Beyond the divorce, a new hope found.

When you have no prior experience with love, the first person to show you the closest thing to love would have an impact on you. Perhaps that’s where some beauty comes in, though in some cases, the beauty and happiness fades fast when you are in a lonely rush, and that feeling you thought was love, was built on a rocky foundation, and things just change. I wish I could tell you that doesn’t mean that you can’t be loved, or that you can’t love.

You’re okay, and just because you’re growing up and falling out of love, that doesn’t mean you have to leave everything you liked when you were a child. You have a long way to go, to grow, and love someone special again… you’re only getting ready to say “nice to meet you” to somebody you never knew—you.

Divorce. It’s a word, an event that brings in emotions of all sorts. Usually, unpleasant ones. At least that’s what some may think or say out loud. I wish I could tell you that the end of a marriage doesn’t make you a failure; that I know you tried your best to make things work, but it just didn’t. You are more than your past. This post may be more personal and intimate than my usual ones, and it may take a while to read this. But I do want you to take a moment to realise this, whether you’ve been recently divorced or not, your divorce does not define your lack of worth. Sometimes, a separation happens so you can build up instead of breaking down, and perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself, is to forgive yourself, love yourself, and grow. 

It’s common to have someone painted as a villain when a marriage breaks down. While there may be exceptions too, I feel it’s necessary to understand why it happened. I was very blessed to have this conversation with my friend, Nicholas, who confided in me about his shortcomings and the things he learned from his divorce. One of the hardest things to take away from our conversation was “the things we wished we had known better”. What I truly appreciated was his vulnerability to talk about these difficult emotions, because they were necessary. A wound like this can feel fresh, even after months, and it was important for him to get his feelings out there, here, without being judged.

For the sake of confidentiality, I will be leaving out names. Nicholas first met her when he was 19. Prior to knowing her, he had never been in a relationship. Much secluded in his own shell at that time, letting people into his space wasn’t a part of him. And the times where some would try to connect with him, debilitating waves of insecurities would take over his mind, and Nicholas found comfort in persuading himself not to be attached at all and giving himself reasons why he was unworthy of having someone to care for him, vice versa.

“You’re not going to be good enough. You don’t have a car. You’re not in a stable financial situation. Your family is dysfunctional.” He went on meeting with this woman with that mindset, and all the other feelings he had in general, including the lack of experience with the opposite sex. And sometimes, the world plays tricks on us, on when you meet people. She was at the end of a broken relationship that was manipulative. What Nicholas had to say was, at that time, she was looking for a reason to leave—and then she met him, they found each other. Maybe he was a breath of fresh air, she took an instant liking to him.

While Nicholas was feeling lonely, he wasn’t actively pursuing something. With the added inexperience he had, she was just attached to him and latched herself onto him, emotionally and physically. There was a physical intimacy that he wasn’t used to. Just talking to Nick about this, he admitted that all the things they were doing, it was a rush. They were both young. She was experienced with men, and wanted something emotionally better. She knew what she wanted. He didn’t. He reciprocated because she did first. It is all so strange for Nicholas, this treatment—to have someone being so strong-willed and latching on to him this much. 

“Even if I wanted to resist, I couldn’t.” 

When Nicholas mentioned this, it made me think of how so many of us, especially when we come from a dysfunctional home, always feel lost when someone feels strongly for us. I think about just how much insecurity we carry with us unfairly for the way we were raised. And this ball of insecurity just keeps building itself up in subtle ways: giving us every single reason we can think of why we do not deserve better. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t either. They were both young, and perhaps that given a chance, they both would have made different decisions then. I could tell from his voice that there were times he would unconsciously reminisce about some good times to the point where it just stings.

I asked Nicholas, “You talked about not being willing to make yourself emotionally available to anyone. She came along, and came off so strong, emotionally and physically… and because you were a stranger to this sort of treatment, you just went along with it. Would you say, at any point, did you feel a genuine love for her? Or were you both co-depending on each other to fill in each of your personal void?”

