Beyond the contorted histrionics frequently heralding mutilations and suicide attempts (or at least painfully colorful yogas of deep and violent death longing, limbs askewing)…
Below and beyond the despondency captured in long, dead faces marking off time in hours and weeks and months like a sentence served on the road to liberation by neglect (whereas happy lives are measured in moments, we’re told)…
Past all those shocking images that make such good illustrations as to what a major mental disorder is like (I’ve scratched the bottom of that barrel), there is the fundamental reality of ground-floor depression, the low-grade fever of mental illness, the true life-stealer.
The damages it causes are even more significant than the most theatrical jags. Directed by the simplest of thoughts (“I’m so fat/dumb/disgusting) or states of being (mild apprehension or unadorned malaise) we can see our days, weeks, months, and years accumulating great absences.
Distances with family increase, friends are shed, new relationships meticulously kept at surface. Our social body becomes malnourished. And that isolation becomes one more shame.
Even more than a suicide risk, depression is a daily enforcer of the mediocre keeping us from stepping out into new projects, from smiling on others at the risk of making a friend, from living the lives we want day to day. It doesn’t stop us from dreaming of better things, but it keeps us, almost invariably, from working toward them.
Over time, depression steals our confidence. It stops us from moving forward at all. And, looking back, my history is littered with opportunities not taken, kind gestures unreturned, the quiet, the dark comfort I learned taking too, too much.
There are, however, philosophies, that lead another way. There are other voices. And the best news I ever receive is the news of someone who suffers taking a step in that alternative direction (I’m skipping many steps here, forgive. Yes, therapy, yes group, yes treatment, whatever you need to level out): choosing love activated, risking.
We know what depression leads to, as good and familiar as it feels sometimes: that it’s not the path we want. We fear those things we long fo too but, ultimately (I suspect, I hope), not as much as we desire them.
To date, I’ve found that nothing flips the switch on this equation in favor of desire over fear as much as regular meditation and exercise. Whereas before I meditated for others (may all beings everywhere be happy) and gained some comfort, some liberty, from the process, I was reminded recently that healing the world starts with healing ourselves. And so when I close my eyes and observe my breath my focus has swung around: the light is on me.
May I be filled with lovingkindness. May I be well. May I be happy.
For this I credit, in part, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, by Jack Kornfield, but also the long, tedious, and (sometimes) positively sluggish struggle of daily living that prepared me to hear and integrate the message to the degree I have.
It may feel like small potatoes, choosing happiness over depression, or despondency, or disinterest, especially if you’re only feeling (most of the time) a little bit down, but my recent life reviews (depressives do these frequently) suggest it may be everything.
Those in recovery can’t stop and rest for long even in a mild state of illness. We must choose our deepest desires again each day. We must accept ourselves anew as a part of accepting the world as it is right now. As we are right now. And allow ourselves (again) to fill with love.
I know there are those with unflattering things to say about me. I know I am most of those people.
I know some will continue to reject me — but that I also get to choice to feel it or move on.
My focus has to remain being true to myself, transmuting misery into joy, and being that small part of the healing that will tip the balance of this world. I: a moving mass of imperfect and struggling stuff committed to something better.
Now and again now. Misery to love. Now and once more. Fear to desire. Now, again, as long as there is a choice. As long as there is life.