Note: I started this essay like, “I think I'm going to write about productivity!” This is the shape it ended up taking.
Dear lovely humans,
I’ve been severely depressed a number of times. “Severe” meaning the mitochondria in every cell in my body feels hopelessness and despair.
I wish I knew how many times, but depression to me is a place, not a time-bound event. A day feels like a decade. It’s a place that time avoids and forgets to visit. You know, like North Korea.
“It feels good to be busy again,” I murmured not too long ago, to no one in particular.
I’d just run a simple errand and had tea with a friend. I feel like my first thought rarely reflects what is really in my soul. What I really meant was: “It feels good to have an ounce of motivation to do simple tasks again, because the mere idea of leaving the house has been making me cringe.”
WHEN IT'S TERRIBLE
Depression is a tarpit. Somehow, after some chain of actions and reactions, you find yourself on its floor. It’s as deep as the Grand Canyon, but only 3 feet wide. So, you sit knees-to-chest. You look upwards, literally without hope. Your thoughts turn unbearably mean, despondent and loud. The intelligent, miraculous body you inhabit believes you’re being tortured, and sends natural numbing agents to help. It does, sort of.
The pain dulls, but you also can’t feel love. Love is your only ticket out and you just can’t feel it. Just one way that depression is ruthless.
In myself, this feeling can and has gone for months. In others, it’s years. Some will die feeling like this, still others will take their life to make it stop.
What we see as and call depression is actually someone's spirit, dying.
A lot of people view those who carry out suicide as senseless, having lost their mind. Not necessarily. I think many are rationally trying to correct the gross, utter nonsense of a dying spirit within a living body — by making the body like the their spirit. They were in the tar pit for too long and lost sight of this: you can revive the spirit instead.
Tomorrow is the Autumnal Equinox, when summer is officially over and the day’s light and dark hours find balance again. This year I made a wreath to meditate on its spiritual significance, which I absolutely love. This equinox is about the truth. The kind that’s hard to stomach.
1. All things must die before they can be (re)born.
2. Big ascents require descent first.
3. All of us who long for genuine light must also experience genuine darkness.
4. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.
I used to be ashamed of my depression and my shadows. Now, I know my ability to free-fall down a tarpit in my mind and claw my way back up, again and again, is my best superpower. I love my shadows — mostly after they pass, and someday I hope to love them during their visits too.
When I make a trip home, I watch my parents preparing dinner. They are squabbling and competing for kitchen commandership and my dad is criticizing and my mom is sighing — in other words, life. Once every few visits, a truth really presses itself on me: One day, much too soon, my parents will die and I will only have this as a memory. I will desperately want back this scene that’s caused me bemusement, frustration, boredom, and anger at various points. That desire will be in vain. Because their death is a certainty and will make other life possible. Because death and darkness are necessary for life and light.
This time of year, I honor the parts of me that had to die so the current version of me can live. It is deeply productive, because it produces peace. I invite you to join me.
With all my love and intelligence,