It’s hard to confirm if it was love, and he confessed to having moments where he felt strong feelings for her. “To this day, I don’t know if it was love. I was never in a relationship before so I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know what I was feeling. Maybe back then, I felt that it was love. And maybe in hindsight, I’m being confused because I don’t have anything to really relate to and compare it with. I didn’t have anything to confirm that it was love. But, in comparison to feelings I had for her in the future, after things were said and done, I think that it really was more of a physical attraction-based kind of feeling—and that she gave me a lot of emotional and physical attention, quickly. I believe that’s what bonded us more than just me loving her for who she was. I don’t think I had those deep romantic feelings because it was so fast.”

He continued saying, “Sometimes, the more I’m thinking about it and bringing it up, there are moments where I can remember we disagreed heavily on something. And I have moments where I’m thinking ‘just what did I get myself into?’, ‘what am I doing?’, ‘where am I?’… I’m spending all my time with her, doing everything, ‘is this where I want to be?’. I’m not seeing my friends as much and I was used to seeing them a lot. I’m not doing my hobbies as much. And after a couple of months just doing the same things with her and when the emotions started to wear down, I still wanted to be around her. I still felt very committed to her but I wasn’t sure how I felt about leaving behind all the things I was used to, and that would constantly be a slight argument between the two of us. She was worried I wasn’t ready to commit because I was missing the things I was doing before.”

Throughout the first several months of being together, she was having questions about her ex, the way he treated her, and how she was feeling about him. Phrases such as “I really wish he wasn’t the way he was because I liked him for…” Being younger then, Nicholas didn’t like hearing about her ex. Those sort of emotions were heavy for him to handle. “The closest I even had to being in a relationship, it was me talking to a girl I was crushing on and she would just have me as an emotional ladder to make herself feel better. So to sum up everything, the attraction we had for each other was just through a fast emotional and physical intimacy. Freshness. Excitement…” His voice trailed off. “If anything, I think we were both bonded by the excitement of having something new.”

I noticed how he was trying his best not to stumble over his words too much. Things like this take time and a huge amount of self-reflection. Those memories are just from so long ago and Nicholas was trying not to let negative memories from the current divorce make those memories tainted or biased. And, here’s where I want to say it’s not easy finding balance in that because you either blame yourself completely or the other half. It takes grace to be honest that you made mistakes just as much as the other half did, especially since most of us have been conditioned by our households or the media that “one is always more wrong than the other”. This, I believe, is unique for everyone, not every divorce happens and ends in a fixed manner.

“And then the child happened. You were 19. Tell me how you felt when you found out you were going to be a father, when you were not prepared at all…” I whispered, “What happened?”

Finding out that she was bearing his child then, on that one particular day, it was the start of a very stressful year for both of them. What time they had remaining in 2014 was a rush of adulthood. To get a car, get a bank account together, a place to stay, a stable job for income to provide. Nicholas went from job to job, from gas stations to cleaning cars. Living from place to place, and surviving fights after fights. Adulthood came crashing down. “That’s when the foundation of having a family began, but it wasn’t a foundation that was built between me and her. Everything that used to be fresh and exciting just dwindled to the stress of being an adult, and a new frightening world where we were both becoming parents. I had to provide for my family.”

It was no longer a matter or question if he loved her. He was questioning his own self worth, if he was able to pull through all of this as a man, as an adult, and if he was able to provide for his wife and soon-to-be-born child. “We married in the same year out of obligation because we needed a place to stay. We even talked about it the night before, and I told her that I was sure we would’ve gotten married eventually.”

I cannot possibly fathom how overwhelming that was for both of them. Despite this, Nicholas realised something now and he assured me, “You know, back in those days, in a lot of ways, the quick adulthood gave me a jumpstart to myself at least. Back in those days, I didn’t have a good work ethic. I needed to be serious.” I couldn’t help but point out to him about something he mentioned. I told him I found it interesting that when he discovered she was having a child, they had the conversation of marriage, where he said he was sure they both would’ve gotten married, eventually. I couldn’t help but wonder if he said that to comfort himself, or to comfort her, just to ease the situation. It was probably to comfort both of them, he said. What’s the difference between getting married now or later? It was a coping mechanism for what was happening.  

