Starting with an essay nearly a year ago, I have been writing about my own journey through depression. As the essays and poems piled up, I decided to turn them into a book, Dancing with Depression.
That book is nearly done. I am hoping to have it formatted for publication in the next week or so, and ready for publication sometime in October.
This is the last chapter, titled simply enough, The Last Chapter.
Be well. Travel wisely,
There is no final chapter.
That, ultimately, is the lesson of my depression.
It’s a battle. Just that Some of us become casulties, bodies on the battlefield, conquered by chemicals in our brain, conquered by a society that blindly looks down on the depressed and lives mostly in ignorance.
Some of us are the walking wounded. Stumbling through the battlefield, able to function, but only just. We wear our wounds, but mostly hidden away, afraid of the scorn or dismissiveness of the world around us, unwilling or unable to take any more injury.
Some of us are warriors. Pissed off deverishes who fight it day in and day out, determined to fight back, even knowing that the term victory does not apply. At best we hold the line and push it back a little. We function well, but in mostly in secret, determined to have what society calls a normal life despite the wounds.
I’ve been all three. That is the story of my last decade and a half. It has not been a story that runs in a straight line like a Disney movie. It is an up and down ragged roller coaster. It is a tango, with it’s mix of love and aggression. It has been at times ugly, at times exhilaration, at times a slog.
I have said it before in these essays – some of the people who fight depression are the most courageous people I know. They fight a battle no one sees, that no one appreciates with, and often, even though they should not have to, they fight it alone. They fight it in a world that mostly dismisses it as the blues, or as some horrible flaw, that dismisses them rather than seeing them for what they are – people of courage.
The key word in all this is fight. Some people succumb to depression. It is simply too much. Some people struggle with it, surviving and little more. And some people fight it and come close to a victory.
I wish I had wisdom about how you move from succumbing to struggling to fighting. Even though I have made the journey, I have no magic. I have no secret.
I do know this though – we don’t do it alone. We need help, just like a man on the battle field with a mangled leg needs help, so do we. We don’t get out on our own. In my case, I had two loving pastors that held me up, I had two therapists, one in Virginia and another here in Vermont when I moved, that forced me through the process of healing. I had family, who even if they didn’t fully get it, hung in with me as I crawled back.
The temptation is to crawl into yourself. That feels like the safe thing to do. Your brain is whispering it’s lies about your worth and value and ability and alone in your hole seems the only safe place to get away. Some people line their hole with alcohol or drugs or other numbing agents. Some simply crawl in and sit.
It feels safe, but it is not. What saves us is help. Help that helps us stand and helps us learn to see the lies for what they are. Help that reminds us of our value, that gives us weapons. IT feels unsafe at first. It feels dangerous and it’s not an easy path.
No battle is.
But it the path back. The path to warrior-hood. The road to almost normal. And it never ends.
That’s right, it never ends. We age. Our body chemistry changes. The medications we took at the beginning of the journey have to be adjusted. Things trigger us. Depression is a sneaky opponent, often lying low, hiding in the bushes, waiting for a time when you are weak or unaware then pouncing like the Indians on Custer. Without diligence, the path from succumbing to struggling to warrior status can go backwards.
This too is why we don’t want to be fighting this alone. As the people around us understand the nature of our enemy, they can sometimes see our slide better than we can. They can point out what’s happening before we’ve lost another battle. They can give us support.
And we can do the same for others. You see, we are aware of the danger like no one else. We are in a better place to reach out to others that fight depression because we “get” it. We have fought past the shame and know the nature of our enemy in a way others do not.
Depending on the stats you read, roughly one out of ten people are dealing with depression. Think of that as you go through your day. Look around. Count, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 as people pass through your life. And when you do, realize one of those people are like us, fighting the same battles. Having lived that battle, we can be particular help. We help people realize they are not alone, and that things can get better. They can get less hard.
And we, the walking wounded, the silent warriors, can help.
Helping not only makes a difference to whoever we are reaching out to, it gives our battle purpose. And sometimes we need purpose when we are in the midst of it. We need something beyond ourselves. Because it keeps us from being isolated.
But the battle never ends. We are always at risk. The enemy is always there. There is no cure. Only the battle.
For me, sharing is part of my battle. It is my battle song, sung as dive into my day, sung as I swing my sword and keep the enemy at bay, and at the end of the day, when I look back at what I have done, who I have helped, the love I have felt and the love I have experienced, I sing even louder. It does not matter if I sing well. It only matters that I sing. I think of it as one of those war movies, when, outnumbered and out manned, the smaller, about to be destroyed army begins, first with one man, then another, then the entire army takes up the hymn and charges to victory.
This book is my wavering song. Will you sing with me? Today might not be the final chapter, but I want it to be a glorious one