“Depression is the ultimate state of disconnection–it deprives one of the relatedness that is the lifeline of every living being,” wrote Parker Palmer in Let Your Life Speak. I love that he gives words to the isolation one feels in a depressed state. If you have ever been depressed, it makes sense. If you have not been depressed, then listen: it is a deep dark hole that is lonely and painful.
Depression is an odd thing because it is so quiet and invisible. I have found it to be a private cell where I cannot access beauty, mystery, or even summon a smile. I can be in the middle of the most profound beauty, and I could not touch it. Or rather, it could not touch me–could not penetrate the hard casing around my heart and mind. As if Voldemort had cast an evil spell that made my misery more painfully pronounced around beauty and love.
Palmer goes on to share a question one of his friends asked him while he was experiencing his own depression, “Do you think you could see it [depression] instead as the hand of a friend, pressing you down to the ground on which it is safe to stand?” I like how he takes this question and expands, “… down to the ground, was the direction of wholeness, thus allowing that image to begin its slow work of healing in me… the ground of my own truth, my own nature, with its complex mix of limits and gifts, liabilities and assets, darkness and light.”
I must say, my own encounter with depression was a “grinding down” of myself to my inner core. It stripped away all sense of life until there was a husk laying in the light–me. I have had a chronic relationship with depression that has eased over the past couple of years. And to provide a bit of background for Parker’s experience with depression, his was due to circumstances, which was no less real. There are so many types and reasons and brands of depression, and I don’t want to brush off any experience you may have. The more information that is shared about our individual experiences and stories, the more healing that can be done.
“I had to be forced underground before I could understand that the way to God is not up but down.” Eventually we come to the end of ourselves, “we are brought low,” but eventually we find a “firmer and fuller sense of self.” Our suffering can provide a way to be whole. Florida Scott Maxwell wrote, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done… you are fierce with reality.” Embracing wholeness means to embrace all of it, the good, the ugly, the disfigured, the hopes, the dreams, the scars, so that you truly be fierce with your own reality. Palmer goes on to say, “To embrace weakness, liability, and darkness as part of who I am gives that part less sway over me, because all it ever wanted was to be acknowledge as part of my whole self.”
I don’t offer up these words to diminish the pain, but instead, I offer up these words as hope. Perhaps the beauty of depression is part of the answer: accepting who you are where you are. You will change and grow, but right in this moment you are you. And there is mighty medicine in embracing yourself prickles, stings, rainbows, and all.
Photo credit: photophilde / Foter / CC BY-SA