Depression, for me, is a drag. It looks a bit like seeing the world through dirty glass. It feels a bit like walking through knee-deep water. It’s like Monday morning after a weekend spent doing chores. It’s like your car needs new brakes and your toilet won’t flush and you know something else is going to go wrong, but you’ve accepted with a bone-weary knowledge and keep trudging forward.
It’s also a little bit like I’m the only person in the world. It’s a selfish thing that hurts the people I love, if I let it. It’s like I’m standing on a beach full of pebbles, and I’ve picked up one tiny pebble and am holding it in front of my eye and it’s enormous, and now I can’t see the others because I am confronted by this boulder.
“How can people kill themselves?” a friend of mine asked recently. “How can they do that to everyone around them?” Well, in my experience, there’s a certain kind of self-centeredness that comes with serious depression. It’s an ugly side effect.
The holidays were hard for me this year- after the sweeping life changes of 2013, the holidays by myself felt a bit like a dirty nightcap at the end of a wild party I didn’t want to attend. I felt more down than I had in a long time.
Yoga and meditation have been a tremendous help to me in fortifying my defenses against this disease, though. Recently The Onion published this piece: New Antidepressant Makes Friends’ Problems Seem Worse. Although it’s a really funny idea, there’s a great truth to it. The antidepressant is compassion. The secret is love.
I do what I can to remember this: When I am allowing depression to get the better of me, I am not able to give my best to the people in my life. Now, this doesn’t mean that I can just “snap out of it,” but it does help to give me direction- to remind me to do the best I can to take care of myself so that I can be more available to people who need me. Friends, family, students. It helps me to make better decisions.
Michael Franti and Spearhead have a great song- I’ve posted it at the top of this entry- that I have been listening to in dark moments. Although it’s about free speech, the chorus speaks to me like a call to arms: “Is your love enough? Can you love some more?”
So I am reminded that I can help myself to walk through this time by doing the things that will help me- my practice on the mat. A walk in nature. Meditation, regularly. And if once in a while I need to take a nap at 3 in the afternoon because I just can’t face the world, then dammit, I’ma do just that. I’ve got work to do, serious loving compassionate work to do, and I’ll do what it takes to help myself get to a place where I can be more effective.
Here’s a poem to share with you. It arrived via Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac in my Inbox on December 30, and I burst into tears when I saw the title. If you’ve ever been so far down that you thought you couldn’t keep going- if you thought nobody would care- I hope this speaks to you as it did to me.
No Hemlock Rock (don’t kill yourself)
Don’t kill yourself. Don’t kill yourself.
Don’t. Eat a donut, be a blown nut.
That is, if you’re going to kill yourself,
stand on a street corner rhyming
seizure with Indonesia, and wreck it with
racket. Allow medical terms.
Rave and fail. Be an absurd living ghost,
if necessary, but don’t kill yourself.
Let your friends know that something has
passed, or be glad they’ve guessed.
But don’t kill yourself. If you stay, but are
bat crazy you will batter their hearts
in blooming scores of anguish; but kill
yourself, and hundreds of other people die.
Poison yourself, it poisons the well;
shoot yourself, it cracks the bio-dome.
I will give badges to everyone who’s figured
this out about suicide, and hence
refused it. I am grateful. Stay. Thank
you for staying. Please stay. You
are my hero for staying. I know
about it, and am grateful you stay.
Eat a donut. Rhyme opus with lotus.
Rope is bogus, psychosis. Stay.
Hocus Pocus. Hocus Pocus.
Dare not to kill yourself. I won’t either.