on a barren beach,
its treasures gone –
oars, bailing can, worms
lost to the endless tide.
against the desolate
The colour of desolation
is the cold and empty grey of a sky
uninterrupted by sunlight or stars.
No hint of spring.
No sign of winter’s white purity.
Not even the crisp bright dying
of autumn leaves
relieves this pallid bitter landscape.
Icy fingers of fog enfold me,
freezing me into immobility.
Everywhere I look, the world is
bleached of colour and life.
And so am I.
Curled up, I hide –
great white snail
hibernating inside my shell,
staring into inner space
and the deafening silence of the shroud.
I wait for sleep,
“Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care”
that it will work its deep magic
and knit me together again.
Depression Wears Many Faces
These two prose poems were written some twenty years apart, but the feelings that inspired them are exactly the same.
You see, I have a chronic condition called depression, and for a long time I tried a number of self-help means to alleviate the pain and the frightening sensation of losing touch with myself and my place in the world, before I finally went to my doctor for help.
I’ve been on antidepressant medication for many years now, and ninety-five percent of the time I feel like “me.” Although introverted by nature, I really enjoy the company of friends, and I love to laugh. Life is good.
Once in a while my mood darkens, and I can feel myself slowly slipping into that familiar, uncomfortable state of low energy and apathy, aware of what’s happening but, like someone trying to move forward across a lake of molasses, not able to get “back on track.”
However, my personal good news is this: within days, optimism surfaces once again and I begin to find myself back on dry land. Unpleasant as the whole process is, I understand what’s happening and can deal with it….with the help of my antidepressant.
(Just for the record, in case you think I’m one of those folks who have a bathroom closet filled with drugs, think again. I take a daily grand total of three medications, and only because they’re absolutely necessary. One of the three is my antidepressant.)
My depression is one form of a complex medical condition that is anything but rare. According to Service Ontario, depression is among the most common mental disorders: an estimated 1 in 4 Canadians has a degree of depression serious enough to need treatment at some time in his or her life.
Depression wears many faces, and the term covers a myriad of emotional, physical, behavioural and cognitive symptoms. You and your neighbour may both suffer from depression, yet the two constellations of symptoms can be as different as night is from day. Depression runs the gamut from relatively innocuous and short-term to life-threatening, as well as anything in between.
Some depressions are at least partly inherited: brothers, sisters and children of depressed people are more likely to suffer from depression themselves. In my own birth family, my mother, my sister and I all appear to have inherited the tendency.
Some depressions may be related to abnormal brain chemistry. Chemical and hormone changes in other parts of the body – and some physical ailments – can also lead to depression.
Women, children and older adults are at higher risk of depression. In fact, before age 65, twice as many women as men receive treatment for depression. Perhaps women are taught to handle stresses differently than men, or possibly female hormones contribute to higher rates of depression. It’s also possible that women might be more likely to seek help, whereas men are trained to hide their feelings or drink to numb them; men have higher rates of alcoholism. [Information courtesy of Service Ontario]
Yet here is the good news – and good news it is!
Depression is the most treatable of the mental disorders.
I came across this article by Alexa Ness on Buzz Feed entitled “21 Things Nobody Tells You about Being Depressed,” with one of the most succinct subtitles I’ve seen: “So you’re sad all the time and don’t want to do stuff.” The article is an amusing and informative introduction to a mental health issue that is far from funny.
The truth is is that chronic depression does not go away by itself. Like anyone suffering from a chronic physical disorder such as asthma, epilepsy, or diabetes, you may well need medications to help balance what your body can’t balance by itself.
Don’t waste your time struggling alone. See your doctor. See a therapist. See them soon!
Once you and your doctor have established a first line of defense, other healthy habits such as meditation, exercise, fresh air, and creativity (to name a few) will help you blossom back into the self you had left behind – or perhaps a new and improved one that you didn’t know was even possible.
The Gift of Pandora’s Box
In the Greek myth, the mighty God Zeus gave a box to Pandora, the first mortal woman, but he forbade her from ever opening it. She took it back to earth with her and kept it locked away. However, eventually her curiosity got the better of her and she managed to open it, thereby inadvertently letting all the evils of the world fly out.
Yet one element remained behind in the bottom of Pandora’s beautiful, never-to-be-opened box: Hope. And that mythical element remains as real for us today as it would have been in ancient Greece.
Depression can feel hopeless. It’s important to know that it isn’t.
Depression to me is like being grabbed by the ankle and pulled to the bottom of a pitch black well. There you sit in hopelessness and isolation. The smallest jobs seem to need a massive effort. I very recently found the ability to say ‘NO, I’m not going there!’ This was a first for me. It seemed as though I had a choice which had never been there before. As the cloud tried to lower itself over me I started to feel really angry – as though the depression was something outside of me that was going to try and take control. I beat it off with a mental stick, flatly refused to allow it, and focused on living in the moment. I think my savior has been learning mindfulness. I read a post every day at this wonderful blog: http://mindfulbalance.org/
Love your post, the pics and the poems!
Hey, Jude! (giggle)
Sorry, I’ve been dying to say that, even though I’m really dating myself with a Beatles reference, aren’t I!
For a person who suffers from chronic depression, mindfulness is a wonderful element to add to the pharmaceuticals and the talk therapy. Getting out into nature is another. Lucky you, living in the country! We used to live on the edge of country until, over time, the city reached out the surrounded us.
And I’ll definitely check out your Mindful Balance blogsite. Thanks for the tip, and for the kind words about what turned out to be a somewhat “different” post for Susannah’s Journey.
P.S. I just finished your book, “A Red Waterproof Jacket.” You’ve lived a rich and multi-faceted life, and I very much enjoyed the read!
Ah Susannah, thanks so much for buying my book, and for your lovely comment! The basic reason I felt I wanted to write it was to say to others out there who were ‘stuck’ that there is always hope, and if you can find the courage then jump into the unknown. I think writing is a great help with depression (if one is of a writing nature). As you said, any form of creativity, physical activity, or sometimes, for me, just talking to a good friend is a help. I’m so pleased to have connected with you.
Different lifestyles. Different journeys. Like minds. I love it!
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