‘I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.’

It was hot. Exactly eight-hundred degrees, if memory serves; there were no fans in the paint-chipped house that swayed on the corner of Chestnut Street.

Two little hands, crayon-stained no doubt, pawed at the orange shag and pulled at its ancient fibers, slowly, one-by-one. I hated that carpet. I hated the color and how it made me itch. I hated that it had not been vacuumed its entire ‘life‘. Holy crap, how it stunk! But most of all I hated that the carpet was the same color and the same texture and same freaking smell as the one in his house, the house that plagued my dreams. The carpet reminded me, unnecessarily, unapologetically, of a terrifying and traumatic experience that I, so young, could not fully understand, yet would never escape.

So I pulled. And pulled. And silently commanded the carpet to obey. It should obey.

Everything should.

Nothing did. Neither the carpet, nor the weather, nor the adults around me would bow to my wishes, my needs. Hell, not even my own body acknowledged my pleas; another panic attack. I shook and whimpered and stood. Determined to do something, anything, before drowning helpless in tears, I did the only thing that calmed me, the only thing I could do: I walked.

I walked. And I walked.

Twenty-six years later, I am still walking. I might never stop.

Depression was not a choice, nor did it choose me. I was borne from it without ceremony. It has always been a part of me, since the earliest years. I’ve grown almost dependent on the pain. Could I breathe without it? Is there a me without it?

But oh, how I crave those things, those beautiful, magical things. Hope. Tranquility. Love. They threaten these carefully placed walls with their illustrious promise, their sweet scent. And I do take joy when I can; but those things never stay long, do they? Not for the Lost Ones. Not for the people like me.

Our story is laid out on sticky, yellow parchment: sorrow after struggle after sorrow. I suppose that sounds over-dramatic, but it is only what I have seen in my own life and in the lives of others. Those with mental illness suffer a great deal throughout their time on Earth. Part of me feels that this corresponds with the fact that people living with depression and other invisible illnesses tend to be the most empathic. We see more, feel more. Perhaps that makes all the difference.

There is so much of this world, of ourselves, that we cannot understand. Maybe it’s drawn to us, this dark. This hole we are forever trying to escape. This forever inside of us.

Forever has grown gray for me once more. It is sharp and stabs in all those places I wish to forget. Struggle does not seem the correct word. No, I am not struggling. I am at war.
An ancient war with no hope of victory on either side. And I want, almost feverishly, to surrender. Still, I try.

I really do try.

I try for the good things, the good and beautiful, wonderful things. The things that are not meant for me. Still, I want them. Desperately. So, I try.

I try for the people in my heart, the ethereal souls that have held my hand along the way. The faces and voices and words and care of the ones who cheer me on, and up, who know the road too well. Too, too well. The ones who deserve far more than they’ve been given.

I try for the little crayon-stained hands that wrap themselves in mine.

I try for the Sunday breeze that hums beside the creeksong. I try for the long evening walk that makes my legs shake and my eyes bright. For the giggle in my ear. For the purrs and tails and furry feet. I try for the stories that pound my skull and beg to be freed. I try for the inappropriate jokes and poorly received puns. For fuzzy socks. And leftover pizza. I try for the unexpected friendships, those magical connections that take root in my soul. I try for Jane and Bowie and Elizabeth. I try for the midnight chats, for the understanding, for the compassion. For the validation. For the sweet words. For the hope.

Hope. Yes, I try for hope. The hope that, one day, somehow, life will at last be kind.
If only for a moment. I try in the hope that I do not fight in vain. I try in the hope that this battle, and all I have fought, will someday make sense to me. That it has a purpose. That I have purpose.

And then, maybe then, I can stop walking.

‘For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content.
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.’

*On Monsieur’s Departure by Queen Elizabeth

Niko Staten is children’s author and part-time human being. Her life’s goal is to become the first ginger captain in Starfleet. Or, you know, to just finish writing her damn adult novel. Follow her on Twitter @NikoStar