Have you ever felt like you’ve been awake your whole life? However many years that is – fifteen, twenty, thirty, fifty. Awake that entire time, never allowed to sleep, because every time you try to lie down, just to get a single moment’s rest, the world asks something else of you. And you’d give anything for just one night – just a single night! – of sleep. Just one. If the world could give you that – if the universe or your god or gods could give you just one night – then you’d happily go the rest of your life without sleeping again. But you just want that one night of sleep, because you’ve been awake for so, so long.
They talk about the road to recovery. You’re depressed; you start treatment; you get better. Sometimes it’s as easy as that. If I ever meet a person for whom it’s been that easy, I’ll be sure to tell you. For me, the road has not been a straight one. I am walking towards the light on a road that often twists and turns so far away from it that I lose sight of it all together. And so it goes and goes and goes, and I’m still begging the universe for my one night of sleep. Just one. I’d give anything.
This road is not a smooth one. It has so many bumps that will trip you up, hobbling you until you must limp forward, crippled. There’s no other choice. There are no rest stops. You do not get to stop walking. You go onward and onward along a road so pitted and scarred that at times it is nigh unpassable. It twists and turns so that sometimes you are going backwards, moving further and further away from the light, but still you hobble on. What other choice is there? There is nothing but the road. And so it goes. Maybe there will be sleep at the end.
You will be tempted to stop following the road. You will ask yourself – why seek the light? It is so far away, and offers no warmth and only enough illumination to throw shadows before you, obscuring the road further. Why keep walking? It is so tempting to stop forever. It is so tempting to say, to hell with the light, to hell with the road, to hell with all of it, because you have been walking your whole life and you’re still not there and it never seems like it’s getting any closer. Why bother? Why not just…stop?
Some people do. I do not blame any of them. I feel sad for them – my heart aches for them – but I do not blame them. This road is so hard, so unforgiving. It asks so, so much of us. Too much, maybe. I do not blame anyone who stops.
There are people who can help smooth the path before you a little. Perhaps they will remove some of the stones that might have tripped you up had you come across them. Perhaps they will shine a little light to dash away the shadows, making it easier to see. Perhaps they will warm you a little when you are chilled to the bone and feel as though you can’t move another inch. But ultimately, one must walk the road alone, helpers notwithstanding. And so it goes, and so it goes. One step after another, no rest, no sleep.
This is the road to recovery. It can take a long time to reach the light at the end of it. Some people never reach it at all. Some people find themselves stumbling or collapsing from exhaustion before they get to the end. I was almost one of those people, once. Almost. Not quite. Too close for comfort. They say the road gets smoother the further you walk. It is true that there are fewer stones, fewer shadows, than there used to be. I suppose this makes things a little easier. But I still have to walk – alone, unassisted, bearing the scars of every injury sustained upon the way. And it’s hard. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. The light is getting closer but it’s still so far away and there are days when I fear I will never reach it and I would still give anything – anything – for a single night’s sleep, just one. Just a single one. I have been walking for so, so long. I am so tired. I just want it to be over.
You’re depressed; you start treatment; slowly, you begin to get better, but this does not mean you can no longer get worse. The road is not a smooth one. It is not forgiving. It will demand everything of you, and then it will demand more. And you have no choice but to keep walking.
The light beckons. Maybe once you reach it, they will finally let you sleep.