I hear them running. I hear them jumping, seeking, burrowing. I hear them whisper. They are words and they are mine.
In those moments, they overwhelm me. I think of sparklers during the night. How little children run around with thin sticks spouting fireworks that only last for seconds. Yet, looking back, on the cusp of adulthood, I realise how lucky they were to witness the sparks. To laugh, to delight in fire. It is the same today, except the pen is my sparkler. The paper is the night sky. And with one wave, the words will tumble, heads over heels, towards the ground in sparks.
Countless writers have scratched their pens against the matchbox of Life. They burn out pen after pen trying to find the right spark. Together they form the literary canon, the bestsellers that riddle bookshelves, the scribbles of angsty poetry. We walk past them without realising. We speak of our Eureka moments, our crazy muses, our light bulb inspirations. Eureka moments are few and far between. Our muses take far too many holidays. Our light bulbs burn out. And the words, the real sparks, are indifferent. They are immortal. They will endure.
Today, I bring my pen against the matchbox. I watch its rough red surface with apprehension. What if I fail? What if I strike and nothing appears? Will they join the numerous failed attempts, the words that never make it through, the words that are left unspoken, unloved, unappreciated? I hold my pen more tightly and vow otherwise. If there is something I have learnt for all my time on deviantART, from the friends and family who love me, who care for me and who above all believe in me, it is that the words I write are an important part of me. They make me who I am. And no one can ever take that away.
My pen starts to swing.
I stare at the blinking cursor. I do not want to write. I do not want to mention those words. They rage anyway within my head: you have depression. You have depression. It is midnight. I huddle under my blankets in the freezing cold with my iPod. The page is DeviantART. The page is Notes. The recipient is KneelingGlory.
My fingers shake from the cold, and perhaps, from fear. What am I doing? Being stupid, of course, sneered my mind. How do you know she cares? She lives oceans and continents away from you. She's never met you. Now put the iPod away. Turn it off like a good girl. I resist. I stare at the blank page. All my life, I have been silent. All my life. Something hot and furious glows within my chest. I will be silent no more.
Using two fingers, I begin to tap. "Dear Lili, I feel like a coward. I feel like running away from everything and burying myself in some deep dark hole and not come up again. I feel numb to everything
I hit send. And just for that moment, in the darkness, something jumps in my chest.
In the morning, I turn on the iPod. A new note awaits me. I open up Notes. I don't click on it, not yet. Thoughts flash through my mind. What if she rejects how I feel? What if she just laughs off the crushing sadness that my family belittles? My heart twists and burns with agony. Eventually I cannot stand it. I jab with my finger. The screen shifts across to open the note. My eyes alight upon her very first sentence. A sentence that I still remember, months later.
"You are important, to me, to your family, to your friends. Don't forget that."
My eyes blur as I read. I lose myself in her words. I forget school awaits me. I forget my mother screaming at me. I forget except my hand clasping my iPod like a lifeline and my eyes never leaving the screen. And towards the end, she writes:
"You're already fighting, just by sending this note. Keep it up and your disease doesn't stand a chance."
You're already fighting, just by sending this note. I'm fighting, by writing. By letting go. The realisation jumps at me, a burst of dawn. There's a way out. And someone will listen to me. Someone cares.
The following months, I send note after note at moments of deep despair. I still type them in the middle of the night, on my iPod, and still lie in bed waiting for an answer. Still battle the lingering doubts. But with each note I send I sense the darkness retreating further. With each note the spark lives. I will not die today. I will live and love.
Through the discharge of words, I find myself a big sister I have never met. But one day I will.
August 5th 2010
It's the Social Justice Committee meeting today. I sit in one of the chairs that form a circle. The other councils, the Art Council and the Students Representative Council also join us today. The teacher in charge starts us off with a few ideas on what projects we should carry out this term. After a few ideas toss around, someone raises their voice. "What about depression?"
Something stirs within me. Now that's something I care about. Now that's something that's so misunderstood, so stigmatised. Something worth raising awareness for. Something worth learning about, to save people's lives, to tell them you're not alone. I long to agree with them, but my mouth keeps shut out of habit. Ideas how to kick start the project continue bouncing around. I finally speak.
"We should have a speaker too. A student who has experienced it. Who can tell them their story."
They all turn towards me. I quake within, fighting not to blush. But the words refuse to hold back. They tumble out of my mouth, syllable by syllable, piece by piece. "I have depression. It's
it's more than just sadness. It's numbness, it's pain, it saps your will to live. I've had suicidal thoughts in the past. But I find with friends (from dA, I want to say, but I bite that back) who listen, who care, it really helps. To know you're not alone."
