November 28, 2016
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The Night Watch
by Carl Wade Thompson (essay, PG-13)
Carl Wade Thompson is a poet, memoirist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University.
During the fall of 2003, I made the decision to move into the dormitories at Oklahoma State University to continue graduate school. After spending a year in an apartment where I made no friends, I thought I could possibly work myself out of my isolation and be more social.
That was the one thing about major depression: I so desperately wanted to make friends, to have fun, to be happy, but every way I went, it just seemed like I couldn't reach out to anyone. But the thing I couldn't see was that it had nothing to do with where I lived, or how big the university was, the problem was with me, in my head, that was the problem. And no matter where I went, no matter how much I wanted to run away. And I was to find out over the course of the next two years, being in the dorms wasn't going to do a damn thing to help.
I ended up in a two bedroom dorm room with a roommate. We shared a living room, bathroom, and kitchenette, but we each had our own rooms. I remember talking to him every other day, and at first I thought we would hit it off, but after initially talking on moving day, I never really talked to him again. We might say hello if we were outside our rooms, but other than that, nothing. Most of the time I was in my room or in the living room while my roommate was out enjoying his life. I was in a dorm with hundreds of male and female students, people all around, and I never went out to do anything. I was so scared of being rejected and humiliated that I sat in my dorm room just reading, watching movies, or playing video games, anything to take my mind off never-ending thoughts of killing myself, but my self-isolation only made it worse. Being there, with the endless potential of friends, of hope, of life, I was locked in a prison of my own making. And no matter how many times I went to psychotherapy, or took my pills, it wasn't going to change anything.
Nights in the dorm were the hardest time. Alone in my room, or out in the living area, I would turn on all the lights, moving from room to room, trying to keep my mind focused on something other than the voice in my head that told me I was a piece of shit who deserved to die. That voice, so like my own, was always there, an idea so solid in the foundation of my brain that there was no way to break it. I would work on my homework late at night, TV or radio blaring, anything to mute the death song in my head, to put it in the background. Sometimes I went for drives, or I went to get something to eat. Food became a source of stimulation, a way to keep me going, so scared I was of going to sleep. But when the night became later and later, the more tired I became, and sleep could be staved off no longer. It wasn't that I minded sleep; sleep was nice because I didn't have to think; it was the going to sleep part which was the problem. Turning off the lights, crawling under the covers of my bed, I had to come to terms that I would not fall asleep immediately. And without the constant focus on something else, like a book, or movie, or a video game, I was all alone with my own thoughts, and that was the thing I was scared of most of all. Terrified of the full force of my unadulterated suicidal ideation, I would toss and turn as my consciousness tormented me the full force of a hurricane. I learned something, an unalienable truth ...
The darkness wasn't my friend.
Night seemed to last forever, time standing still as I desperately tried to sleep. Tired, eyes blearing, I tried to relax and focus on something else, just as my therapist had taught me. No matter how hard I tried, I never could accomplish the peace of mind I wanted. And as my mind repeated over and over again "You need to kill yourself," "Death is better," "You don't deserve to breathe," "You are not a human being," tears would roll down my eyes as I succumbed to despair. God, how I wanted to go home, to see my Mom and Dad, to hear their voices and know they were near. I knew I could call them at any time, but I also knew it would make them worry, and that would make me feel even worse. There was no way to win. I was a loser, always a loser, with no hope for a day where I was at peace. But finally, after I had cried and wiped away my tears, I was exhausted. And the voice in my head slowly faded, faded on into the void of sleep, and Hypnos came to sing her song. Sleep, oh blissful sleep, had finally come.
And dawn had come with it.
Article © Carl Wade Thompson. All rights reserved.
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