The Black was back.
Not real black, but that was how he had come to think of it, feel it, experience it. But what blackness was... the absence of all light; the absence of all color. When he was 10 or 11, he went on a field trip to a large cave where the guide had the class stand in a massive rock room, hundreds of feet below ground, and told them they were about to experience absolute darkness. Then he cut the lights. It was a darkness so black, so deep, so intense it actually made his eyes hurt. For thirty seconds they stood in the blackened room, not a giggle or a word or even a shuffle of feet from three dozen fifth graders struck dumb! No sound but the trickle of water falling down the walls. The thirty seconds felt like a day as their senses were assaulted by nothingness until finally, and with great relief, the lights came back on.
That was why he thought of it as The Black; life without light and without color, yet assaulting his senses. But he now knew The Black was just his name for what the shrinks and social workers called depression. The Black had come and gone for years, visiting for a few days or weeks before retreating to its den until next time. For awhile he called it burnout but it was not quite really burnout either. Then The Black starting getting blacker, deeper, and more menacing.
Seventeen years on the Job. Seventeen very good years in patrol, narcotics, the burglary task force, financial crimes and then back to patrol as a sergeant. He had seen a lot of depressed people in seventeen years - listened to them, counseled them, arrested them, sent them for psych evaluations - and for a long time thought them somehow weak and pathetic. He had been to the funerals of four coworkers who had succumbed to their own depressions, opting out with a bullet. He publicly hung his head in grief but privately he scorned them for their weakness.
Now he felt like such a hypocrite, staring at the pistol on the table next to him as his wife slept upstairs without knowing of his plan, finally understanding why, knowing a sadness without reason that hurt so intensely. He could no longer take The Black. He had to escape it, to do this thing he could no longer put off.
Now sobbing and shaking with fear of the unknown to come, he pressed it against his ear, shocked at how heavy it felt in his hand, and tried to compose himself as the tears flowed. He was petrified this was going to hurt - he knew it would - but it could not possibly hurt worse than The Black. He had run out of choices. He had to do this. He pressed harder, waiting, waiting... then:
911, what is your emergency? 911, what is... Sir? Kurt? Kurt, is that you? Kurt, talk to me, what is it Kurt?
Sherri... Hi, Sherri, it's Kurt. Sherri, please, send someone. Sherri, I need help...
Depression hurts. Sometimes, depression kills.
Understand, the type of depression we are talking about is not merely a case of the blues, being down in the dumps, or experiencing normal sadness one would expect due to circumstantial events. It is normal to be sad, even depressed for awhile, if you have suffered a loss, experienced a major disappointment, or find yourself facing something unpleasant. The type of depression we are talking about is the kind that takes hold of someone mentally, emotionally and physically, to the point it impacts nearly every aspect of their life. It is the type that becomes their dominant emotional state, even when there is no apparent reason to feel sad or depressed. It is the type that, unlike simple sadness that will soon pass, persists to smother hope, leave its sufferer despairing of things ever getting better, and in the worst cases decide that not living at all is far better than living without hope. It is the cruel type that can come and go, unbidden and unexpected, to throw someone to the mat and hold them down for a few days or weeks or months, only to slip away as quickly as it arrived with no idea of when to expect the next bout.