Reach out in the darkness

26 07 2015

hands in the darkness

There was no sun this morning. Just grey sky and a dampness that drains the color our of everything. I haven’t slept well. The chorus was singing all night in my head.

I feel like I’m up against the world.
I’m no good.
Why can’t I ever succeed?
No one understands me.
I’m so weak.
I’m a terrible person.
I’m so disappointed in myself.
My life is not going the way I wanted it to.
Nothing feels good anymore.
I can’t stand this anymore.
What’s wrong with me?
I’m worthless.
I wish i could just disappear.
I’ll never make it.
My future is bleak
It’s just not worth it.

This is the chorus of Depression singing its classic litany. Every person who has every suffered depression recognizes it. They’ve heard variations on the same theme in their head. Just thoughts, just the symptoms of the disease, like chills when you have the flu. But when you’re in the middle of it, they don’t seem like just thoughts. They seem to be telling the truth. The grim, grey, hopeless truth about yourself and your life.

I’ll never make it. I’m too weak. I always do the wrong thing. I always screw things up. I’m going to lose everything. It’s all my fault. What right have I got to be happy? I’ve done stupid things and made bad choices my whole life. I’m useless, and I deserve to suffer.

Sound familiar?

Once you’ve been depressed, once you’ve had that prolonged, intractable stretch of clinical depression, those neural pathways are set. The road has been built and paved smooth. Even if you manage to beat it with some combination of drugs and therapy, those solidly wired neural pathways are still there. One wrong turn and you’re back on that road again. People who’ve had an episode of depression are likely to have another. It can become the pattern of their lives.

Like an alcoholic, for whom just one drink is enough to collapse them, the vulnerable person needs just one blow to send them sliding down into the pit. Unlike the alcoholic, who can choose not to drink, we can’t always choose to avoid the blows life sends our way. Life is filled with disappointments, tragedies, sorrow. None of us are exempt. Loved ones die. Jobs are lost. Marriages fail.

Frightened, frantic, too overwhelmed with grief and confusion to conjure up the weapons to fight it, despair and hopelessness like fat leeches hanging off your back, draining the fight out of you, you fall.

Fetal position on the bathroom floor. Unable to get out of bed. Wanting to hide, give up, desperate to do anything to make the pain stop, sick to death with the unbearable wretchedness of yourself and your wasted life.

It is at times like these that you need to have others around you who know the disease, who have been there, who understand how it works. You need someone trustworthy who will hold you tenderly, speak to you gently, and remind you firmly that this is the disease. No fault of your own. The judgement upon you, the curse and condemnation are just thoughts, just the brain generating ideas. Not facts, not the truth. Just phantoms, however real they seem. Yes, your troubles are real, but they are not personal, not an indictment of you as an individual. You are still loved, valued, as much a vital part of the world as your fellow creatures. Your troubles will pass. The sun will sparkle on clear waters again.

The ruminations of depression are just thoughts. Very, very, unhelpful thoughts. The brain is a marvelous thing, but it was not perfectly designed. It evolved imperfectly. For all its wonders, it makes mistakes. Fools itself. But it also has a way of catching itself when the limbic system or some other mindlessly reflexive component begins to send it bad advice and harmful messages. We can train ourselves to be aware of it. To recognize it. To see thoughts as mere constructs of the mind. Some are helpful. Some are decidedly not. We can learn to distinguish, with the help of others, the perceptions that save us from the ruminations that tear us down.

With the help of others. That is why, when there is no sun and the morning is grey, when the chorus has been at it all night, when all I want to do is hide from everything and quietly cry–

Hiding is precisely what I must not do.

So this is me, writing, posting, not hiding. Reaching out to the fellowship around me, to the sunlight in the souls of others. Together, we will not go down that black road again. Alone, the shadows will eat us. Together, we hold brave candles against the dark.




9 responses

26 07 2015

I know exactly of what you speak. While the worst of my own depression was the inability to get off the couch–not the full out fetal position on the floor (how painful for you)–the way you describe it, the blows that so easily return us to that well-paved road tumble upon us unbidden, and are unresponsive to “affirmations.” It often takes that someone to hold us, or something outside of us to help turn us around. I do not have that someone in my life; I have my beloved pets, however. And I do have friends, who, if I reached out would provide verbal support.

I find this quote reassuring:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” Pearl S. Buck

26 07 2015

A beautiful affirmation of the tumultuous uber-passion of the deeply feeling creator. Thank you for sharing this quote! I once had such a someone, there always to hold me. How I miss that security! But then, I now must learn how to grow straight, without leaning. Perhaps this is a good thing, although it doesn’t feel that way.

26 07 2015
Mary Jolles

Although I have never personally suffered from depression, I have relatives who do, and my heart goes out to everyone (including you) who suffers with this chronic disease. It is fascinating, in a morbid sort of way, how depression can cause the brain to generate irrational thoughts to go along with the malaise. I found that with students suffering from anxiety, the disorder would manifest itself also as thoughts and beliefs that simply had no basis in reality, but seemed very real and true to the sufferer. Almost as if the brain was trying to explain the condition by conjuring out of thin air some sort of justification for its existence. This is so very hard to cope with, I know. Hang in there, friend! This too shall pass.

26 07 2015

I think you are right. Chemistry (or even circumstance) generates the emotions, the fear and anxiety, and the rational mind manufactures the justification for it. Unless you understand what is happening, you are as helpless as a kitten. It is walking into a room filled with monsters and repeating aloud, “I know you are not real,” gritting your teeth and saying it again and again, even when you feel their chill touch, their withering breath. If you can stand firm, the sun eventually rises and the monsters fade, and you see that you were right.

26 07 2015

Thank you for posting this.

26 07 2015

Your thanks is my reward, my comfort, my justification.

26 07 2015

Sending you love!!!!! *Hugs* So much to talk about and seeing you in just a few days!!!

27 07 2015

Ah damn, so sorry to hear the great black beast is back, hanging out on your front step, drinking up your energy and farting out evil thoughts.
Now there’s an image! I think I’ll try to picture that next time he visits me – all I’m experiencing is the smell of beast-farts! I picture him like a filthy Minotaur, by the way…

Thanks for not hiding. I know it is hard as hell to talk about without feeling like one big self-pity-party. Oh I know! It isn’t true, though, and we have your back as best we can from a distance.

27 07 2015

Thank you for understanding! And for that image of the Minotaur. Can’t help but smile.

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