are the need of time – we cannot afford to lose our beloveds due to a disease that a human eye cannot see. Educate yourself, your family, your children, your friends, whosoever you can to understand and help others who are going through depression. After all, life is not a movie and cuts, drugs, cigarette burns and suicides are not romantic.
*Saudade: (Portuguese) A deep emotional state of melancholic longing for a person or thing that is absent
**Hijar:(Urdu) Separation from beloved
***Wasl:(Urdu) Meeting the beloved after long period of emotional pain
Kainat Azhar is a Pakistani writer and illustrator who has never formally studied the two. She hides behind the mask of a computer science major and is interested in almost everything that does not involve socializing. Her work can be found in Fog Machine, Other Terrain Journal, Big Lucks, Eunoia Review, Brain Knittings and E-tribune Pakistan. Literature, music and art were the escape routes for her once; now they have become her best pals. She has dedicated her life to them and wants to pursue a career in writing and painting. She tweets at @Kainat_Azhar.