Possibly TMI: Life is Sweet

Image: A bird-of-paradise plant in my yard.

I woke up this morning and something was different. My body was still achy, but not as heavily achy. I felt amused when I realized the powder puff against my cheek was Jojo’s ear. I stretched, and felt the pleasure of a good, long s-t-r-e-t-c-h. I opened my eyes, and it seemed as if the sunlight coming through the window was five times brighter than yesterday.

It took a while for me to make the connection: the latest round of depression had loosened its grip on me.

When I’m depressed, I doubt everything about myself. I even doubt that I’m depressed: I tend to see myself as lazy and shiftless when I’m in the grip of what Churchill called “the black dog.” I can’t get as much done, if I can get anything done. I’ll think of a topic for this blog, but when I sit down to write, I have nothing. If I read email, the most I can manage to do is mark emails that need replies as “need reply.” Email and snail mail have the potential to send me further into the black hole; I feel guilty and exhausted when I see something new I can’t deal with right now.

Yes, I take anti-depressants, and thank God for them. They keep the lows from getting too low. I exercise. I pray. I meditate. I knit. I eat mindfully. I go to therapy. I do mitzvot. And most of the time, I’m a high-functioning human being – until the wheel turns and another low cycle comes. Then I hang on until it recedes.

Why all this personal info? This is my effort to reduce the stigma around this very common illness, clinical depression. Yes, rabbis can get it, just like they can get diabetes or bunions or cancer. It is a disease, not a moral flaw. I’m self-employed, and so I have less to fear from the stigma, so I can “come out” without fear.

If you are a person who suffers from depression, it’s worth the fight to get to the other side. There are some things that may help (see my list above) but ultimately, it’s not something we can control. It will lift eventually, like mine did this morning. I promise that when you can finally taste life, it’s darn sweet.

If you know someone who suffers from depression, I know it’s hard to be patient. I can only tell you that I’m deeply grateful to the loved ones who are patient with me, who remind me that (1) they know I can’t control it and (2) this, too, shall pass.

Now I have stuff to do because I have energy and attention to spare! Catch you later.

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rabbiadar

Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi based in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, mom, poodle groomer, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ as the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

5 thoughts on “Possibly TMI: Life is Sweet”

    1. Thank you, Dan! Many, many people have had some experience of it. The more of us who say so, the easier it will be for those in the midst of it to recognize that they are not alone.

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    1. Thank you, Rabbi. I struggle with the “black dog” also, and am grateful to hear that, even with treatment, there are bad times. Thanks for the reminder.

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  1. Thank you for this, and no, it’s not TMI. I enjoy your posts for a number of reasons and the biggest one is that you share your life w/us and you also put a Jewish twist-? to it, and…you have a sense of humour. I too cross paths w/the black dog. When it’s bad, I feel so alone and sometimes like a freak. I function but barely. So again, thank you.

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