I am depressed today.
I don’t know where it comes from. Is it a chemical reaction to something I’ve eaten? Is it related to my yearly battle with Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD)? Is it because I’m not being “true to myself,” and I’m stuffing emotions that I should be expressing, taking out and examining for a deeper meaning?
I don’t know. And I don’t care.
Years ago I was at my chiropractor’s office getting an adjustment. As he was asking about what was going on in my life, I mentioned I was somewhat depressed. His condescending response held the phrase, “…when you start feeling sorry for yourself…” I never went back to his office, even though I had been getting adjustments from him for years.
It was obvious he had no experience with depression. It was obvious he thought “feeling sorry for yourself” was the same as depression. It is not. For me, even sadness has nothing to do with depression.
Fast forward to just about a year ago. As a Hypnotherapist, I was learning a new technique to help my clients. This type of technique involves assisting the client to reprogram their thoughts and responses. As a part of the process, the client is encouraged to choose a better way of thinking (a “preferred response”), and to really make the new, better response very intense and active in their mind.
During the training, the instructor, while going over methods to use with clients who are depressed, said something about how “depressed patients are lazy,” because they don’t want to think of anything better.
Again, obviously he’s never been depressed. Because nothing could be further from the truth. It has nothing to do with wanting. It has everything to do with unable. Feeling sorry for yourself is light years away from true depression.
Depression is when there is nothing but deep dark nothingness. I can’t even rise up enough to think about thinking of something better. “Something better” does not exist in depression. Depression is its own dark abyss where nothing else exists and movement is difficult, if not impossible.
Light and “preferred responses” cannot penetrate the lethargy, the fog, the thickness. “Something better” does not compute from within depression. It is not that depressed folks are lazy and therefore can’t remember a happier time; it is that happy does not exist; the past and future do not exist. Only darkness exists—in an eternal, deep, sucking now. There is no direct route from depressed to happy.
The depressed person cannot move—in thought or body. Depression pushes down and pulls down, all at once, sucking me further in. It is stagnant and dark and terrifying, but I am too lethargic to react, too drugged with heaviness and apathy to even express the terror. I get pulled in so deeply, that it physically hurts to open my eyes (my mind’s eye, as well as my physical eyes) to try and look for something other than this black now.
I usually find myself begging out loud for mercy, asking, “please…please…please…,” not wanting to continue the descent. The begging is as close as I can get to movement, to doing something proactive, to praying. I begin begging because, for me, there are levels of depression, and I don’t want to keep sinking.
I beg for at least a full stop. I beg because I know how horrible it is further down in there, and please God I don’t want to go to that level again—please, not this time.
Depression sucks the will out of me. It sucks faith out of me. Reasoning goes next. Aversion shows up, and I am convinced that no one—not even my best girlfriend or my sweet, patient man—wants to take a call from me right now. No one wants to put up with such a wretched person as I am right now.
Embarrassment and shame are next, as I begin berating myself on how I should be able to pull myself back up out of this morass. And if I do somehow make it back up and out of this, how am I going to face everyone who noticed me sinking so deep and far away, who saw how worthless I was/am?
I am worthless, talent-less, lacking in reason and therefore have no place to go but further down, deeper into the abyss. It is the only place where I feel welcome, where I know no one will be forced to endure me, and so I let it pull me further in.
Is it a habit—like an addiction? Am I addicted to depression somehow—maybe on a chemical level that I am not consciously aware of? Because it is seductive, in a way. It is quiet, at least. It is a form of now. It does create that spiritually coveted thing of “being in the now.”
At least I don’t have to talk to anyone here. I don’t have to listen to anyone tell me how wonderful my life is and how I shouldn’t feel this way, how I shouldn’t succumb to the darkness, how I should pull myself up by my own proverbial boot straps, how I should be strong and resist it, how foolish it is to go so deeply away, to be so…absent.
That is what it feels like. It feels like I am not in the real world; I am absent. I am separated from the world by a thick, heavy fog that I can only barely see through to observe other humans.
It feels like I’ve sunk too deep down into the rabbit hole to return.
Three Days Later
While I can remember how impossible it is to think of anything but that black Now when I am there in that place, I cannot remember the dark nothingness I wrote of just three days ago while in the grip of depression. I cannot conjure those same feelings—and that is a blessing.
But I well know the familiar dread I feel when I open my mind’s door and see depression standing there, already moving forward, shoving me aside to enter without my permission.
I can (and do) pray there is no next time. However, if there is a next time, I think it would be a good idea to just sit in that black Now and let it take me wherever it does. But I’m not sure I’ll be able to remember that idea once I’m there. I’ll keep you posted. At least it would be something different.
I hope you know nothing of which I write. But if you do, what works for you? I am open to suggestions.
Author: Grace Cooley
Editor: Travis May