In 1992, I was fighting a crippling depression that had lasted three years, and was in a day-treatment program at Abbott-Northwestern. I would spend weekdays there and then evenings and weekends at home. The despair I felt at that time was so total, so overwhelming, so agonizing, that my “pain meter” was buried in the red, 24 hours a day. I hurt so bad that I couldn’t see color, I couldn’t hear music, couldn’t tell day from night. When people talked to me, it seemed as if their voices came from miles away, like hearing people across the lake on a still summer night. I hurt so much for so long, that I couldn’t feel anything. And what was more terrible was that I had come to think that this was my normal state, where I was supposed to be. Like Jim Morrison and ‘The Doors’ sang: “I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me.”
I remember that I was waiting in my car at the Burger King drive-thru, when a song came on the radio. It was an old ‘Blind Faith’ song of Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton’s called: “Can’t Find My Way Home.” It’d been so long since I heard it, and such a favorite, years ago, that it somehow pierced this thick cloud of pain. And for just a brief moment, I became aware that the window was open, and it was snowing and my arm and the window controls were soaked by the melting flakes. I became aware that it was a dark, wild December afternoon with the clouds rushing across the sky like a herd of gray buffalo. I could smell the food cooking in the Burger King, and see the traffic hurrying by, and hear Steve Winwood’s sad, high voice singing: “…and I’m near the end, and I just don’t have the time. And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.” And I sat and wept in my car. In sadness that I, too, had been lost for so long, and I couldn’t find my way home. And in happiness that I could, just for a second, hear the song, and smell the burgers, and see the clouds and feel the snow. Could sense my heart breaking, that I was still alive, not a dead person liked I believed I was so often.
And the next day in group therapy, when asked how I felt, I said that I hurt. Not why I hurt, just simply that I hurt. And I began to grieve, and let my heart continue to break open, and heal. And I’m still healing, still going.