A busy few days, and a sense of life opening up. On Friday I met with a therapist. As always, I felt better just being heard. She diagnosed me with recurring clinical depression–no surprise–and we made a plan for mitigation. A plan. Help out there. A flood of relief.
How is it that we get so stuck? That we let things slide and slide, take no action, know we’re sinking into a dark and scary place and do nothing? And what turns that around? I don’t know what did it this time, only that something was clamoring for the light. It’s a lot like drinking. You go for months or years knowing you drink too much, promising yourself you’ll cut back, swearing you won’t buy a bottle at least this one time, and doing it anyway. Sliding into dependency, shame, remorse. And then, one day, some of us stop, the world turns, we’re on a new road. A seed of hope, planted somewhere deep inside, pushing its way up and out, looking for light and nourishment. Where does it come from, and why do some not find it?
When my aunt was 80, she became hopeless over what most people saw as a fairly minor and solvable health problem and jumped off the roof of her 11-story senior living residence. She left no explanation. Her husband of 45 years found her broken body lying in the path through the redwood trees she must have known he would take home.
To her, her problem was not minor. She’d had surgery on her foot, it hadn’t helped the pain, and a second surgery had been scheduled. The doctors assured her the next one would be successful, she should be patient. Meanwhile, she had to use a wheelchair and forsake her early morning walks with her husband. This was a woman who’d resisted aging: dyed her hair with henna, wore brilliant red lipstick, jangly bracelets, vivid colors. Did a few weeks in a wheelchair crumble that facade? Had those morning walks staved off a crushing depression? I’ll never know. I remember a determined vigor and brittle cheerfulness, and now I wonder whether they concealed a deep and hopeless sadness. In our family and that era, you didn’t talk about such things. Soul-sucking depression was something you lived with or took your life.
It’s progress that we talk about it now. Even though depression and anxiety have become trendy diagnoses and designer drugs to treat them a boon to pharmaceutical industry profits, lives are being turned around. Bleakness, despondency, joylessness do not have to rule. There are things to try, hope rising.