There’s been a lot of talk this week about getting help and support. Please do that but maybe also take a moment and consider how this depression may have something unexpected to offer.
What are the most beautiful moments in life? Quiet evenings watching sunsets? Boisterous Sundays playing with the kids? Lazy afternoon walks on the beach?
It’s easy to fall in love with all of that. And we should treasure beautiful moments. They’re like nourishing gulps of water amidst the endless desert of demands on our time. Work, traffic, the kids’ soccer games!
But there are other places to find beauty when we don’t have the luxury of peaceful hikes or dinner with friends. And these are perhaps the most important because they are the ones that help to define us.
There is beauty in the struggle. I’m not the first to say it, but when you’re in the midst of hard, it can be difficult to believe it.
At one point when I was in my early twenties and in college, I was struggling with a heavy bout of depression. I remember being home on break, curled up in my parents’ bed one afternoon while my mom puttered around the house doing various chores. At one point, she came and sat next to me on the bed and asked me how I was doing.
I told her I was scared. I was afraid that I would never feel happy again.
She sighed, put her hand on my leg, and gave me a quiet smile that was filled more with knowing than delight, but still revealed some kind of deep happiness:
Don’t focus on that. It’s too much to worry about. The thing about depression is, it makes us thoughtful. It makes us stop and notice things.We talk about depression like it’s bad, but it’s not. It’s only negative if it gets too deep or goes on so long you forget the happiness. Don’t focus on getting out of this space, focus on what this space has to teach you.
I can’t tell you the relief I felt at being given permission to feel bad. And the depression did eventually pass. And I did learn a lot from it. And it’s come back and left again, and each time I’ve grown even more.
Depression doesn’t always have to be used as a clinical term, to denote something enduring. We can have moments of depression. We can be down this afternoon, or for a few days. And that’s okay, and good, because guess what? We sure as hell don’t learn much from up.
Up is great. Up is fun. But up is not a territory of soul growth.
If you’re always up, number one: you’re not growing. And number two: you’re probably lying to yourself and are living in a place of illusion. There is a hell of a lot in this world to be down about. If you stop for a few minutes to reflect, it becomes apparent pretty quickly. Some people live in a false state of up because they’re running from down. And it’s exhausting.
My wife calls this “gripping”–clinging desperately to things we’re terrified of losing. Gripping is also an enemy of soul growth because it reinforces the illusion of control. “Please can’t things just stay like this!” They won’t. It’s a guarantee. Get ready to be flexible. Get ready for down. Get ready to grow.
My wife said something to me the other day that seems so simple, but bears repeating because we look past it so often. I was angry–really angry–about something insensitive and disrespectful someone had said to her. Quite frankly, all I wanted to do at that moment was punch the guy in the face. It’s not an evolved reaction, but hey, it’s authentic.
We were in the car. She was trying to get me to express how angry I was, even encouraging me to yell.
I don’t want to be someone who yells; not about something like that. And I certainly didn’t want to yell in front of her, and told her as much.“Here’s the thing,” she said. (There’s always a thing.):
You can sit there and be half angry, letting it steep, and I can watch bits of steam come out your ears, and this can go on all night or God knows how long. Or you can go into the anger and realize it. Yell about it or just talk, but fully acknowledge it. And then, let it go and come back to me. Because right now you’re just sitting in it, and it’s hurting you, not him, and it’s hurting me because you’re there and not here. And that’s useless.
You should have the experience of living with someone who’s pretty much always right. You can either get frustrated a lot or just get over it and consider yourself really lucky.
Go into it. Go into the angry. Go into the sad. See it for what it is. Take from it what it has to give you. And then come back.
And love. Help. Give. Apply that learning.
Hard times are like swimming underwater. Even in the depths, you can look up towards the surface and still see the sun. The warmth, the oxygen, are right there when you’re ready to emerge.
Originally Published: Throwing Stones