Depression: To have and to hold.

robinI heard a great quote this week, just from someone in the office who I wouldn’t really have expected it from, while she was talking about Robin Williams’ suicide. While I only heard the last part of the conversation, it was clear that she and the other lady in question were taking a sympathetic stand on depression, and an unfavourable view of those in the “just buck up” camp.

“It’s like telling someone not to be so diabetic,” was what she said.

Brilliant. Replace that with any condition. Don’t be so arthritic; so infertile; so elderly. It also works with personalities and attributes; don’t be so funny, so relaxed, so kind, so anxious.

Don’t be so depressed.

So, is depression something you have, or something you are? Something you have or hold? If you hold something, you can put it down. Maybe you can change who you are, maybe not, and I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to decide which is the truth, should such a creature exist in this or any other matter. One thing is certain and that is that Robin Williams has raised awareness of a subject that is still so misunderstood, still taboo and even viewed with suspicion.  We may all feel depressed (although depression is a chronic state and not to be confused with feeling down) but depressed enough to take your own life? This is huge, scary stuff. No wonder it gets some people’s backs up, its just a terrifying and incomprehensible thought. What does that kind of depression feel like? I think the key word must be hopelessness. An absolute belief that the emptiness, the heaviness, the blackness, will never lift. Ever. That you have no choice but to let that blackness envelop you; that it has become you. That it is you.

People can be very uncomfortable around those with severe depression, because it can cause them to feel this hopelessness too, and given the choice, they would rather turn away. That’s the whole point; the sufferer can’t turn away. They may put on a face, and many, including our case in point, are extremely good at it, famous for it, even. But it is with them everywhere they go, embroided into the very fabric of their being and saturating their essence. A bleakness, a desperate sorrow, a numbness beyond emotion or capable of reason or fathoming. It is all pervasive, like broth soaking into bread.

I believe that Robin Williams’ greatest legacy will be raising awareness of this terrifying condition. He couldn’t just buck up, he couldn’t just move on. To be truly depressed is to be, in every sense of the word, alone, trapped in your thoughts and living within a prison with no hope of release, bar the one which those who are sympathetic will call tragic, the less so, selfish.

I was moved by the above photo of Robin, because his face shows utterly the kind of despair so typical of this condition, and to see it on a  face so loved, so regarded, is, hugely poignant. To be broken by depression is truly tragic, to live with it, terrifying and to witness it, traumatic.

I don’t know what the answer is, much less the problem. But this I do know. We can never understand the mind of another. But we can open our hearts.

Be kind to those around you. You can never know the tragedy behind their eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

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A soul’s true calling; the hearing, the listening, the anwering.

Like countless others, in fact, probably all of us, I often ask myself about the calling of my soul. I do not ask what this calling might be; I feel blessed in not ever having to question the call’s nature, but rather the way in which I do and should answer. It cannot be a thing denied that I have spent countless hours, accumulating no doubt in years, listening to my soul’s endless cries to be expressed, but how do I answer? It is that question which may keep me awake at night, or pensive during daylight hours. Why, I ask myself, if I am blessed with the insight to understand the most innate call of my being, do I immerse myself in endless pursuits of confusion, chasing the ghosts of chaos and submerging my creativity into pools of poisoned ink? Why, when I could be taking up the challenge set by my inner voice, charging forth with every ounce of divine energy gifted me by the universe, do I indulge in a lethargic, listless state of soul? Passive in its undertakings and innately inert.

To hear the true call assigned to each of us but to put it to the side is tragic and the true meaning of waste, as we follow fruitless paths; wasted avenues; consuming the empty calories of the soul. We chase our tails in some endless rush to fill our lives with nothingness, complaining at the end of the day that there is not enough time. It seems to me that we create our own barriers, hurdles which need not be there in the first place, but which we must leap across each day, rendering ourselves exhausted and depleted in more ways than one.  We would love to paint; to philosophise; to write, but we don’t have the time after the endless chores of the day. It feels almost as if expending our time and energy on the soul’s desires is a guilty pleasure. Of course, we live in a society where we have to make a living; we need to pay rent, bills; it becomes harder and harder to meet financial demands. This is not a new concept, of course. But, how many people who spend their days toiling in order to perpetuate the enormous wealth of some corporation or other, while just managing to maintain their own, feel satisfied when they lay down to sleep? That is, satisfied to the very core of their being?

