Contending with Darkness

Hi Crazy Beautiful Reader,

I've been feeling low this past week. Not exactly depressed, but certainly not happy. 

I notice low moods when I stop wanting. I stop wanting to get out of bed in the morning, I stop wanting to see friends. I stop wanting to buy anything new. All the colors in my life fade to grey. My dreams and aspirations evaporate into fears and anxieties and rumination about all that's wrong.

The best mantra for depression—the mantra that helps me, at least, and the mantra I've mentioned to friends who are struggling—is to remind myself:

This will not last.

Those four words embody a truth that helps me get through hard times. While we do tragically lose people to suicidal depression every day, for most of us, depression is not suicidal depression. Still, it can lead us to feel like we want to disappear to free ourselves from the demon. 

When the darkness casts a shadow onto my life, all I can do is remind myself that the shadow isn't forever. Part of living with depression is to accept that you feel lifeless and to know that you won't always feel this way.

Sunday morning, I was feeling down and dug up the book that has helped me many times through depression. It is called The Depression Cure, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling. What I love about this book is that it provides some very tactical ways to manage depression, everything from a little bit of exercise to light therapy to guidance on supplements. And while the book is subtitled "The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs" I'd add the caveat that many of us —including me—do need drugs as well.

In the past, when I've struggled with depression, another thing that has gotten me through is to write checklists with how I am going to get through my day. Sometimes, it will say things like:

  • Shower

  • Make dinner

  • Watch Seinfeld reruns.

We have to acknowledge, when we are down, that our best might be getting out of bed and showering. That is OK.

Andrew Solomon, in his masterful book on depression The Noonday Demon, closes out his last chapter with a truly beautiful meditation on how we can feel gratitude for depression:

On the happy day when we lose depression, we will lose a great deal with it. If the earth could feed itself and us without rain, and if we conquered the weather and declared permanent sun, would we not miss grey days and summer storms? As the sun seems brighter and more clear when it comes on a rare day of English summer after ten months of dismal skies than it can ever seem in the tropics, so recent happiness feels enormous and embracing and beyond anything I have ever imagined. Curiously enough, I love my depression. I do not love experiencing my depression, but I love the depression itself. I love who I am in the wake of it. 

Today, I accept that my mood is low. I hope to step back into the light soon. In the meantime, I will look at all the grey with gratitude. Without the grey, I might not experience the colors of my life so brightly. 

Take a moment to drop me a note and let me know how you contend with the darkness in your own life.