These days, in spite of the glorious and much-awaited sunshine, the welcoming spring weather, I’m struggling with my old bugbear, depression.
Depression is an insidious grey pall that dulls my normally cheerful outlook on life, makes my heart ache, and causes me to fall into myself and away from the world. Apathetic, I slowly sink into this quicksand and watch as my happy life and my precious relationships with friends and loved ones recede into the distance. Joy is gone. Laughter is a ghost, and there are few bright moments to suddenly lift the heart.
I feel for those who have to live with me when this pall comes upon me, but it seems I’m helpless to change it. And the will to fight it seems fainter with each passing day.
This is not a new phenomenon; it’s been there, hovering in the background of my life, like a dark and foreboding shadow, for some thirty-five years. The magic of modern medicine keeps it at bay – most of the time!
But every now and again, it resists, fights back, gathers like sludge in the purring engine of my daily life…and emerges, temporarily the victor in my battle for equilibrium…..temporarily, I hope and pray, as I keep on keeping on.
It was Winston Churchill who popularized the phrase “Black Dog” to describe the bouts of depression he experienced for much of his life. It’s an apt description for a condition that affects so many, many people in the world. The phrase was used even in medieval times to describe something dark… threatening… overwhelming. It was linked to the word “melancholy,” which is also an apt description.
What does depression feel like? At one point many years ago, I wrote this little poem – I think of it as a kind of haiku – that spoke more eloquently than I ever could of the greyness of these difficult times. (Although a true haiku is always three lines long and totals just 17 syllables, this sad little poem had the feeling of haiku to me):
on a barren beach,
its treasures gone;
oars, bailing can, worms
lost to the endless tide.
against the desolate
When we’re enjoying our times of smooth sailing, it’s easy to forget that everyone has problems at one time or another; everyone grieves; everyone struggles. Everyone. There is no Get Out of Jail Free card in this life.
So today, as once again I live closer to the bone than I’ve been accustomed to in recent times, it’s easy to put myself in the place of the man in the photograph above, sadly holding those three bright red roses. Plato was right; we all fight our own hard battles in this life.
And I find comfort and inspiration in Winston Churchill’s words, as once again I plod through this not unfamiliar passage:
“If you find yourself going through hell, keep going.”
~ Winston Churchill