To give a quick flow of what happened later, just having to raise a child, seeing her grow up, there were cracks in the marriage. Still detached, Nicholas couldn’t be emotionally strong and available for his wife. I asked him why this was the case, “Why were you so closed off? Was it still tied to the fact that she had more experience and you were just existing?”

“Once I became an adult, once I landed a job, landed a place to stay, and when my daughter was born, I was just worn out. That one event sculpted me and after a little while, I found myself yearning some of the things the old me had. The solitude. The responsibilities that I didn’t have. My friends… I missed my friends. I didn’t hang out with them as much anymore…” This was very painful for both of us. He struggled to talk, and I struggled not to break down. I sincerely believed that he could recite all the reasons that he is much better now, yet of course he was still left with the emotional pain and scars. All the “what if’s”, the guilt, the shame, the path both of them would’ve taken not to lead up to this day.  “And she was noticing these things. I confided in her.” he said. That’s when she finally asked, “Well, do you love me? Do you love us?”

Nicholas couldn’t give her a straight answer.

He hesitated.

She never forgot that hesitation.

He knew he couldn’t fault her for it. In her own brokenness, she was looking for validation for her own actions and taking accountability for what took place. She needed him to be a strong supporting figure for her and the child. “I was selfish. I couldn’t shake away those feelings of wanting to go back to where I was. It was just too much. While I immediately formed a fatherly connection with my newborn daughter, I told myself I wasn’t going anywhere. I was going to stay for my family. But at the same time, there was another part of me that wished I could be experiencing fatherhood at a later stage.”

They divorced in 2020. But during the late 2017 up to 2019, conversations about divorce surfaced every now and then. Verbal fights happened and one particular event sealed everything. I will not go into the details here. It’s like a series of landmines, they go off in your face without any warning. Maybe the signs were there all along, the cracks from the brokenness you carried. But the pain is unimaginable—all the shrapnel of memories piercing your heart. All the things that used to center around your life come to a halt, things that used to define you are just ripped away. The jigsaw puzzle of your life, half of its pieces all gone… and yet, the world still expects you to form a coherent whole.

Your happiness has become a distant sentiment; a mere memory of what once was. You look at childhood photos and recollect on who you used to be. It’s hard to believe that was you. That bright exuberant smile portrayed in one family portrays a realization of regret. Remorse clings beneath the words you speak. Anger arises in the gestures you create. A sudden dislike for things you once enjoyed becomes apparent. A fondness you once believed to be unbreakable has now been shattered by the person you’ve created… Then you just have enough. You’ve had enough; you’re exhausted and out of breath.

Nicholas started therapy early this year in 2021. Once he knew in his mind and in his heart that the divorce was actually happening, it set a new chapter for him to change his life, the things that he was bitter about and the pain he felt of not being enough. This was going to be an end to something that he had been so used to, and was just tired of.

“Right,” I assured him, “and there was also your daughter to think about. While you were going through therapy, you discovered plenty of things that you didn’t know better then. Things that changed your mindset, the things that shaped you for the Nicholas that I am talking to right now. And I can imagine how different it must’ve been for you too because you had been alone, then together with someone for so long, having that physical person centering your life, and now you are going to be without that person.”

I think it’s incredibly nothing short of inspiring that, despite everything that happened, Nicholas was open to healing. But first, he had to accept that things went wrong and he was a part of it. He wanted to reach out and talk to people again. I like to think that, at least from what I remembered from our first few exchanges, it was clear to me that Nicholas was very troubled, it’s just commendable to me for him to just be honest and raw with me, and to just have that trust in me on all these things even when we barely knew each other. In that way, I could say that perhaps that Nicholas admitting that he needed help, getting therapy, was truly one of the best decisions he made for himself.

He thought about his daughter a lot in regards to how he was with his wife. He wanted to show his daughter what a healthy relationship looked like, and that was another reason for taking up therapy—to try to improve himself so he wouldn’t have to repeat the mistakes his parents did, the mistakes he did for himself, and for his daughter. That’s the Nicholas I know now.

