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.