“This is so depressing.”
It’s a common expression. I don’t begrudge it to people and frequently use it myself. I don’t like the self-righteous condemnation some people will heap on you if you use “depressing” or “depression” as throw-away words in casual conversation. If you get horribly offended by that, you may need to get over yourself.
Language evolves constantly, and our language has evolved in such a way that we regularly use “depression” without meaning “serious illness that can really fuck up your shit.” There is nothing wrong with that, and I think it has actually gone a long way toward normalizing the illness and people who suffer from it.
Having said that, depression is still very much a serious illness that can really fuck up your shit.
I am most prone to it in the month of November, and, as I have discovered from living in sunny places like Dubai and Greece, lack of sunlight may not be the main culprit. Maybe it’s due to the tilt of the earth. To the days getting shorter. To red leaves framed by a blue sky. To something.
I would love to write a buddy-cop-like parody novella about November and depression. Here they are, on yet another adventure together, barrelling through the mind, fucking it up like regular buddy cops fuck up city blocks. Here they are, making the lights go out behind the eyes while tossing comic insults at each other.
A lot has been written on the dangers of depression, but there is one particular danger I think is seriously overlooked:
There is this idea that can come up, the idea that if you just get through this, everything will change.
The idea that just up there, around this bend, around this corner, past this desolate intersection, behind this mossy old wall, is another world.
A world where giant shafts of sunlight pierce the clouds, and angels murmur to each other across starlit distances, and you matter to the people who matter to you, and there may not even be any war, or at the very least there are no toothaches and 6 a.m. alarms.
It’s a terrible delusion. Its impact is made that much worse due to the sea-like, receding and advancing nature of the psychological pain itself. It makes you laugh at yourself cruelly. One half of your mind is Carrie, and the other half is every tormentor that Carrie ever had.
I can’t really offer any universally applicable advice on how to deal with the delusion, assuming you have dealt with it and know what I’m talking about.
I can only tell you that what works for me is focusing on the world as it is.
Of course, the hard part is having to first acknowledge that it’s not a particularly great world.
I’m typing this while on an island in the Mediterranean. I know for a fact that mere miles from me, many people have died. Somebody may even be dying as I type this post. Children scream in terror as another refugee boat goes under. I don’t believe for a moment that the sea just swallows these screams, I think they live on. They pierce the world instead of those shafts of light I keep dreaming about when I am able to get some sleep.
Think about what a lot of people’s last moments on earth are like, and then try to not condemn the world. You can’t. It’s impossible.
Now we have governments coming to power that say, those screams and final, gurgling breaths are alright. We have policymakers telling is that they’re music to the eats, in fact, because look – less vermin for the (allegedly) civilized world to deal with! What did people use to do with mice? Drown them in buckets. And this has somehow emerged as a perfectly reasonable solution to an “infestation” of undesirable humans.
Oh man, this world. It must be acknowledged, or how else do you honor its victims? How else do you take the tiny step in the direction of changing it or some part of it?
(Don’t think it can’t be done. The world has changed many times over, as surely as it has stayed the same. The world is a paradox of ancient stardust and dark matter. It’s all things you can think of, and no things you can think of.)
The world is also this: I wake up in the morning and my husband says, “I was watching you sleep. Did you know you pout in your sleep? Your fingers looked very long and thin on the pillow.” Our son is told that if he doesn’t eat his oatmeal, we will tell Siri, and Siri will delete his Angry Birds, because little boys who don’t eat their oatmeal can’t play Angry Birds. The rusty tap in the kitchen has come apart, our water is turned off. I have the excuse not to shower until the repairman saunters up the stairs again. He always treats old things breaking as personal failures of ours. There are songbirds that live in the street, as if they lost their way to the woods, and said “fuck it.” Our son’s eyelashes are so thick that he should be able to flap them and fly. There is a lot of room on my husband’s chest, certainly enough room for my big head and all the early morning dreams still floating about in it.
This is love. In an ordinary corner of the ordinary world, I feel love radiating through everything, through the walls, through the bones of my skull, through sickness, the signal keeps going further and further outward, and nothing can stop it.
And even when you’re gone, the signal continues on, so what I’m saying that maybe it’s important, in spite of all the sadness and horror of the world, to just love. Love when you can. Love what you can. Love often. We are fragile. What else have we but love.
It’s hard to love when I’m depressed, every feeling becomes too large and too painful somehow. So I love in small bites. I don’t try to do it all at once.
I shut out the illusion of the perfect world, where we are all happy and safe, I tell it that it’s very pretty, but that it needs to go for now.
I set small goals, and sometimes I achieve them, and sometimes I don’t.
I keep my eyes on the world as it is is. I won’t get another one in this life.
I try not to fear for myself and my family, I try not to think of the past, or the future, I try to let go of my own painful history. Let go, so I can dance with the now.
I sometimes think of the now as a man smiling at you from across the room at a party, making you look away and blush. It’s OK to look back, to take his hand when he offers it.
The now dances with you, his other hand on the small of your back. The dark is looking into the windows and so are the stars.
This is what I like to think of when I’m sad. This, and so many other things that I am grateful for.
Banner image: Sleeping Woman, Man Ray, 1929.
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