I further said this to Nicholas to confirm some things for myself, “If I may add, you may correct me if I’m wrong since I am using intuition here and from the things I’ve gathered since our first interaction. One of the reasons why you struggled to get a divorce too was the fact it would have meant failure for you, as a father, as a man. The societal pressures and stigma were all on you, you were in that anxious and fearful state that also, at that time, seemed to have masked itself like a safety net (eg: you have a place to stay, a car, etc). But what you had not allowed to give yourself was space, a space to grief. You didn’t allow yourself to be vulnerable, that you needed a connection. You didn’t have the time to be vulnerable, to be real with yourself and acknowledge the severity of the loss, and really take your time to cry, to be weak, to break down and to mourn what you lost. That’s why you fantasized instead, “if only this” or “if only that”.”

“No, you are right. There was a large part of me that felt that I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to be like my parents. All I really wanted was a healthy relationship and even if I didn’t know how to do it, I just never gave myself space to reflect on what was best for us, individually. I didn’t allow myself to think about the things that I wanted, the things that could’ve made me happy. I was just caught up with being a father. I didn’t know it was okay for me to get help.”

Perhaps this divorce was the only way Nicholas was able to rediscover who he was, the person that is purely himself. He had all these dreams, of writing and creating things… All those memories of running in his backyard, making up stories in the back of his mind. It was nice to be young and innocent. He had those beautiful dreams that he needed to make into some kind of reality for himself. When your dreams are so very different and the person you are with can’t support you in that, everything can become muted and confused. Instead of building each other, both Nicholas and his wife gave each other a terrible compromise that made them neglect their own happiness. They are both better now, they have forgiven each other. While they both work on their own happiness now, they are in a much better place than they were before.

We have come to the end of the story here. I will say that marriages can end. Regardless, you deserve to move on with love for yourself. Even in your separate ways, to know that neither of you were perfect. While the initial stage of a divorce can create a radical new context for the past, and you find yourself groping through an all-enveloping darkness for structure and order, you are okay. You will be okay. Look out the window again and feel the breeze on your skin, hear how the birds sing a melody that affirm, on the darker days, the possibilities of life, the outside chance that aching may, one day—be suffused with tenderness and new hope.


“Lucid. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to just leave things behind and start over.”

Of course it’s not. 

The way we deal and handle adversity reveals so much about how we can grow, it starts with acceptance that we are not perfect, and that it is okay to be vulnerable, and reach out.

I wrote this knowing full well in my heart that I am grateful to be trusted with this piece to share it with all of you. It has been a difficult one to write, but it has been so worthwhile too. I hope that reading this piece, you were able to find comfort in some parts. Having said this, Nicholas is an amazing person and writer, and you can read 'Theater for Moths' by him and reach out to him at @nickhazeee. 

Dear Nick, thank you for trusting me for this, I’m so proud of you. 
Keep breathing. Keep healing. Keep growing.ps, dear readers: You can let me know your thoughts or if you prefer to talk to me in private, you can always reach out to me in my DMs. Love, Lucid.

With him.

Life, you walked too fast
I don't know what I lost in the way today,
my existence looked blurry
when I peeped into myself.

TW // Suicide. Death. Psychological Abuse. [ This is a work of fiction. ]


“You poor thing,” He said as he bustled around with his smile. “You’ll never amount to anything. Don’t worry though, you’re good at hiding that part of you. Everyone around you thinks you’ve got it together. They won’t suspect anything with the way you smile, handle your job like a pro, and so much more. In the meantime, you can try to hope things get better so you can live longer, but don’t count on it, darling.”

I laughed nervously, forgetting that I was in the middle of painting something, I didn’t even notice that the brush hung limply against my fingers, fresh paint dripping onto the floor. I must confess that at this time I was a paranoid 30 year old filled to the brim with anxiety. I had just gotten home after seeing the psychiatrist and the last thing I wanted was to be regarded as the poor thing. “That’s not true,” I stammered, trying but failing to instill confidence with what I have left. “I will get better. You’re just not giving me a chance to. I’ll work hard. I used to have trouble waking up in the mornings but I do that now, don’t I? I am going to get better and happier. I am going to make new friends, see the world, and do the things that I love.”

