It’s been a little over two months since I started this project, and I’m still not totally out of the depressive episode that inspired it. And I’m scared. Scared because I so often feel hopeless, despite all the things I’m doing in an attempt to not feel that way. I don’t even like to write this down because I don’t want it to be true. But it is.
I’ve heard the chronic condition of hopelessness that is depression described as having “a hole in the soul.” It feels like gnawing. It manifests as desperation. At best, it’s an ache, and sometimes it’s more than an ache – sometimes it is an actual bonfire. But the most accurate depiction of depression I’ve come across in art is from Harry Potter. Yes, Harry Potter. Do you remember the dementors? The ghostly black thugs who, when they come near you, suck every bit of good feelings out of your life? JK Rowling describes them as such in book three: “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.”
That’s how depression feels to me. Despite all the reminders I give myself of all the wonderful things about my life — and there are so many! — it hovers around and it sucks up all the goodness.
In Harry Potter’s world, once you’ve banished the dementors, assuming you can banish them, the thing that can make you temporarily feel better is chocolate. I’m writing this from an airplane about 20,000 feet over the great plains, and I’m about to banish them with a can of Pringles from the concessions cart.
And no, that’s not a healthy way to deal with a bad day. I know that’s what you’re thinking. But I failed to eat lunch before I got on this plane, and I’m feeling sad and sick and sorry for myself, and I know that the Pringles will make me feel better, even if only for a short while.
I’m en route to Minnesota for the month of August, and in my search for a meditation center to go to, I came across this blog post written by a marvelously accomplished woman who attends a center called Common Grounds. I suggest you read it for yourself, but in it she talks about how Buddhist teachings helped her get through a terribly difficult time in her life, when her young Autistic son jumped out of a moving car. In the midst of the unfolding shit show, she called a teacher and told him what was going on, and he just said, “Can this be OK?” She realized in that moment that yes, it could. And it provided no small measure of relief, both then and in later moments when she turned to the memory for comfort.
One of the most difficult parts of being both Type A and depressed much of the time is that I JUST DON’T WANT TO ACCEPT IT. I don’t want to accept this bullshit. I don’t want to have to work so hard just to not feel hopeless when everyone else seems to be skating through without effort. But I have to. And I find myself at this particular moment asking, “Can this be OK?”
I suppose it can. And that is enough for right now.
Anyway, the cart has finally made its way to me, and they’re out of Pringles. Apparently I’m not the only one.
On to stuff that inspired me this week.
In my last newsletter, I wrote about therapeutic daily routines, and how I’ve been creeping up on the idea of cementing one for myself. My brilliant friend Octavia tipped me off to a new book by Nicola Ries Taggart called Calm the Chaos Journal: A Daily Practice for a More Peaceful Life. You can read Octavia’s writeup of it here. I like the idea that it leads you through your practice every day with prompts, because that makes one less thing to think about. If you try the journal, let me know what you think.
There are many days when I need to hear this, so I’m passing it on to you, courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda.
How long are you going to keep carrying that one conversation in your heart?
The one where you said or did the exact wrong thing?
It’s DONE. Nothing left but to learn.
Drag it to the trash file.
Click ‘empty trash’
Yes, you’re sure.
Free up that heart of yours
“Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear.”
I love this quote from Zora Neale Hurston, one of my favorite writers. So often what’s behind depression is anger and frustration, so channeling it into something productive is a brilliant move. Also, Zora had great taste in hats.
And finally, a poem:
That’s all for this time. Thanks for reading, as always.
p.s. Do you live in Los Angeles and have a therapist that you love? I have a reader asking for recommendations. Hit me up if so.