Depression: The absence of gratitude
There was a time when I wanted a really big house. A two-story house with big bedrooms and bathrooms with his and her’s sinks – even though there is no “his.”
My siblings have huge houses on big chunks of land. BIG – as in having an intercom so the kids can ask mom to bring some snacks down to the basement, where they have gym, pool table, bar and movie room. You can put a 20-foot Christmas tree in their living rooms and it won’t hit the ceiling.
My house is 1,332 square feet on .17 acres. No basement. No upstairs. Right now, I absolutely love it. I have the windows open and it is raining. When you live in a very small house and you open the windows during a rain, it sounds like you are actually outside, in the rain. Surround-sound rain but you are cozy and dry.
In the words of the philosopher Crow: It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.
This is gratitude and it is an entirely impossible state of mind when you have depression. If you want to get a taste of what depression feels like, it is the complete absence of gratitude. It is compounded by friends and family trying to cram gratitude down your throat…”You have so much to live for…”
A former colleague of mine, a brilliant journalist with three kids, is dying of ALS. She can no longer speak or type. Yet in every photo of her that her friends and family post on her Facebook page she has a massive smile on her face.
Before she lost her ability to write with her hands, she wrote a New York Times bestseller about her illness and impending death using just her right thumb and her cell phone. She now has a device that lets her use her eyes to write. I can’t comprehend her gratitude but I admire the hell out of her.
Some people keep a gratitude list. I wrote one years ago but for some reason it pissed me off when I looked at it when I was depressed. Now, I just try to capture the sound and smell and look of gratitude – the smell and sound of a gentle morning rain – a rarity where I live in Florida, known for its dramatic, sudden torrential rain.
If that doesn’t work, I will close my eyes and recall the smell of my daughter’s head when she was a baby. For some reason, just the memory of that smell, calms me and rinses me in gratitude.
I have learned that gratitude is fleeting when you have depression. And when you are grateful for something, you should grab it, study it and memorize it. Wallow in it. Savor it. Smell it, feel it, taste it and then deposit it in your soul. When you feel yourself sinking, resurrect it. Close your eyes and remember the smell of you baby’s head so hard that you actually smell it. Hear the rain so loud and gentle in your head that you actually hear it.
You are going to need it.
Man holding house available from Shutterstock.
Stapleton, C. (2014). Depression: The absence of gratitude. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2014/01/4753/