I didn’t realise how fast I was speaking by the end.

He turned over to me, my eyes instinctively turned away, I could see from the corner he was still wearing his indulgent smile on his face. “If that’s what you think, darling. But let me remind you just how pathetic you are. Now, let’s see. I am going to ask you to play a game with me. We’ll take a walk down memory lane. I’ll ask you questions, and you answer. Will that be okay, sweetie?” His voice sounded sweet with poison.

My past had been a place I never wanted to revisit for good reasons. All those memories of traumatic experiences that have been painful and have left their emotional residue within me… Just how long had I been faking security? Even then, I didn’t want to give in completely, not especially when he was giving me a rub on my back, something that I didn’t ask for. I’ve been living with him for as long as I can remember. My conversations with him were something I’ve grown accustomed to and though I didn’t necessarily agree with the things he said, I just didn’t have the mental energy to start a debate with him either. As these thoughts ran through my mind, the only impulse I wanted to do was to shout at him, “Right now??” but nothing came out, my defiance clamped in my throat.

“Sure, go on.” I gave a despairing sigh, my hand instinctively putting down the paintbrush on a wood palette that rested on my art desk. All my thoughts of peaceful solitude fled my mind like scared children, my mind felt full of static like an old television set that has lost its signal. I was hesitant. Part of me was screaming to run away from him, but I knew it was futile to put up a fight against him.

His fingers left my back as he eagerly helped me to stand up, then carefully, he led me up the stairs to my bedroom and for an awful second, I was sure I nearly tripped over the steps when he let go of my hand. I could imagine then that there was an odd look on his face when I struggled to maintain my balance, almost as if it was farcical to him, that the odd look quickly  morphed into a smile as he reached his hand out to help me. I apologized and he assured me that it was alright.

When we reached my bedroom, he had been nice enough to help me sit on the cushioned bed. I noticed he had arranged the pillows neatly too, and the sheets looked clean. Quite comforting to know he wasn’t staying rent-free. It took me a while to get used to the idea that I could carry conversations with a person who never got out to do anything for himself but only stayed indoors all day, all night talking to me. It made perfect sense to him, because he was still taking care of the house.

“Remember when you were seven and couldn’t fit in school because you stuttered?” He took a vanity chair and sat legs folded in front of me. My eyes went down to the floor.

“Yes, I do. They made fun of me because I was different. I couldn’t concentrate in class either because they were always picking on me, even when I—” My shoulders tensed up a little as I tried to get the words out. “Even when I paid no heed to their business. The teacher wouldn’t stand up for me because I was just too different. It wasn’t their fault though, I don’t hold any grudge against them, we just didn’t get to communicate properly.”

“On the contrary,” He cut in, his voice stingingly sharp. “You’ve got that wrong. They didn’t like you. That’s why they picked on you. Speaking of communication too, wasn’t it just as awful living with your parents?” He narrowed his eyes and glared at me as he demanded, “Admit that it was a living hell for you.”

He wasn’t wrong. It really was hell living with those two. They fought, every single day, over the smallest things. There were nights where I would lay in bed listening to their constant berating and insult at each other. The sound of clashing voices became familiar to me. I was confident that if I tried hard enough, I could recite all the things they said with their raised voices. It would start so quietly, small bickering over a dinner session gone wrong, or if my mother didn’t like how father would leave the chair unarranged after he used it. Those small jabs would quickly evolve into spats. Not long after, my mother would shout, my father would begin laying into her and the screaming would finally begin. No one could possibly fathom how a lot of those times left me with the emotional pain and scars I tried to bury. But at that tender age, the only thing I could do was shut the door tight and push my face into the bolster my ten-year old body wrapped around, praying that I could lose my hearing just for the night.

