Who are all these voices telling me how I should be? Telling me that being "happy" in my unalienable right. That depression can be cured. That meds, or therapy, or a solid 12 step program could, individually or combined, alleviate this heaviness that I am "burdened" with. This is a difficult area to explore, for there are many opinions about depression, many that want to offer advice, many that don't want to see others suffering. There is lots of spin because there are profits to be made. In reality, it is a life and death issue, nonchalant advice is dangerous. I write this so I can gain clarity, to review the path I am following at this time.
So, for me, I have chosen to simply live with depression. After, last year, coming to the point where I had unpacked my suicide plan, fantasying about it each day to help me make it though the day, I needed to change something. And what I chose was not to consider it a problem that needs to solved. Not hoping that the demon of depression is exorcized.
I took some idea's I had read and brought them to the councilor who was instrumental in my recovery. I shared with him these ideas. In 'Care of the Soul' Thomas Moore asks the question, "What if 'depression' were simply a state of being, neither good nor bad, something the soul does in its own good time and for its own good reasons?" He then goes on to state, "we might see melancholy more as a valid way of being rather than as a problem that needs to be eradicated." James Hillman, from "A Blue Fire," writes:
"It's only that you needn't take all those moods and all those weaknesses and helplessnesses and so on as literal. One thing you do learn in therapy is how, when you have a depression, it belongs to you but you don't identify with the mood. You live your life in the depression. You work with the depression. It doesn't completely stop you. Depression is worst when we try to climb out of it, get on top of it."
I have been hoping to be free of depression for the past forty years. Alcohol was my first pitch at being free, then pot, religion, confronting relatives, work, exercise, schooling, running, porn, internet chat, and finally returning to alcohol. I could do nothing in moderation, trying anything that would relieve the darkness, the sadness. I wanted to be anything but me. After all, it is my right! That hope that I would be depression free, happy and fearless, was slowly killing me.
And I came into recovery, was shown the tools of A.A. and the 12 Steps. Discovered the important of recovery, of unity, and of service. Of letting others into my life, of keeping no secrets. When I shared with my home group that I was fixating on my suicide plan, the plan lost it's power. Honesty, opening and willingness. To keep going forward, one step at a time. And when I fall, to get up and return to the journey. And when I finally came to the point where I was willing to accept my depression as it was, there was a turning point. Not a freedom from the sadness but a discovery about what it had to offer and teach.
More from James Hillman:
Yet through depression we enter depths and in depth find soul. Depression is essential to the tragic sense of life. It moistens the dry soul, and dries the wet. It brings refuge, limitation, focus, gravity, weight, and humble powerlessness. It reminds of death. The true revolution begins in the individual who can be true to his or her depression. Neither jerking oneself out of it, caught in cycles of hope and despair, nor suffering through it till it turns, nor theologizing it -- but discovering the consciousness and depths it wants. So begins the revolution on behalf of soul.
So I chase my shadow, the Jungian archetype shadow that is. I explore this shadow through the resentments I feel towards others, through looking at my fears, by writing poetry that explores my beginnings, by meeting with my councilor, by continuing to work the steps, by dreaming, imagining and more poems. By opening myself up to deeply buried feelings. By being patient.
And just like in early recovery, the process is the same. A breaking down of old foundational beliefs and a reconstruction of those beliefs into a new structure. A structure I cannot foresee, a process I have to trust. Just for today.
Nietzsche is quoted as saying "Be careful, lest in casing out your demon you exorcise the best thing in you." Hmmmm, self acceptance?