Archives for Depression
My grandmother is a sly sage (as so many of our grandmothers seem to be). On our most recent wander through her backyard, when I casually commented on her magnolia tree, she paused and replied, “Yes, we have a lot to learn from the garden…” And so we do. It’s been a pretty bleak time for me over the last couple of years. (Which is why I took a break from blogging). Lots of changes driven by heartache and pain. As sometimes seems to happen in life… The walls of my internal garden during that time have housed next to nought, as necessity overshadowed nourishment, and everything ended up neglected and parched. And though I kept ‘ploughing-on’ through the days, somehow I forgot to plant new seeds… So the field’s been kind of empty for a while. Do you know that feeling? Perhaps only too well. So many of us do, at some time or other. And as Valentine’s Day approaches, this kind of stuff just seems to get harder, harsher, the contrast highlighted by all the ‘lurve’ and flowers in the air. It seems easier just not to look; at the hype; at the self. And then, walking up my back steps the other day, I saw it anyway. A vine untangling and growing beneath my very house. Right there, in the dark and the dust. Neglected, not watered, but flourishing anyway. A vine of verdant hearts. (That’s it in the photo above). Yes, we have a lot to learn from the garden…
It's an old story. Old as the hills. And yet new every time it tells itself again. Have you heard it told to you lately? The clouds have gathered, thick and dark, on your skies. They're banked up and rolling heavy to your horizon. Maybe the rains have already started, pouring their grief over everything you know and soaking it all through with shadows. And then maybe the wind starts up. The lightning. It seems everything is going wrong at once. It's hard to imagine ever riding out this storm. And yet, if the story has its way, there will come a moment. A moment you might not notice at first. A moment that can start out smaller than small. But it's enough. Enough to invite a shift - an infinitessimal shift - that's almost no shift at all. Except that it is. So something tiny changes. And somehow that awakens the next little change. Until, gradually, all these fragile moments come together - like countless particles of light converging - almost invisible on their own. But together, slowly, they can start to pull the temperature of your day in a warmer direction. Together, they start to matter.
Have you ever felt anxious about something that turned out to be nothing? Worried about an event that never ended up happening (except maybe in your own imagination)? Perhaps you've caught yourself planning for trouble before it actually hit. And feeling the feelings that comes with all of this... It can be pretty sickening - a lurch in your gut, a fast-beating heart and sometimes you might even get the sweats. And no wonder. For your thoughts are joined to your feelings - intricately linked. As one moves, the other will probably follow. So it's important to keep an eye on your thoughts, to monitor them a bit, so a sudden downward spiral into darker feelings doesn't catch you unawares. And so you can nip any unnecessary anxiety in the bud if you want to.
I grew up fairly close to the coast, so visiting the beach and its nearby lagoons was an important part of our family life. What amazed me, as a child, was how unpredictable the tides seemed – sometimes there’d be water everywhere, with currents coursing; sometimes the whole place looked barren and dry – always according to its own mysterious rhythms. Perhaps it’s the same with our emotions? Sometimes brimming with a sense of abundance or energy or hope or light. Other times, seemingly empty; bereft. One state usually feels ‘better’, so the temptation can be to strive towards it. Or to miss it when it’s gone. Or maybe to try avoiding the barrenness; the sorrow; the grind. Or to feel desolate when they arrive. But back at the seaside, both states revealed different (and vital) aspects of the one landscape. When the tide was out, whole new stretches of sand emerged from the deep, teeming with soldier crabs and seaweed and other life that was otherwise hidden beneath the waves. When high tide swept in, it flushed through the whole lagoon and kept the place from growing stagnant. Emptying. Filling. Emptying again.
In a recent post, I asked some questions about depression, and wondered whether it might be possible for depression to bring any hidden gifts. Whether depression might have more than the one (most obvious and painful) dimension to it. What else it might bring to the table. These wonderings sparked a lot of passionate thoughts and responses from people, both for and against the idea. And these responses highlighted some of the myriad ways everyone has of understanding depression and the various effects it has on our lives. So I wonder, how would you define depression? (Or does it sometimes feel as though depression is defining you?)
There’s something here in this juxtaposition of billboards. Something almost suggesting that maybe depression can sort of 'be there' for us, maybe even be with us in some strange way, accompanying us in hard times… perhaps even in just the right size and measure. What if that were true? It seems a pretty shocking thought. For depression is often cast in a bad light – something simply to be overcome and gotten rid of. A villain in the story of our lives. Something to think or shrink our way out of. And fast. Often there's a kind of double layer to depression – a sense of feeling depressed about feeling depressed. Having a sense of failure or shame for even experiencing it in the first place. But what if depression were more than that? What if it could actually be a messenger of sorts? Something to take stock of? To listen to? What might it have to tell you? Or what might it be asking you for?