I ask myself why I never became a ballerina, a pianist, a novelist. Of course, there’s still time. But of all the potential paths of procrastination, why are the truly important things the first on the list? I once read that there is none so attractive as the person who is “on their path”. Have you ever looked at someone who seems to have it all and felt sharply envious, and berated yourself for being so? The girl who followed a career in her beloved dance and who draws crowds to watch as she elegantly exhibits to the  universe her given talent; the musician who inspires countless listeners with their melodies; the writer who travels to the most exalting places in the world and makes a living from writing about his experiences. It seems to us that these people’s lives flow in an endless river of good fortune, gifts bestowed upon them from a unseen benefactor. Luck. Opportunities that were perhaps never afforded to us. And while it is true that release from financial restraints does certainly lend itself more to freedom, this does not automatically mean that this freedom is used in pursuit of our dreams. What is it about that person that is following their true path that makes them different from us? If not opportunity, is it confidence? An inherent self belief; a true sense of identity and recognition of one’s worth? Is it perhaps recklessness, a lack of regard for the supposed structure of things? Maybe I know the answer to these questions and maybe not, and maybe it doesn’t matter in the slightest either way.

Having always believed that a life filled with drama was preventing me from following my own creative path, it was only recently that I was set free from this limiting belief. Far from being the cause of the neglect of my creativity, it was the symptom of it, the reason why I was wasting precious energy on emotional futility, languishing in bleak, barren mental landscapes. This too, I believe is probably the reason why many artists are prone to addiction. It is not a new concept that addiction and creativity are often synonymous, but why is this? Is it something to do with the fundamental nature of “the artist” or is it a manifestation of the pain experienced when creativity is being in any way stifled? Creativity is our life blood; we come from creation, and to create is, I believe, our most basic instinct. On a fundamental level, this could be the instinct to reproduce, but there is so much more to creation than this. With our every thought, we create a pathway for our future, a blueprint for who we are and what we may become, and with every action we create an imprint in our mind for the rest of our life, or lives; buddhists would call this karma. We can choose what to think, and how we allow our thoughts to manifest. Our minds are filled with all kinds of thoughts, ambitions and desires, and with our actions we demonstrate that which we choose to embrace. This is our choice. Every word we speak or action we take as a manifestation of our thoughts is our creation.

That is really all any of us can do. If you are blessed enough to hear the call of your soul, do more than just hear it. Listen to it. 

Answer it.

The Spirit of Sunday.

I really dislike the “Sunday feeling.”

There is something in the air, it would seem, that is there regardless of the structure of my week, whether or not it is my day off, the last remaining day of freedom before being once again shackled by the chains of the working week, or whether or not I am concerned with the opening hours of commercial establishments. It is just…an atmosphere, an aura, a veil that can be felt but not seen.  At least, this is the way I feel about Sundays. Of course, I look forward to them each week, but, whatever activities they hold, I always feel a sense of melancholy hanging in the air, which, were it weather, would at times feel like a slight Cornish mizzle, a light weight but a weight none the less, and at other times a grey, barren bleakness like the foreboding moors described by Daphne Du Maurier in Jamaica Inn.

Morissey for me described it perfectly in “Every day is like Sunday.” Both the song and the video seem to adequately illustrate this kind of emptiness. Perhaps it is that many people on Sundays have slowed down, as have businesses, and whether this directly affects us or not, the feeling can be found dancing lightly on the periphery of our senses. Perhaps it is due to the expectation and anticipation with which Sundays are held, a yearning for its misty grey which, once arrived, is ultimately dispirited in its discontent. Perhaps because in this Sunday silence, we find ourselves reflective, pensive, lost. I find myself questioning my purpose, my path; the heaviness which hangs in the air gradually seeping into my bones until I feel an intolerable weight upon my shoulders, a dull gloom spreading through my veins and filling up my heart. Until I feel an oppressive sorrow for the world, the plight of the earth and the distress of its people.

Perhaps it is left over despondency from the Sundays of childhood – the day before the return to school, an institution where we had no control over the moments of our day. Perhaps it affects those of us more who grew up in families ruled by orthodox religion. But, if I had never worked Monday to Friday weeks, had never attended school or church, would Sunday have the ability or power to affect me differently? Would its curse seep beneath my skin through its hold on the lives of those around me?

The Sunday blues are a common institution in this society at least. Whether its hold over us is an illusion, a phenomenon or a curse, it certainly feels very real when we are spinning, albeit sluggishly, within its vortex. As all things must change, as leaves fall and grow anew and mist gathers and clears over water, so perhaps will Sunday become a day of great meaning and significance in my life.

But today, I must say again, I really do not enjoy the spirit of Sunday.