It’s been roughly a year since my last episode of depression began. That might seem like a sign that it was seasonal-affective induced. However, more than any other time of year, I typically associate late spring with being the time that I typically start to experience depression; so I think that the arrival of winter was just coincidental. That being said, due to my current circumstances of coming to the end of a therapeutic relationship with somebody who I’ve grown to trust over the last 7 or 8 months – coupled with the inevitable arrival of the darker months – I am a little worried that I might slip into depression again.
It might seem silly to dwell on it – and it might seem like the dwelling itself could act as a self-fulfilling prophecy or a catalyst for depression itself – but I’m not dwelling so much as considering the possibility. Over the past few months, and years I suppose, I’ve been trying to get to know myself better. And one thing I know is that I’m predisposed to depression – or at least last time I checked, anyway.
I don’t want to run away anymore. From anything. From bad feelings, scary urges – from my shadow. I understand why people want to avoid depression. It can be painful, frightening, lonely, despairing. But I’m wondering how radical acceptance could change my experience of it. This is something I was mulling over on the bus ride back from the Buddhist retreat I was on recently. And it led to this poem:
How I “Got Over It”
How I got over it was by…not getting over it
Self-help guides suddenly turning into Mandarin.
Square peg, round hole – the old way was broken
And I had no tools left, barely hanging on was coping.
How I got over it was no poetic story
– No romance in unwashed sheets or unbrushed teeth or midnight feasts.
A lover full of wisdom shone his warmth right from his bones
But depression’s a long corridor and you mostly walk alone.
How I got over it was with a daunting realisation –
Just because you cleared it once — it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
You learn the things you learn until you think you know it all
But naïvety’s a poison, it builds you up and lets you fall.
How I got over it was with a deep reverence for time.
“Well, it doesn’t heal unless you do the work!” they hostilely insist.
Well, you can take your fucking leaf-blower to the mist that’s on the hills,
The wisest know it lifts itself – if and when it wills.
The first time, it bewildered me, but I thought I’d cut it loose;
I learned the second time my certainty was just a ruse.
The third time led me down the path to emotional abuse,
Number 4 almost convinced me that I had nothing to lose.
Number 5: How are you? I haven’t met you yet
But the likelihood is staggering – I’d almost place a bet;
And as the fisherman knows the inevitability of the storm,
It lurks in my unconscious, waiting to be born.
How I got over it was by…getting in it, getting under it, getting between it – getting to know it
– Revelling and writhing, hardly surviving.
Siddhartha saw the river and almost plunged right in –
It was the sweetness of surrender that allowed his new life to begin.
So how will I get over it?
Well, hopefully by putting the kettle on for it. Letting it take its shoes off and come to bed with me.
Accepting it with grace, and I’ll try and remember through it all:
It’s my inner child that’s crying – it’s a spiritual call.
The whole “how I got over it” thing was intended to be a bit of a response to or critique of the idea that depression is something you can simply choose to get over. I personally believe there is more at play – more spiritually, more cosmically, more unconsciously – than what we are able to have a cognitive understanding of when it comes to depression. And that the belief that efforts in regard to exercise, diet and affirmations, for example, are what cause it to lift again is a reductive one. I believe all of these things to be very surface level. And that, generally speaking, it lifts when the time is right. When the fates allow. I’m aware this view could be construed as controversial. And it’s not that I don’t think leading a relatively healthy lifestyle doesn’t help, it’s just that I think there is a lot more to it than just physiology and brain chemistry.
“A great reward awaits those who honour the soul’s dark nights: St. John sings of an unutterable sweetness, the swoon of grace which flows into a soul that has deeply surrendered to this ‘splendid darkness’. In this long journey, it is humble perseverance that matters.” – Jack Kornfield, ‘After The Ecstasy, The Laundry’
All this being said, the poem I wrote came from a place of tentativeness. I wasn’t sure if my viewpoint was on the mark or not. The book I’m reading speaks a lot about the value of humility and mystery in regards to the dark night of the soul. So to be in a place of tentative uncertainty and openness – I guess that’s alright, after all. Reading the above passage one day on the bus after work led to a very profound experience for me. I read it a few weeks after I wrote my poem and it echoed the sentiments of my poetry so specifically that the present moment blossomed into an embodiment of pure synchronicity.
I couldn’t believe that what was on the page in front of me was so astoundingly similar to what I had written only a few weeks prior. Looking at the words printed on the page, it felt like I was looking right at God – and that God was looking right back at me, unblinking. My breath caught in my chest and I felt this energy seeping through my nerves, my flesh – from my scalp to my toes. It was like I was covered in goosebumps – if the goosebumps were in fact source energy dancing and sparkling on my very skin. Like my third eye had opened. Like the book I was holding in my hand was of my own creation and manifestation. Like the words printed on the page in front of me came from my own hand. The bus moved up a hill lined with trees and it’s like I was creating everything around me – as if the bus was moving through my consciousness itself. My body was glowing. It was glorious.
I’ve had a few experiences of that “god-consciousness”, as I’m calling it, and they’ve been pretty beautiful and transcendent. But, as the title of the book I’m reading sums it up beautifully, “After The Ecstasy, The Laundry”. One thing we can count on is the perpetual swaying of the pendulum, the up followed by the down and the lush or arid plateau in between.
“When the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich says she knows of no lover of God who is kept safe from falling, she is voicing the understanding that to descend is also God’s will. Whether we understand this or not, Mara* does return. The fall, the descent, and its subsequent humility can be seen as another form of blessing.” – Jack Kornfield, ‘After The Ecstasy, The Laundry’
“To descend is also God’s will” is a line that resonates deep within my soul. It’s a humbling, sobering truth. And in some way, it’s also a comforting one. The knowledge that through my darkest days and nights, when all seems pointless and needlessly painful, I am still held in God’s love** and in the watchful and compassionate gaze of the universe; is so soothing to me. And not just that – it’s soothing to know that when the fall does happen, it’s not just down to simple human error. That I don’t need to feel as if I’ve done something wrong or that I’ve failed at my task of happiness. “To descend is also God’s will” – it is supposed to happen.
Thank you for getting to the end of this somewhat lengthy blog post! Next week, I plan to write about a Buddhist figure called Amoghasiddhi who is starting to become a very supportive symbol in my life regarding my fear of depression and of these darker months. Maybe my writing about him will be a source of support for you too. 🙂
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx
*Mara is a Buddhist demon, whose “greatest power is his influence over the other inhabitants of the Desire Realm. Not only can he summon other demons to him whenever he pleases, he can turn good men and women into tools as well. With clever lies and cunning truths, he succeeds at filling hearts with greed, lust, anger, jealousy, confusion, fear, and depression.” – mythology.net
**When I say God’s love, I mean love from the higher part of myself which is also part of the larger creative force of the world and universe around me.