Do know what I hate?
Yes, I detest cockroaches. I despise butchered hymns, shady 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.”