This is a story for those of us who are depression warriors, with an ending that (hopefully) leaves us feeling like kick-ass fighters — even Ninjas — in the battle called Life.
Chapter 1: The External Picture
I have one Ph.D. and two Master’s degrees. I am intelligent, both cognitively and emotionally. I have a killer sense of humor, an irrepressible source of inner joy and fighting spirit, a smile that can light up the world, and the ability to care, to nurture, and to inspire. The external me — the one that the world “sees,” is a pretty neat one, as far as selves go.
I do not say any of this with arrogance (though I do say it with confidence). I have paper certificates that testify to my academic achievements (hard-earned, with blood, sweat, and tears) and human certificates (testimonies over many, many years from students, friends, and colleagues) that provide data points to back me up when I say that in the scheme of things, in my small world, I exist as a pretty kick-ass human being.
Chapter 2: The Internal Picture
In the space of my mind, there are two kinds of rooms. In some of the rooms reside the “fun” characters: joy, compassion, humor, thirst for knowledge, curiosity about life, silliness, creativity, pleasure, a pull to the divine. In the other rooms reside the “eh” characters: laziness, self-doubt, inner critic, existential angst, fear of spiders, cockroaches, and death.
So far, so good. I would venture to say that this is Mind 1.0, a pretty factory-standard data computing system. Overall, if I dare use that word, it is a rather “normal” mind.
Chapter 3: The Resident Demon, aka “the D”
Here’s where it gets tricky: that factory-standard product, seemingly, came with a defect. In my ‘normal’ mind resides an unwanted, unwelcome, quasi-permanent guest: Depression (henceforth referred to as “the D”), which seems to have one mission: to suck the spirit out of the characters that make living fun and super-feed the “eh” ones to make them grotesquely large and scarily destructive (like that “bug” that finally shows itself in Men in Black, shudder). The mind that houses my biggest assets also, contrarily, rents space to my biggest enemy. The mind is sensitive, empathic, rather obsessively hope-focused. And yet, vexingly enough, it houses the D, and has done so for most of my life.
Chapter 4: Bummer
(Yup. That’s it.)
Chapter 5: What Is the Question, Again?
I am not going to obsess here about the “why.” Why my mind does what it does (i.e. house the D) is an absolute mystery to me. Today’s obsession is more about, “What now?” Now that we have ourselves this situation, find ourselves in this pickle, facing what sometimes feels (as it has these past few weeks) like a fight to the death between sanity and non-existence, what the heck am I going to do about it? I don’t diss the “why.” I am a lover of “whys.” But, at some points in life, we have to intentionally shift the focus from one line of query to another so we can keep breathing, feeling, and living.
Chapter 6: Chipping Away
If You know what I am writing about (or know someone who knows what I am writing about), this chapter (the climax scene of the movie) is for You. Here are the rules I have set up over time to help me keep putting one foot in front of the other when my wings feel clipped and I cannot soar through the skies like I usually do because the D has wreaked its temporary havoc on my mind (again… sigh).
Rule 1: Groundhog Day. Remembering that You (and I) have been here before, down the rabbit hole and have, over and over, found our way back up again to the clear blue skies, the chirping birds, the feel of warm breeze, and the smell and taste of a juicy cheeseburger and french fries (yum).
Rule 2: Because of darkness, we know light. It is because we know the rabbit hole that we also know the blazing brightness of being. As much as it sucks, if we didn’t know the soul-sucking dullness of Despair, we wouldn’t know the brilliance of Joy.
Rule 3: Write. Scribble, draw, paint, sow a mask, sculpt, make a bad animation, work on your really, really shitty resume/cover letter draft BUT, for heaven’s sake, create. Create, create, create. Creation is the biggest weapon against the demon because it cannot stand the power that creation (of any kind) unleashes in us.
Rule 4: Share your story. Share your pain. Show off your battle scars. The greatest warriors have the deepest scars (some visible, some not). Learn to be proud of your scars, not ashamed of them. I dare anyone — anyone — who pooh poohs our warrior strength to stand in the arena with Big D for 5 weeks. Then, we can talk.
Rule 5: Remember that the Big D lies. Lies are its weapon of choice. The D lies about our worth, about the meaning of our lives, and about the reasons for our existence. I, and You, do not need a reason to exist. We might have a purpose — a goal to work toward because we exist — but we do not need a reason to exist. We exist. That’s it. Suck it up, D.
Rule 6: Return to Rule 1.
Chapter 7: Keep Rocking
If these words have brought comfort to you, made you laugh (or cry in solidarity), lifted your spirits even a wee bit, given you a way to take the next step back out of the rabbit hole and out toward the sunshine and the blue skies and the bird calls and that damned cheeseburger, all my struggles with the D has been worth it.
Depression is a tough thing to wrestle with. It does NOT, and NEVER will define us (just as me wearing glasses to correct my weak vision does not define me).
ACTION CALL: In these difficult times, if you are feeling vulnerable to the D’s lies, take action, because YOU ARE WORTH IT.
- Reach out to a mentor, a teacher, a friend, a therapist.**
- Know that you are not alone in your struggles, and that there is power in numbers. Our journeys are unique, but we can walk on the path together.
- Know, and absolutely, 100% trust that you are worthy, and loved, and THAT YOU MATTER. I may not know you, but I promise, promise you, YOU MATTER TO ME.
- Ask for help. Get help. Keep healing.
- As you heal, help others. Your struggles are your battle scars. They make you tough, and wise, and absolutely kick-ass. And they will bring hope and courage to those who are walking these paths alongside us. So, heal. And share.
*Image credit: https://images.app.goo.gl/K4yygcKXyi7m9ZQa9