Depression—when hope shrivels from grape to raisin size. (I wanted to use a watermelon for the size factor. But a watermelon doesn’t work for the analogy. Anyway, you get the idea.) Yes, I struggle with it from time to time. Like now. Not only that, I struggle with admitting that I struggle with depression. As I considered a subject for this post, depression was not my top choice. But it was the honest choice. You can thank Mishka Jenkins for that, because this post on her blog (A Writer’s Life for Me), prompted me toward honesty.
Sometimes life is like this (left photo), rather than this.
As I consider my state of mind, for some reason “Duel of the Fates” by John Williams is playing in my head. Star Wars fans will remember hearing that music during the battle Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi fought against Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (episode 1). Depression, however, doesn’t seem as epic as that choreographed fight. But it is a battle, nevertheless.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (left), Qui-Gon Jinn (center), Darth Maul
When dust piles up in corners and you stop noticing, except in bursts of clarity when you realize you have not dust bunnies but dust warrens, that’s when you know the gray cloud overhead isn’t a raincloud.
But who wants to hear that? We want to hear stories of triumph not tragedy, don’t we? Don’t we? Hmmm. . . . So, as I debated over this post, I had a running conversation with myself like Gollum had with himself in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King—only mine was less psychotic.
Me: Depression? Nobody wants to hear that.
Me Too: But maybe if I admit I struggle with it, someone else will have the courage to admit that he or she does too.
Me: Still, I should write something cheerful or encouraging, shouldn’t I?
Me Too: But if I don’t admit to where I am and write about something else instead, it will look as if I’m having a party on the page that I’m not having in real life.
Me: Yes, but won’t the post seem like a downer?
Me Too: Life isn’t just a series of stairs going up. Some stairs go down too.
Me: I don’t really know what that means. . . . I want potato chips.
Me Too: Well, it means . . . Oh never mind. I want some too.
So that’s where I am. For some “fixers,” this admission might present a problem. Some might want to rush in with advice for how to get over this. “Why don’t you try . . .?” “Do this . . .” “Well, if you would only . . .” But you have to get through certain experiences. One of the best things you can do for someone going through depression is to listen without judgment before rushing in with advice, even if you can only listen for a short while.
Want to know something interesting? As I began this post, the latest Brain Pickings newsletter came through the email. In it was an article by Maria Popova concerning a letter author E. B. White wrote to a despondent man. Here is a quote from that letter.
Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
The entire letter is here. You can find the letter in this book. In the article on White’s letter, Popova included a link to an article on White’s belief in the “writer’s duty to uplift people.” That article is here, and contains this quote from White:
I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.
So you see why I debated about whether or not to admit to depression, especially if a writer’s duty is to be “lively” and “lift people up.” But White mentioned the need for truth also. Sometimes, you have to admit where you are in order to begin to move on.
By now you probably have “Duel of the Fates” going through your mind also. If you’re not familiar with that piece, check it out:
Weed photo from outsidepride.com. Gollum from wallconvert.com. Raincloud from stevecotler.com. E. B. White from Wikipedia. Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul photo from cwcgoodlife.blogspot.com.