In our series of letters from African-American journalists, novelist and writer Paula Hawkins reflects on her journey to identification as she writes about her battle with depression

on

“We hear your poor Rick,” they say.

“We see your poor Rick.”

I love how you describe it. “We see your poor Rick,” doesn’t it sound a little
like you’re inviting him to kill himself to you? Is that what you were hinting
at? When you put it in that way it still sounds like you were trying to get
him to come up with other ways to get him to kill himself.

“We came to meet with you so we could better know the pain.”

I’ll say this about myself: when I’m in pain, I’m not always the first to
cry out. When I’m in depression, I’ll sometimes be the last one to say I
might die.

I know what you mean about the pain, the crying. I don’t want to be the one
to tell the story, that’s what I’m for. This story about our journey to
identification: my pain is also the pain of all of us who have been through
depression before we decided to tell stories. How do we identify when we are
feeling alone? Because I don’t know how to do anything without telling stories.
I’m not sure I’m capable of saying anything about my life without
telling stories. But I do know what it feels like to feel alone, which I
would never wish on anyone, because I would never want anyone to feel alone.

So who, exactly, is the person who feels alone?

***

We are taught to be strong and to be tough, but to feel weak and to
feel weak. We are taught to be strong and to be tough, but not to be weak
or delicate.

It’s easy as we grow up,
when we are children, to feel helpless and confused. We are young and we
have nothing to lose if we don’t know how to get what we want. We have
nothing to gain by being weak. We are growing up and we have so much to
gain.

As we are adults,
when we are grown up, to feel helpless and confused. We have so much to lose
if we are to know how to get what we want and we have so much to gain if we
know how to get what we want.

There is a paradox.
When we feel helpless and confused, our emotions are telling us we don’t want
what we want. So what do we want? What do we want?

Perhaps some
of us are more in touch with who we are feeling a little weak right now
than others. When I feel helpless and confused, when I feel hopeless and
unfulfilled, when I feel I don’t want to be here, when I feel I’ve been
hurt again and again, when I feel I don’t want to be here, I’ve tried to
tell stories. I’ve tried to give people the stories I have told you and to
give you the stories I have told myself.

I’ve tried to give them the stories I have been telling myself.

I’ve tried to give you the stories I have been telling about my life.

I’ve tried to give you the stories of my life. Because you are the reason
I’m here. And although my story is the one I tell myself when I’m trying
to give you the story of my life, it is, for both of us, the story I am
telling to myself when I am trying to tell you the story of my life.

It is not easy to be the one to tell stories. Especially when we’re trying
to be the one who tells stories. It is not easy.

But it can be done. When we are in pain, when we are depressed, we sometimes
don’t feel like it’s possible. But it is possible to tell stories.

We tell stories when we are in pain. We tell stories when we are hurting. We tell stories when we feel alone. We tell stories even when we’re happy. We tell stories with all the people in our lives who love us. We tell stories with the people in our lives who have not told us stories. We tell stories to people we don’t know. We tell stories to strangers we don’t know.

When we tell stories, we don’t know if the audience is going to like or
dislike it. Because the truth is,
what we don’t know about the people we are telling stories to, is what we
are going to lose by not telling stories. What we are going to lose by
trying to give people the stories we have told ourselves.

I think it’s possible to be in pain, to be depressed. The feeling of self-pity
and inadequacy are real. They will not disappear if we do not tell stories.

I’m not trying to be a hero. I’m not trying to be a hero by saving
myself, or another.

I am not trying to be a hero by giving people the stories I have been
telling myself.

***

When I was 19, I went to a party. It was a college party. A party with a
lot of drinking and drinking with a lot of drinking.

A lot of drinking.

A lot of drinking.

A lot of drinking with a lot of drinking.

I was at a party. I didn’t expect it to be a magical night. And in my
mind, it really wasn’t. But, there I was, standing at the bar,
alone.

I had a beer.

And then I began to feel lost.

Lost in the crowd of people.

Lost in the crowd.

Lost in my own mind.

I had a beer.

I had a beer.

I had a beer.

Lost in the crowd.

Lost in my own mind.

I had a beer.

I had a beer.

Share this
Tags

Must-read

Tommy’s mission was to escape from the waking world

He needed to figure out a way to get back to his own body, so that he could complete his mission without having to go through the motions of a waking life. There was...

Beth stood atop the headland, watching the waves crash gently onto the ocean, feeling suddenly as if she was being pulled away from herself,...

Yet as she gazed out into an ocean that seemed to beckon as an unknown singer sang a song of longing, Beth felt suddenly as if she had been the one to place the...

The green eyes looked at Danielle, and then at the knight

“Sorry,” Danielle said, as she saw the last of the needles float out of sight, and the wall in front of the knight collapsed. She looked back down at the green eyes. “Is it...

Recent articles

More like this