A silence greets my words. And then I realise with a sickening jolt: these people are not my friends. These people are not my family. They're just kids from high school. I have just spoken about the most personal thing in my life in front of a bunch of strangers. I brace for the anxiety and ridicule from my mind. None comes.
Finally the teacher speaks, "Well, Rachel, thank you for that. That was very insightful, and very brave of you." All around me, I hear people echo her sentiments. I am barely listening. I am aware instead of my voice replaying, the words I generally commit to paper rise to the air in speech. As soon as the bell rings I walk out of the classroom. I take in the sunlight. And I see my friends. I draw one of them aside and tell her what happened. She smiles and gives me a hug.
"I'm so proud of you."
Back at home, crushed by homework, I procrastinate on dA. A message comes through. "Congratulations on your DD!"
I stare, gobsmacked, at the page. It is my Letter to my Younger Self, months ago. I smile and laugh and cry as comments and favourites flow in. Words jump out at me. "You have inspired me
No, I say to myself. They inspire me. dA, my friends, they have inspired me, these words. But now that spark urges me to pick up a pen. To find some paper. I obey its command and start to scribble. Within 24hrs, I write the second and most important letter to myself. The one which I leave myself a message.
"But Rachel, realise this for me. Realise that there are new beginnings. Realise, even in those moments when you want to die, there are chances for you to heal. And I know you can do it. Because you've seen everyone else do it."
"Hold onto that thought."
December 7 2010
The words are getting harder to suppress. The spark grows bolder, wanting to spill. I spill but even private notes are not enough. The anxiety I feel all exam period continues to build until I'm on my knees. Until I revisit the black dog of the past months. I open a new journal entry on dA and begin to type. Hours blur with my tears. I fight against the eventual posting. My mouse hovers over the 'x' button. But eventually I smash it all out. Still I hesitate over "Submit". I have let go to my friends, to my family and even to a little of the general world. But dA, my second home, does not know truly of me except my writings. To publish how I truly feel on an open journal is enough to quail my spark temporarily. People will now think I'm just another whiny teenager. The thought is enough to click the button. No. I will not let my mind dictate my time on dA. I will not let it crush me like it does in real life. No.
I say to myself only a few people will reply. I go to bed. Exam tomorrow. I have to concentrate. The spark does not want to sleep. There are more words beating at my chest but I hold them back for now. I have spilled enough. Shut up, shut up.
The next morning, my mouth drops open. I have more than twenty new comments, and four notes. I read them all and my heart swells. The spark blossoms into a warm flame inside of me. I read them again and again until I come late to my exam. I stuff up the last question but I do not care. My friends look at me blankly when I try to explain the notes, the words, the sparks that brighten my day, that even brush away that terrible mistake I make on the last question. But even their ignorance cannot dampen the words. I may not hear them, but I read them:
"I want you to know, despite the fact I've never seen your face, touched your skin or spoken words with you more than typed, I love you, and I am not the only one, as you can see in your journal. Many people here alone care about you."
"You and Lili, single handedly and probably without knowing it - became my inspiration and the drive to make up my writing. That could sound trivial coming from one of millions in this place, but it's very much true. You opened my eyes to the fact that there is emotional writing out there. It's not just poetry and prose."
"Hello, I know I am just a stranger -- but I felt the need to reach out. You put so much out there so let me put something out myself
"You replied to my own journal, do you remember? You said: once you talk, once you let go, you can start healing. And then you said: I can throw around more words but in the end, they're just words. From all the comments you've gotten so far, you've gained such a huge support base and feed off it if you can. Feed off it and then confront life in all its stupidity and weirdness and all that. You can carve something amazing out of it because it comes down to perseverance and understanding life as it is from your perspective. No matter what you do, you're not alone and never give up.
I don't know if it's hypocritical, but I'd just like to throw that back into your face, because it is true for you too. It's funny how we don't take our own advice sometimes, isn't it?"
22 days out from the New Year, and I look outside and swear fireworks are exploding somewhere. The words linger for days and weeks on end, like fairy dust. Life, once cold and numb, warms up for summer and the New Year ahead. And for once, my spark fails me. The teeming words in my head fade away, replaced by tranquility. The fire that burns within me, that lives in the guise of words I treasure, temporarily goes out. For a moment, I panic, but then it sets in. I put my pen down and watch the sunset. I watch the slow orange curve, like a candle's silhouette, flicker to twilight. And at last I remember to smile.
I have no words to describe the love of a community.