Clinical Depression is a Big, Fat Jerk

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In fact, if clinical depression was a guy, all your besties would arrange an epic intervention at The Cheesecake Factory to persuade you to dump his low-life ass. Huddled like quarterbacks over their plates of fried zucchini and fettuccine, they’d each shrill out her impassioned interjection:

“Girl! Get OVER it!”

“Move on!”

“You really just need to get a new relationship and get laid.”

Maybe one friend would generously offer a hard couch in her home for you to crash on. But when depression has put a ring on your finger, you don’t want anybody else’s couch. Dragging your own heavy body every day from your own bed is impossible. Finding an empathetic, capable doctor to treat you is like doing a few hundred rounds of speed dating. And every potential new partner represents just an over-the-counter vitamin- when what you really want is a hardcore-take-with-food- prescribed drug kind of guy. Will this drug be The One? The pill to last a long time and make you enormously happy?

Happy? Oh, no! We all knew THAT word would surface sooner or later. After all, everyone on those anti- depressant commercials looks elated enough to pounce off the picnic blanket, straight up to the clouds. Even radio top 40 threatens listeners to clap happily along. You can’t even zone out to Facebook without getting bombarded by sugary sweet, soul- uplifting platitudes.

“May you go from strength to strength!” That’s a pepper-upper I remember hearing long ago. I suppose it is intended to comfort you if you’re suffering from any number of life’s complicated afflictions. But in the case of clinical depression, does it really apply? I prefer to change it to something more realistic- say, “May you go from the crushing weight of deep despair to sweet mediocre OK-ness.” How can you go from strength to strength when you have no strength to go from anyway? Where’s the journey and near-joy in that?

Curious things happen when you hit rock bottom. Since sinking is no longer an option, that only leaves swim. Intuition throws a life preserver for you to catch from the murky depths of nowhere. It talks louder than the sounds of strange inner voices that constantly try to convince you that dying would be best, that “Everyone else would be better off without you.” Once you take that first breath underwater, the fight left in you will rise up again. And in that fight you’ll re-find yourself and start swimming back to clean air and daylight.

Winston Churchill compared the depression he suffered from to a Big Black Dog. I know what he meant. But I’ve also learned I can let Big Depression come, let him bound up to me, even as I marvel at his stunning ferocity from a safe distance. He closes in on me, I open my arms and close my eyes. Bathe in his severe sadness. Feel his full weight. And dance down with him until he whimpers.

I’ve found that in daring to embrace all my emotions, though I’m weak, I’m no wimp. I’ve found that I can survive meeting that Big Dog at the bottom. Then I’m on my way to OK, and being OK is a blessed place to visit. Once there, I open my eyes and take everything in, for I know I won’t be there for long. It’s all good, because now I know I don’t have to fear.

Vulnerability is beautiful; the ebb and flow of our moods is fantastically human and essential. So my friend, don’t fear.

Science is slowly catching up to us. MRI’s and blood biomarkers are pointing out new ways to diagnose depression in the body. Improved methods of treatment and medications that promise to work stronger and longer are coming in the near future. Validation is a needle-prick away.

With all this on our side, you don’t need to always “go from strength to strength”; you can go from weakness to OK. And the only “new relationship” you’ll need to help you overcome your blues will be the One you nurture with yourself.

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This article was published originally on May 7, 2014.

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1 Comment

  1. Great great piece, indeed.

    I work with homeless veterans, in all states of depression, PTSD, anxiety, fight or flight, recovery, substance abuse, and physical degradation.

    As a social worker, I find sadness my second in command, anger my third in command, and righteous indignation, my fourth, as I watch the pigs of power, the junkyard scientists, junkyard Inside Job economists steal from this country, from these communities, these people.

    The Ferociousness of American Empire, The Biggest Threat to global humankind, is enough to spiral those of us working hard against a rigged system into depression.

    Thanks for the fun article. As for Churchill, hmm, I wonder if this conscienceless beast had an inkling of his Hitler-like life?

    Quote:

    Churchill’s brutality and brutishness have been ignored, but he never reckoned on the invention of the internet, or its power to allow authors to question his view of history and expose the cruelty and racism of the man.

    When George W Bush moved out of the White House he left a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval office. He’d used it to inspire him on his ‘war against terrorism’. Barack Obama had it removed. I wonder if he found the bust offensive? Was it out of respect for the pain and distress his Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, suffered on Churchill’s orders ?

    Removing a bust is a fairly simple matter, but toppling a statue is quite another. In Westminster Square in front of Parliament in London there are several statues of deceased politicians and dignitaries, one of which I find particularly distasteful. Hands clasped behind back, the jodphur-clad figure striding purposely forward is that of Jan Christian Smuts. racist forefather of the Apartheid system in South Africa.

    As for Churchill, who, as Home Secretary, said:

    ‘I propose that 100,000 degenerate Britons should be forcibly sterilized and others put in labour camps to halt the decline of the British race.’

    His hulking toadish statue stands tall on a granite plinth, clutching a walking stick, his unblinking bulldog gaze on the Houses of Parliament where he reigned twice as a Conservative Prime Minister.

    If I were Prime Minister of Great Britain, one of the first things on my list would be the removal of memorials to fascist-minded racist imperialists. The statues of Smuts and Churchill in Parliament Square would be the first to come down.

    http://www.cjournal.info/2015/02/15/winston-churchill-the-imperial-monster/

    I think anger, armed with social justice, environmental justice and action, are some of the tools against some of us spiraling into depression, for sure.

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