“It was awful. I was young, but I’m 30 now. I’m old enough to know that they didn’t mean to hurt each other. They must have inherited some trauma from their own past, causing them to surrender their self control, to have their primitive brains take over tasks that,” I took a deep breath. “—tasks that empathy and logic should have been custodians of.”

When I was 12, I would think of how I would be better for them. Get better grades. Never missing a class. Making them proud. Maybe, just maybe if I studied harder and aced school, they would then be proud of me and not have to fight anymore. Even when I was enduring the terrible cycle of pain, I wanted to grow up faster so I could be better for them. And I had intended to find out how I could end the fighting. I would read all the books that taught self-control with empathy and logic. I had hope. A hope to release my parents of their own brokenness into wellness.

Then one day, she just left.

Mother left, and I remained right where I was, with just books to comfort me.

He laughed out loud, the kind of mocking laughter a man makes when he’s already had you once. I imagined he made a face of forced acceptance. “But your mother left you and your father in the end, didn’t she? God. She must’ve been fed up with how much space you took up in that house.” He was twirling his legs with such energy as he said it.

I inhaled deeply, then turned my face upward to the ceiling and held it for a long moment before I replied. “Stop it. You don’t know her. She had her reasons.” I shook my head, got up out of the bed, and began to pace toward the bedroom window with the city view, the sky looked so liberating. “You speak of her as if you knew her inside out. You know nothing about my mother.” I said, trying not to gaze at the reflection.

“Oh, but I was there. I was there when you spent those countless nights crying, the kind of weeping that could break a saint’s heart.” He came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, they felt cold. He brought his lips close to my ears and whispered, “I was there. Even with that incident with your father, I was there by your side.”

After a lifetime of loneliness, I could not imagine what would break my spirit more than it did after my Mum left the house. But I learned that it was also dangerous when you tempt fate with such imaginations. My father learned to manage his temper and he left me alone to figure out a lot of things on my own. Fortunately, I could do it. But I had not expected life to drive him to a state where he would set himself on fire when I was 19. I got the call from the hospital. I had never run as fast as I did then.

When I found him in the ward, I could not recognise him. It felt strange to see this man who bore the resemblance to my father looking so lifeless on the bed. He looked up at me with his brown eyes flashing through the layers of pain—the eyes that were the only part of him I could recognize among the mass of white bandages and tannic acid that covered his burns. “They’ve told you I can’t survive, haven’t they? Don’t end up like me, son. Don’t make the mistakes I did because I lo—”

I never got to hear what he said until the end.

I’m not sure if anything would have changed if he had finished his sentence. But I recall, in that ward, I held my father’s hands in mine, closed my eyes and shed tears. The pain of my mother’s absence and my father dying with the wrapped burns, penetrated my soul. I struggled to make sense of it.

The one time I needed someone, Dad slipped away from my fingers, and Mum was harder to find than empathy at a psychopath conference. Somehow, that was when I started seeing him visibly too, at this time, this entity began to take shape.

From the outset, I put him in his right place in my mind, he was merely a friend of convenience and nothing more. But even then, I wasn’t so sure if it would stay that way. Somehow this being just found a way into my home and made it a comfortable place for him, for us. In fact, I was neither accommodating nor welcoming to him, but he seemed to be there at my lowest moments when no one was. Even if he was not particularly uplifting with his words, he was the only one there with me. It was not too long before he got involved with some of the new people I was getting to know. When things turned sour, and it was often, I had to force him back into the house and forbid him from following me outside. I wasn’t sure how many people had noticed how clingy he was around me then, and I certainly could not have told them of all the misery that lay behind my face, the pain that never left me, and the wounds that never really healed.

It was funny too because I would remember the hours I spent to get him to communicate with me on the same wavelength, but he always had a way of making everything sound so cynical. He was always trying to be nice, forming and giving me ‘helpful’ opinions at my worst times in the worst places. With all the effort he went through to be supportive, he sure had a way of making my own efforts to resume a normal life to appear insignificant. He said everything he did was for my own good. The longer I was with him, the more obvious as to what he was trying to teach me: Give in to him, and I will feel euphoria. It sounded too good to be true, so I never took up the offer nor did I even experiment with that idea. But hell, he stayed in my place for another 10 more years, trying to make everything about him and us. In his head, he said the two of us were soulmates—that we were perfect for each other. I didn’t want to believe all that because there were other things that had my attention.

