To me, one of the worst things about chronic depression is how it robs me of my desire to do anything in general, and writing in particular. And nothing demonstrates this better than the fact that my last post was on March 11.
And here it’s March 30 already.
No, the depression hasn’t lifted; it’s just that I’m forcing myself to write, in much the same way that some people have to force themselves to get out of the house, or eat, or bathe, or get dressed, or even get out of bed.
The fact that I can do all of those things makes me feel better about myself. When I think of how much worse off I could be, I hear my father’s voice in my head saying, “I used to feel sorry for myself because I had to shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.”
Depression. We all have our pet names for it. Winston Churchill referred to his Black Dog. For others, it’s the Wolf at the Door. For me, Charles Baudelaire said it best:
“When low skies weightier than a coffin-lid
cast on the moaning soul their weary blight,
and from the whole horizon’s murky grid
its grey light drips more dismal than the night;
When earth’s a dungeon damp whose chill appals,
in which — a fluttering bat — my Hope, alone
buffets with timid wing the mouldering walls
and beats her head against the dome of stone;
When close as prison-bars, from overhead,
the clouds let fall the curtain of the rains,
and voiceless hordes of spiders come, to spread
their infamous cobwebs through our darkened brains,
Explosively the bells begin to ring,
hurling their frightful clangour toward the sky,
as homeless spirits lost and wandering
might raise their indefatigable cry;
and ancient hearses through my soul advance
muffled and slow; my Hope, now pitiful,
weeps her defeat, and conquering Anguish plants
His great black banner on my cowering skull.”
Charles Baudelaire, “Spleen”
Oh, I’ve heard all the advice. “Snap out of it!” “You need to cheer up.” Two things you need to know: Telling someone with depression to “snap out of it” is exactly like telling someone with cancer “Stop having cancer!” And telling me to cheer up makes as much sense as telling an insomniac to try to get some sleep. IT JUST DOESN’T WORK, AND IT ONLY DEMONSTRATES YOUR IGNORANCE.
I would love to “cheer up.” I would love to “snap out of it.” But you see, there’s this little issue of fucked-up brain chemistry (that’s the latest theory, even though there’s really no scientific evidence for it) that keeps me down. Yes, I take my medications regularly. Yes, I’m exercising and eating right. I’m doing all (well, okay: most) of the things I’m supposed to be doing, but sometimes the only thing that works is time.
And the older I get, the longer it takes to recover from a down cycle. This time it’s been almost three weeks. Next time will be longer. And the down cycles come more frequently. Fortunately, they still only plant their “great black banners” a couple of times a year, and I manage to get through them okay.
Hell, this time I didn’t even need to call the ambulance like I did the last time.