These days, as often happens when the long sunny days of summer and early fall begin their inevitable descent into winter’s short and often dismal days, I find myself struggling once again with my old bugbear, depression.
Depression is an insidious pall that falls periodically over my normally cheerful outlook on life, dulling my heart and causing me to tumble into myself and away from the world.
Apathetic, I sink into quicksand and watch as my usually happy self and my precious relationships recede into a brooding fog. Joy vanishes. Laughter is a ghost. There are no bright moments to suddenly lift the heart.
This is by no means a new phenomenon; it’s been there, a dark and foreboding shadow hovering in the background, for most of my adult life. I’m one of the lucky ones, though; the medication I take is successful almost 100 percent of the time at keeping this periodic slump at bay. Almost.
However, once (and occasionally twice) a year, it resists, fights back, gathers like sludge in the purring engine of my daily life…and one fine morning it emerges, a dark serpent from its murky lair, temporary victor in my battle for equilibrium.
I feel for those who live with and around me when this mood comes upon me, but I don’t seem to be able to evade it as the will to fight grows fainter by the moment.
Fortunately, long experience assures me that this retreat, like so many before it, is only a temporary drawback. I’ve found that if allow my spirit to withdraw as it will, to rest and gain strength, sooner or later, the “me” that I really am (helped along by the medication I take) will once again burst forth to claim victory. Once again, the dark snake must slither back into its sullen cave.
Winston Churchill used – and popularized – the phrase “the Black Dog” to describe the frequent bouts of depression he experienced for much of his life. It’s an apt description for a condition that has affected people around the world and throughout history. As far back as medieval times, the phrase was used to describe something dark… threatening… overwhelming. It was linked to the word “melancholy,” which is also an apt description.
From Bipolar Lives: “Churchill’s depressive periods tended to be intense and prolonged. Sometimes they were connected with traumatic external events such as his dismissal from the Admiralty after the Dardanelles disaster in WWI. Other times they could not be attributed to such outside causes, fitting the classic profile of serious unipolar or bipolar depression. His depressions commenced in his youth and came and went throughout his long and remarkable life.
According to historians, Churchill’s depressive periods tended to be intense and prolonged. Sometimes they were connected with traumatic external events such as his dismissal from the Admiralty after the Dardanelles disaster in WWI. Other times they could not be attributed to such outside causes, fitting the classic profile of serious unipolar or bipolar depression. His depressions came and went throughout his long and remarkable life.”
I know how fortunate I am that my own slips into depression are brief, and I hope never to return to the sad state I was in many years ago, before I went for help and was prescribed the antidepressant that has worked its miracles on my psyche.
What does depression feel like? At the point those many years ago where I was in danger of drowning in the quicksand, barely able to drag myself through the endless days, I wrote this little prose poem that speaks, perhaps more eloquently than I can now, to the drabness of these dark and difficult times.
on a barren beach,
meagre treasures gone,
Oars, bailing can, worms,
lost to the endless tide.
against a desolate
When we’re enjoying those times of smooth sailing, it’s easy to forget that we all have problems at one time or another. Everyone grieves. Everyone struggles.
There’s no Get Out of Jail Free card in this classroom that is our life.
So today, as once again I live a bit closer to the bone than usual, it’s easy to feel for the man in the photograph above, sadly holding those three bright red roses and thinking his solemn thoughts.
Plato was right; we all fight our own hard battles in this life.
And once again I find comfort and inspiration in Winston Churchill’s words as I rest in this quiet, familiar passage and wait for the sun to shine tomorrow:
“If you find yourself going through hell, keep going.”
~ Winston Churchill
And right back at you! ❤
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I feel for you. I have been working through the resurgence of memories long buried, brought to the fore by the egregious Mr. Trump. The only good thing to come out of it is some halfway decent poetry, and some very sour dreams, on the downside. My shrink was impressed that it took nineteen years for me to disclose sexual assaults in my background. He understands a lot more about me now. He-he.
My goodness, Barb, what a difficult journey that must be! I applaud you for your courage and thank you for your note.
I suspect the egregious Mr. Trump has been the catalyst for the reliving of buried memories, ranging from the unpleasant to the horrific, for a good many women in North America. The kind of person he represents makes me, like the French President, want to retch. He’s been the subject of nearly as much discussion here in Canada as I’m sure he is in the States. Personally, I’ll be sorry to see Mr. Obama go – politics aside, the man is a class act – and I’ll definitely be glued to my television tonight to see what the outcome of this sad electoral campaign will be.
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Thinking of You, Sue. It’s 5:45, the sky is a slighty orange, sun will pop out soon; nice to wake up and see light. Are You a morning person??? It might help to get up early and see the sky light up and go to bed early when it is so dark out. I love my early morning time alone, just to sip on my only coffee of the day and and to appreciate the quietness and beauty of nature.
I love reading your stories and would like to be able to express myself 1/4 of how you do. Anyway, at least I can write (ha!ha!) Ttry and get fresh air every day and go for several walks a day. I am like a real Indian, love to be outside most of the time. It airs my brain. Love & Light, Paula
Thank you, Paula, for your kind note. I’m very much a morning person when insomnia doesn’t mess up my sleep; for me too, the early morning is magic. In fact, I’m going to make myself a cup of my favourite cinnamon, rooibos and apple tea and head out onto the deck to enjoy the morning sunshine that has blessed us for several days now. Oh my, how I do love the sun! I’ve had SAD since forever, and I try to soak up every ray of sunshine that appears at this time of year. Blessings! Sue
Good morning Sue, I hope you are outside soaking up those rays. November, wretched November. I am fortunate in that my SAD only lasts from the bare trees of fall and the grey skies to that first snow that stays and lightens up the landscape. It’s heavy duty this year. I do believe that I am letting in too much ‘breaking news’.
Your poem speaks volumes. It stirs up questions. I love it!
Hi Patsy, and thanks for your note. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get outside much; this blasted chest pain has gotten out of hand, and I can barely move at the moment. Help is on the way, though: my doc is ordering me an urgent appointment with my cardiologist (and more tests, but oh well….) and I have a tentative diagnosis right now. Once I know what I’m dealing with, I can handle the dealing part – it’s the not-knowing that makes me crazy.
Like you, I’m actually looking forward to a snowfall to brighten the landscape, both outdoors and indoors. I was happy to read your kind words about my little hen-scratch poems, too. I’m not writing much these days, and it’s encouraging to know that the work I’m still managing to do is appreciated. ❤
I’m sorry you go through this. Please always remember that despite the dark days that are upon us now, the summer, and it’s glorious light, comes again. I hope the sun shines on you soon.
Fortunately for me, my meltdowns don’t happen often, and when they do, they’re soon over. Most of the time, I’m truly my normal, cheerful self as I chug along through life. I’m definitely one of the lucky ones, because medication and a certain amount of psychological assistance have made what could be a nightmare into an occasional dip in the quicksand!
Mostly, life’s good! 🙂
You and me both. I dread winter – and oh how I love my ADs! They have changed my life.
Thanks for your note, Helen. I know what you mean. It wasn’t until I started taking my medication that I felt like “me” again, up top where my grey matter lives. What a blessing it was!
Where I live in Ontario, there’s a good deal of grey weather in the fall, with little relief until the snow falls and lightens the landscape. As long as I can have sunshine, I’ll put up with the cold! 🙂
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