Nothing could be more boring than the exercises assigned to me by my psychiatrist who checked on me three times a week. “Do something you enjoy! Depression can push you to give into your fatigue. It may feel more powerful than happy emotions. Try to push back and do something you love—something that’s relaxing, but energizing. It could be playing an instrument, painting, hiking, or biking. You told me you love to paint so paint the things you love. The next time we meet, you can tell me about it.” I’ve heard that a million times during therapy.

And then he would let out a chuckle each time I would look in the mirror as I try to motivate myself. Each time I would remind myself that I was loved, he would cheer me on, lead me to a false sense of security, only to say “Just kidding!” a few minutes later, followed by a snarling laughter with a slap to the knee. Nothing could be more frustrating than to try to write positive notes to myself only to see him correcting my spelling, turning my “I am worthy” into “I am unworthy” on the pieces of paper. Or to be writing poetry with him looking over my shoulders where I had to make words rhyme with “sad”, “depressed”, or “useless”, and he would make a scene if the poem wasn’t good enough for his standards. Or, worst of all, to sit facing my dressing mirror and have him touching me without my consent and reminding me that I didn’t need anyone so long I had him in my life.

“I have always been with you, and I am so fond of you, Chris,” whispered him cheerfully, “I just know you’ll be much happier with me. Forget the people that say you need proper help. You just need me to take care of you. And I will, I will love you so much that you wouldn’t find hope in anyone else but me. Because all this time, no one was there for you at your lowest except me. I tried to be there for your Mum and Dad. Too bad they broke too easily, but you? You’re special. You had always been the resilient one. It was so alluring, enticing.”

His grip on me was getting tighter, it had gotten more tense than the usual grip-and-whisper sessions we had previously. Usually, he‘d be all sarcastic, then start to apologize before he planted kisses on my cheek and my forehead. The room lights too seemed to be dimmer than normal. Also, why was his breathing getting heavier and his face getting closer as if he was going to kiss me on my lips? I had to get a glimpse of his face…

“Oh my god.”

I froze as soon as the words escaped my lips. When I looked at his face, what greeted me was the perverse pleasure gleaming in his eyes, his facial expression almost dehumanizing. Did he always look this twisted?

“What’s wrong, sugar?” His voice was low and icy.

“Oh my god. To think it had always been this way. It is ironic, is it not?”

“What’s that?”

“That for years you stood by my family, all the years that my parents were at each other’s throats, that the only thing that kept us from giving into our inner demons, was you.” The strangest thing happened, I felt his grip becoming looser. “I’ll never be good enough for you. But what I never understood was, why didn’t you let me die after all this time?” Only then did I remove myself from his grip entirely.

“Don’t you understand? You can’t die. I need you to be alive so I can feed on your misery. But it’s not just me. This isn’t a one-man show. This is a team effort! Don’t you realize you played a part in this too?” Where was the cynicism in his voice?

“Played a part in what?” I was surprised by his question until I remembered how I was letting him have his way then. I had allowed this person to take control of my life and the people around me. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but as I stared into his eyes, I realised now that he was never meant to stay in this place. He wasn’t supposed to have this much power and control over me. And that all along, a truth was emerging: I wasn’t afraid of him; he was afraid of me. He was afraid that if I started seeking help in the right places, that if I had reached out to somebody for healing, then he would have nothing on me. I’m sure, though, that if I had reached out to even one person that cared for me – that saw my worth – it would’ve been enough to get rid of him. He would simply have to accept that I was bringing in other people and interests that gave me joy, and no one would have believed his word against mine.

When I look back now at those days of my childhood, time was distorted: But I knew that the periods where I couldn’t explain the things I felt, the occasions where my parents struggled to be civil in their own home, he had always been watching us. He drove my father into a state of apparently uncontrollable anger. And even when I grew older, and became somebody, I eventually had to go home again, and when I did, he made sure I paid a heavy price for my hours of happiness.

