Today I interviewed a woman about the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. The annual bird count is like a massive flash mob for bird lovers. They go to their designed 15-mile diameter circle and at a set time they count birds for 24-hours.
The nearest bird count to me is about 25 miles south of Lake Okeechobee – that big round thing in the middle of your map of Florida that has enough alligators to shoe every Floridian with two pairs of loafers and a belt. The bird count site is 20 miles from the nearest gas station. You really gotta love birds to stomp around this God-forsaken, alligator-infested 15-mile diameter circle all day counting birds.
I asked the woman to tell me about the most special bird she had ever seen at one of these annual bird counts. She paused and then said the Everglades Snail Kite. This raptor is on the endangered species list and if we gobble up any more of their habitat with condos they will become extinct. She said she cried when she heard the bird “vocalize.”
You’re probably wondering what the hell does this have to do with depression?
One word: Passion. You have to have something in your life that means so much to you that you would stomp around a God-forsaken, alligator infested 15-mile diameter circle just to hear or catch a glimpse of it. Something or someone that is so dear to you that you cannot imagine living without it. It could be your dog, making cupcakes, fishing or hearing an endangered species “vocalize.” It is your passion. It is your anchor to life.
My daughter is my anchor. During my last major depression I flat out told my therapist and nurse practitioner that if anything happened to my daughter – if she died – I would be “out of here.” I meant it. No question. My love for her – along with a lot of therapy and medication – pulled me out of my black hole.
I no longer feel that way. I have many passions in my life now. I realize how important it is to have passion in my life. I have gone out of my way to find people, places and things that inspire passion in me. I am passionate about the corals and fish I see when I scuba dive. I am passionate about dogs. All dogs. Even those yappy, accessory dogs that fit in a purse. I am passionate about my home, my health, my writing and my sobriety. Passion is my mental health insurance.
When I came out of my last major depression my therapist asked me what made me happy. Really happy. Of course I said winning the lottery. “No,” she said. “What would really make you happy?” I scrunched up my forehead and pursed my lips and thought about it. “I dunno.”
And the clouds parted…
Depression robbed me of my passion – except for my daughter. I needed to find passion. Lots and lots of passion. Not just the hot and heavy stuff of Spanish-language soap operas but the kind of passion you feel when you lose track of time because you are so enthralled with someone or something.
This was not an easy task. It has taken years. My entire world has been transformed. What I once thought was selfish – doing things that would make me happy – I now see as thoughtful and considerate (“If mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy.”) I now know that self-sufficiency is selfish. Every time I refused to let someone help me I denied them the chance to feel as good as I do when I help others. I slowly learned that everyone is not entitled to my opinion. And on and on…
I never laugh at someone’s passion. The combined uniqueness of all our passions keeps us alive. For example, I don’t know why anyone could be passionate about urology but thank God there is a doctor out there who is. Same for the researchers who devoted countless hours attaching little electrodes to rats’ heads so they could test the medications that have made my life so much better. God love ya.
So, my wish for you this new year is that you find passion in your life. Embrace it. Enjoin it. Dig your claws into it and never, ever let go.