I have known of you for sometime now.
My first memory of was the sadness I felt in my grandmother as she went about trying to live—overwhelmed by life with bleak hope and little respite. I sensed her frustration. I communed with her disillusionment. Yes, I felt her pain—raw and relentless.
I met you again after the birth of my children, and again later on when I was ground by the mill of life.
I am writing to you today becuase my little girl, hearing the media reports about Robin Williams, asked me who you were and if I had known of you. I am writing to let you know that I said yes. Yes, I know you. Take heart, my friend.
You are deeply uncomfortable, and I have heard you called loathsome. Yet, to me, you have been a great ally. Ours has been a deep friendship. Your pain has taught me the three most valuable lessons in life. You have deepened me, broadened me, made me humane.
Your first gift to me was the gift of a beating heart.
Every time someone or something is harmed, a part of me cries. Every time wars are waged, a part of me dies. Every time trees are felled senselessly, vegetation burnt and destroyed, animals killed for pleasure or “scientific research,” children orphaned—all innocent victims to a tragedy they did not create or an ideology that they do not understand—yes, my friend, a part of me dies.
My heart bled when I parted with the man I loved. My heart bled when I was helplessly sitting by the bedside of a man, once proud and noble, now reduced to a vegetable by a disabling disease, and I felt the icy grip of loss. The sadness you brought me as I faced the loss of hope, loss of dreams, loss of a future, loss of health, loss of trust in the process of living—all this and more, my dear friend, enabled me to get through. The tears I cry, and the numbness I feel, the wounds I bear make me compassionate, my dear friend.
You taught me that we are all wounded—cruelty to each other is simply our wound spilling over. So you led me to meet anger with patience, frustration with compassion, and rejection with understanding. For the peace that this has brought me, I am grateful.
Your second gift to me is the lesson on value.
Struggling with your darkness, eager to come out the other end, I learned that alcohol, sex, cars, houses, power and pelf, are beggars. They are intrinsically bankrupt. I began to understand that a valuable life is one that brings inner joy, a sense of satisfaction, a deep inner peace.
So now I stop and listen to birdsong, I breathe deeply, I stay up late to watch the moonrise and the beautiful night sky full of sparkling stars. I laugh heartily—mostly at myself. I cook with love—not out of duty. I smile to a stranger, especially on a cold and wet morning….We are all mortal, and our time here is limited. You made this truism real, as only you can.
And finally, you brought me that one infallible and invaluable gift: the gift of patience.
You have taught me that more often than not, there are no answers. That more often than not, there is no one to pick the pieces up, but ourselves. That more often than not, people are cruel, judgmental, just plain foolish. You taught me, that I don’t have to be one of them. It is okay to feel low, to not have the answers. These are natural human emotions.
Sometimes, they overstay their welcome. But they always, always leave their gifts behind.
So do not be fazed if you feel sad or angry, my dear girl. Our friend depression teaches us that the only way to understand is from our hearts.
In gratitude to you, dear depression.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Paul Simpson/Flickr