I can’t remember what I’d done this time; I just know I had been trying to paint a future. By admitting that I needed help, I was making a new start and taking the initial step towards the hereafter. I wanted to draw a line under the sorrow of my childhood, to relegate it firmly and irrevocably to the past—the past where my heart knew my family belonged to.

Even when he stood so close to me I could see every detail of his sneering face, I saw my own reflection in his eyes—broken, but not defeated. I still found him extremely intimidating and my feet were trying to take steps back. Yet I did not move. I did not want him to think for a second that I was afraid of him. I wasn’t anymore. I simply brought my hands to his face and touched his cheeks, almost caressing it and I said, slowly, in a normal and assuring voice, “I’m sorry for not being kind to myself. Today, I am forgiving myself. I am forgiving you. Not because you deserve it, or have stopped the grief that lingered. Today, I am forgiving myself, because I deserve it. I was never so sure, but I know now that I am the bigger person here. I’m alive and I’ve got a chance. And I choose to let go. I am letting you go.” I was so tired that it was a real effort to speak.

Depression moved his lips to have his say.

But nothing came out, tears welled up in his eyes. 

They say sadness masks itself behind anger, yet anger never comes unless in direct self defence, and so perhaps I can credit this natural passivity with his willingness to cry and feel pain, to let his sorrow teach me more about my true nature and how fragile I was as a human. He turned, and I saw his back. I don’t remember if I have ever seen the shape of his back. He  then let out a cry that almost broke my heart and as the last note of his cry trailed into the air, I began to experience inner peace. I didn’t feel so alone. Somehow, I was going to make it. 

I don’t really remember what happened afterwards, all I knew for certain was that I never saw him again. For the first time in the longest while, I slept peacefully that night. As I began to drift into slumber, whimsical dreams of myself painting in a flower field while Mum and Dad laughed like strangers falling in love in their earliest exchange greeted me. I saw what resembled enrapturement to me. Extraordinary it was.

When I woke up the next morning, I searched for a photograph of my parents’ wedding in their bedroom. There it was in their dresser buried underneath a pile of old clothes. I held the photograph in my hand gazing on its yellowed surface—it was the most perfect memory of those two and I chose to have their smiles etched in my heart. I chose that photograph because in that moment, they were the couple they should have been, would have been, had it not been for the stress of life. In that 1987 snapshot, their unwarped personality was something so golden and sacred I wanted to cherish it forever. If I had been a great painter I’d sit with an easel and attempt to paint their marriage with splashes of love. But instead I just let the photograph make an impression on my memory. I saw my mother’s tenderness and my father’s youthful spirit. I needed those memories to stay with me, I needed them to soothe me when the bad ones threatened to erase all traces of those people I held dear, even in their absence. I wanted to recall everything that made them beautiful to keep me alive.

I wanted to live on.


I cannot recapture the past any more than I can escape it. But some of us can hope for love as well as understanding. When the world opens its eyes to mental health awareness, understand the weight it carries, and validate a person's state of being and emotions, everyday life will be a shade more pleasant. They say that Depression is just inside my head—they’re not wrong. Well, not entirely. But maybe through this story you will see just a glance of how Depression can be, and how terrifying it is as a physical manifestation. This is how Depression talks down to me and I want to fight it. To disregard a person due to their mental health is injustice to me. All too often, even when we are hurting, we jump into defense, anger, and sarcasm quickly and no one leaves the conversation as a victor. We give in to anger, instead of stepping away. We join in the crowd, instead of thinking for ourselves. We forget ourselves. Does this mean I'm wrong? Does this mean you're wrong? That's not the point. I just hope for all of us to be kinder, more compassionate to others. The world needs more love. It can be done; a simple message that you care for a stranger online or even a text to a friend to remind them how blessed you are to have them in your life. "I hope you're okay"—this sentence alone saves even just one person. Not everyone will read this message and agree with it, and that's okay. I still want to thank you for reading it. I hope you have a nice day wherever you are.