Main page

My childhood


Social phobia




The Twelve Steps


All posts in chronological order

The knife twisting inside

Greetings all,

I write this in the midst of another depression attack.

It is difficult to say why this attack occurred, or what can be done about it. It simply happens gradually but no less suddenly. Abstinence does not help - I have been abstinent three days, under a new and very generous definition, and sober in my other addiction for 48 days.

All I can think about is an aching, longing desire for a hug. To be loved. To be accepted. To feel warm arms around me, caring about me, genuinely affirming that I am, that I exist, that I am worthy of life.

I think of when I was a little boy and my mother used to hug me, and how she stopped doing so when I was about eleven. And I remember coming to her for a hug at the age of thirteen, or fifteen, and getting pushed away, or accused of hurting of squeezing her too hard. I relive the rejection I felt, how deeply wounded and crushed I was, and still am. I want that embrace, with the despondency of a child who wants what he cannot have. I want to be held again, achingly, to be comforted rather than to comfort, to receive love rather than to give it endlessly to those who value it not.

The massive sense of hurt and abandonment that rises during a depression attack cannot be easily described. Perhaps the best metaphor is that of a knife twisting inside, a yawning torture of pain that has no real location and no true cause. The location is inside my head and the causes are an illusion. But the pain exists all the same. I feel in in the bus as I lean my head against the window and start to fall asleep at noon; I sense it at work as my mind drifts into fog; it comes to me when I am playing with my young cousins and I want to just hug them deeply, but they want to run and play like any child.

The desire for a hug is not something easily gratified. OA members are generous with hugs, but these last only a short few seconds, and can only be experienced briefly after meetings, at most once a day, usually no more than four times a week. My longing to be held runs more fundamentally than that. The wellspring of shame, loneliness and despair is a constant companion. It wakes me up at night, wrecks my concentration in an office, haunts me on the sidewalk, pounds my fists on the bathtub wall.

I relive the agonies of past years. When my father called my mother a sightless, blind worm and a cancerous evil (I was 15). I remember the terror and fear I felt as my mother hit my father over the head with a telephone (I was 14). I don't feel anger during a depression attack; oddly, I feel only sadness, regret, and most of all pain, stabbing pain, mindless pain, of the sort no bandage or balm can heal, no solace seems to reach, no comfort able to penetrate. The more I try to conquer this pain, the mightier it becomes.

Crushed is a good word for how I feel. Like a crushed piece of litter, blown by the winds along the sidewalk, meant to be thrown in the garbage but not even landing successfully there. Sitting forlornly, flattened and stuck to the ground as the soft rain falls, a spectator at life rather than a participant.

And there is the agony of wanting to cry but not being able to. The pent-up emotions begging, pleading, for release but the body not responding. The tears are gone, dried up, fled in terror at the multitudes flooding in on them. Gone to a deep, secret place with no key and no map. Eyes may close, screams may hear themselves uttered, but the gentleness of a warm, salty fluid flowing down my cheek, the sad but sweet comfort of expression of grief, is a gift that remains denied to me, despite prayers, despite meetings, despite therapy, despite anything.

This black mood is not always present, but when it is, nothing is real. Nothing else matters.

Oasis, Sept. 23, 1996.