337. Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Do know what I hate?

Yes, I detest cockroaches. I despise butchered hymnsshady Internet ads, and the fact Black Friday happens one day after Thanksgiving. I dislike the Twilight books, and I loathe M. Night Shyamalan’s wretched film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. (I’m trying to forgive you, Shyamalan, but your abysmal Airbender movie tests even the Christian virtues of grace and mercy.) These are all awful things.

There is something I hate more than any of them.

I hate feeling bad and not knowing why.

Have you heard the (scientifically dubious) anecdote of the boiling frog? As the story goes, a frog placed in boiling water will jump out immediately, but a frog submerged in lukewarm water that is heated gradually will eventually be cooked to death.

Depression slowly boils me alive. It sneaks up on me so slowly and insidiously that I sometimes go days without realizing it. The world simply goes dark. I find it harder and harder to work, write, smile, relax, or do anything but slump in a chair and keep breathing. My descent into depression is so gradual that I don’t ask, “Why am I depressed?” My question is usually more like, “Has the universe always been this awful?”

Then, nearly always, there comes a moment—a blinding flash of hope and clarity when I realize, “Hold on a moment. I’m depressed. Huh, that explains a lot.” The moment I realize the universe isn’t really quite as dark and hopeless as it seems is generally the turning point in every bout with depression.

For my readers wondering how a person can be depressed without knowing it, I must ask a question. When you dream, do you realize you’re dreaming? Few people have the self-awareness to recognize a dream until they awaken. In the same way, I apparently lack the self-awareness to recognize depression right away.

Recognizing depression is generally my all-important first step in recovering from it. Depression makes it seem as though something is wrong with everything. When I realize I’m depressed, I understand there is merely something wrong with me. The problem no longer lies with the entire universe, but with one person in it. Believe me when I tell you that depression, however unpleasant, is a nicer problem than everything in existence being awful.

If I may put it so tritely: naming a fear is taming a fear. A problem is less scary when it’s a familiar one—especially when I know it’s one I’ve conquered before. When the world seems dark, I can smile grimly and echo the words of Paul Simon.

“Hello darkness, my old friend.”

I might add a few words to Mr. Simon’s and say, “I’m afraid you can’t stay long; I’ve got stuff to do.”

5 thoughts on “337. Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

  1. From experience, recognizing the signs and learning to realize it as quickly as possible is the best thing. In the case of the frog, it’s knowing when you’re being put in the pot of lukewarm water so you can get out of the dang pot ASAP!

    Sometimes the universe IS just really dark, too. However there’s light mixed in with the darkness, so that’s what you focus your attention on most of the time. It’s not ignoring the darkness, it’s acknowledging it and then remembering it’s the other side of the coin.

    As we’ve discussed before (and as far wiser men have said than I) there’s a time for everything. Neither of us know what glory can come from your experiences with depression, but glory can come from them. It may just be the sympathy one builds having gone through it, so you can care for another person experiencing similar things. It might be something else, I’m no prophet. But it all works for glory, if we let it. 🙂

    Also typically this time of year is the worst, since there are less rays of vitamin enriched sunlight to bask in. Just knowing that has been helpful to me, because I see February and March as prime season for depression to sneak in my front door. At this point I welcome it inside, see if it would like some tea and has anything to teach me, and then wave joyfully as it heads back out into the night.

    Will be praying for you; depression is no fun! It is, however, very educational, so keep your eyes open for lessons and guidance towards a better tomorrow. There’s great value in that there darkness, so long as it isn’t allowed to suffocate us before we can get back in the light and use what we learn from it.

    • I’m glad you’re able to maintain a positive attitude about your recurrent depression. As much as I appreciate the way depression forces me to slow down and rest occasionally, I generally despise it with the sort of cold, bitter fury I reserve for the films of Michael Bay.

      I tolerate depression, and I’m thankful for the lessons it teaches, but I’m no readier to embrace it than to embrace headaches, reality television, or the Transformers movies.

      • “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” -CS Lewis

        “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:2-4

        Pure joy can be had, even when depression stops by for a visit. It is, of course, up to you (and a very hard thing to change, please don’t let me speak flippantly) but no joy is found in hatred, only a twisted kind of power that urges us further down the darker path.

        What would happen if you greeted depression with love instead of tolerance, do you think? Could it survive? Can darkness survive put directly in the rays of light?

        At any rate, it sounds like you have grown a great deal since early blog posts on this subject, so acknowledge the progress and be glad. Then take the next step forward, because there still lies a long road before you. The good news is, God waits at its end. 😀 And really, what greater end can there be?

  2. Various occurrences from the past few days got me feeling a bit down today. Reading this helped me realize that I needed to get back to normal. I’m feeling much better now. Thank you for sharing your struggles, as it often helps others through their own difficulties.
    Have a nice day.

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