The Darkness by John Craver
Depression gets inside you and never wants to leave.
There’s an empty space in you where life used to be.
You don’t know what joy is really anymore.
Nothing fills the black hole inside you that’s for sure.
It sucks every emotion, and desire out of you.
It gives nothing back except an empty space in your heart.
It leaves a sinking feeling in your chest.
People look at you but never see your emptiness.
They can’t see beyond the fake smile on our faces.
Slowly the darkness grows over you and consumes your soul.
It completely covers you and takes its toll.
You succumb to it and fall helplessly into its cold grasp.
It holds you there no matter how much you struggle.
Soon you realize you’re in trouble.
It blocks out everything around you.
It limits your thoughts to just a few.
You start to feel numb to everything. No joy… no laughter.
You near nothing but silence.
You wonder is this my penance?
You try to cry out, but no one seems to hear you.
You reach out for help but no one sees your hand.
So you sit here with your thoughts smothered in the darkness that has become your life.
Your wife smiles at you, and thinks everything is good for now.
You whisper as she walks away…
Don’t leave me alone I’m not doing so well…
A poem by John Craver
John Craver is a corrections officer that wrote the following piece as part of a department discussion surrounding staff mental wellness. Craver has shared his story below with us in hopes to help break down the stigma of mental health problems, especially in public safety, law enforcement, and first responders.
My Understanding of Depression
I wrote this for the CIT program but never got a chance to present to them. I let some committee members read this and they suggested I present it to the rest of you. It’s about depression but a little bit about myself too.
Depression affects one in four people in this country, and if It were counted as such it would be the most prolific disease this country has ever seen. Correction officers, for example, retire at the age of 50 because they do not live very much past that age due to stress and all the effects of it has on the human body. So believe me when I say this disease is killing us. Just like cancer would, it just takes longer.
Sadly, I am one of those people. I have A-Typical depression and anxiety. I used to think it was just anger, me getting frustrated, or not fitting in but it’s more than that. It changes how you feel about everything in your life; your relationships with other people, your moods, and especially how you view your career. Depression is like a roller-coaster with highs and lows, and there are weeks and even months with no sign of it. But no matter how good my life is, no matter how great my kids are doing and making me proud, I still have times of serious doubt and depression.
In the past on several occasions I’ve contemplated suicide. No matter how much you have to live for you can still find yourself in a position where you are looking for a reason to hold on. Sometimes living is harder than getting out. You debate with yourself the pros and cons of going through with it and wonder how people will remember you. The only thing left is trying to convince myself that everyone is not better off without me and I would be hurting the ones I love. Instead of looking at it like it would be a great release, I need to think of it as the tragedy it would be and how it would affect everyone I care about.
I can’t control when these feelings happen or how to stop them. It feels like they just sneak up on me and get inside my head. There’s very little one can do once the depression has raised its ugly head again in your life. Through counseling and having people I can talk to about it I’ve learned how to just get through it. It’s like a storm, only it’s in my mind.
Now I’ve been told to try to exercise, read a book, go for walks, or even try and meditation but nothing can cure this disease not even my medication. I just have to ride it out for few days or weeks depending on how bad it is and then it’s gone. Like a ghost that was never there. Sometimes, like a ghost, it was never seen by anyone else or people talk about it with hushed words. Believe me when I tell you I feel it every day and night until it passes.
I do my best to hide it when it comes but that’s not always so easy. Oh, I’ll tell you I’m fine and everything is normal, but ask me the right questions and it will all come out; my anxiety, my fears, and doubts. I can remember and feel every failure and let down in my life and career when I am down. Nothing has come easy to me in this life. I have to work harder just to fool everyone in believing I am the same as them.
When I’m at work, I’m focused on the task at hand and don’t usually have time to think about things. Work is an excellent distraction from my feelings, and at work I’m busy trying to better myself daily. But at home when nobody is around, where It’s quiet, it can set in on me so fast it’s scary. It’s like a hand comes out of nowhere and pushes so hard on your chest it feels like the weight of the world is pin you. Then the repetitive thoughts are like a record skipping over and over again in your head. You try to think your way through it, but it’s no use. It just keeps on skipping.
Out here it looks calm, but inside it can be so loud.
I find it very hard not to fixate on negative things, and work has no shortage of negative things. Often these things keep me awake at night. I rarely sleep a whole night. It wears me down and makes me tired, cranky, and miserable.
Inside I torture myself over stuff I can’t even control. I just wish I could spend more of my time being content about all the good things I have in life. My wife tells me I have a lot going for me, but I can’t always see it. I wrote a lot and actually wrote her a short poem:
“You say a lot of people have it worse than I,
And honey, I promise I’ll try,
But that doesn’t mean someday I won’t say goodbye…”
I wrote this some time ago and I have written a lot over the years. My wife has seen almost all of my writings. I go to counseling, I’m on two different types of medications. These help me to hide my problem from everyone around me, but I’m still socially awkward. Often, I can’t help but feel like a social outcast or a piece of the puzzle that nobody has found a place for yet.
Unfortunately, it’s better for me and my career for people to view me as an easily excited person, or a hot head, or even someone out of touch, but not a person with a problem. And that is the problem.
Even in this day and age it’s not socially acceptable for a correction officer or anybody to show weakness. The stigma is real. In society, in schools and colleges, and yes even here in our department where we have spent the last two years talking about mental health, it is still not a subject that people are comfortable discussing.
The reality is my mind likes to torment me. All the while I’m trying to be a good husband and father while making everyone believe everything is fine. I am just one of thousands of people who have a good life, but suffer from depression.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that realizing and talking about it is a start, but not enough.
We need to find a way to let our staff and people in general know that it’s OK to not always be OK.
One last thought, don’t worry about me. I have a good life and I know this.
I’ll be fine.
Depression is a medical illness and requires prompt, appropriate care by a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment works, and individuals struggling with mental health problems can become well again. If you’re hurting, check out our other links with information on how and where to get help.