The Dementors came for me this week. I’ve sensed their presence for a while now, like the promise of frost in the air. Instead of facing them, I pushed my hands into my pockets, ducked my head and pressed on with life. I think that’s when they began to smile and call to each other.
I think it was my anger that gave them my scent, like blood trailing through water. In recent weeks I have become increasingly aggressive. I have been impatient with everyone, especially myself. The angrier I got the more it seemed that I walked through gloom illuminated only by lightning bolts of wrath.
The Dementors waited until I was alone in yet another hotel room in yet another city before they closed in.
As I lay sleepless on my bed I could feel them circling above me, whispering, waiting for me to turn their sound into meaning.
I flicked channels on the TV, looking for distraction but not finding it. The monotonous movement of my thumb on the remote, flicking from channel to channel, driven by habit rather than hope started to seem like the perfect metaphor for my life.
I stopped focusing on the TV screen. My thumb moved only because stopping seemed to take more effort than continuing. One of the Dementors lowered itself until its head was in front of mine. Words appeared, finger-drawn on misted glass. “You are empty.” ” You always fail those you love.” “You do not know how to love” “You are a fraud.” “You are selfish and vain.” “You do not deserve happiness.”
The words were mine, not the Dementor’s. Perhaps because of that, I felt they had the weight of truths long-known but carefully hidden. The stark, unforgiving accuracy of my words spread through me, freezing my spirit.
When the Dementor asked its question, I couldn’t look away.
“WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?”
I was a child at Catechism class once more, responding to mystical questions with rote-learned answers.
“WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?”
The Dementor’s question boomed inside my head. His brethren took up his question, turning it into a chant in my head.
I saw the trick in the question at once. It implied that living was a choice that I continued to make; a decision that I would, therefore, be held accountable for and have to justify each day.
Yet once the barb of the question was planted in my head, I could not shake it loose.
All that I am not, filled me then, drowning me in regret and self-loathing. All my failures, my betrayals, my weaknesses, my most vile thoughts and actions displayed themselves before me like a performance of a Circe De Despond.
An answer to the question started to scrawl across my consciousness. Each word deepened my dread.
Tears came then. Tears of self-pity and shame. Tears of exhaustion and despair. Tears that underlined my weakness.
For a moment I understood that I could make the tears stop forever; that I could wipe everything away; that I could be free. All I needed to do was surrender.
In these circumstances, Harry Potter would reach deep inside himself and summon a beautiful glowing stag Patronus to scatter the Dementors.
I am not Harry Potter.
My Patronus appeared as a fist with one defiant finger raised in the centre.
With all the anger I could muster, I pushed out the words. “FUCK YOU.”
The Dementors started to thin as I glared at them.
Just before they vanished, the nearest one said,” We will be back.”
It was so petty that I started to laugh. Once I started it was hard to stop.
When at last I was silent, I thought about my Patronus and what it says about who I am. I decided that it meant that I’m a bloody-minded, stubborn git who may fail but will never quit and never ever go quietly. It made me smile. Best of all, it let me sleep.
Sometimes depression hits me like a fist. I show all the classic signs: loss of interest in daily life, an attitude of hopelessness, a loss of ability to enjoy food combined with a compulsion to eat, bone-deep tiredness and an inability to sleep, loss of energy, a decline in self-worth and massive spikes of unreasonable anger.
Like many men, my first reaction to depression is to ignore it and hope it will go away. It never does. The longer I ignore it the higher the price I will pay for dealing with it.