To beat back the Great Bleakness that is clinical depression takes a lot of falling sick. For the depressive, there is often no choice about sinking into despair—darkness so overpowering that it would shock the uninitiated. For us, it can be a daily occurrence. But to fall sick mindfully, to observe our experience of depression—that skulking trickster, part physical malady and part creative storyteller—allows us to learn its language. And in that is power.
Some of you may remember my “coming out” column of last year. I am happy to say that a promising new health-focused news site has just posted it. Check it out at Rewire Me and consider sharing your thoughts on their site. I’ll let you know when my next contribution–something about “falling sick” to find healing–posts in the coming week or so. Peace.
The spirit seeps into my body unannounced. Conscious mind hardly recognizing it. There’s no overwhelming smell of pitch or sulphur, no nefarious cackle betraying its evil intention. Only after the energy, call it anxiety or agitation, has a firm hold do I see the shift has transpired.
From here the rest comes predictably, the way a tension headache comes on–just as you knew it would–hours after those first signs of cramped shoulders and swollen neck manifest before moving on to the muscles around the ears and eyes and deep into the head like a slowly turning cement screw.
Suddenly I’m discouraged, irritable, and distracted.
The progression to darker planes isn’t inevitable. Things could slow down here if I’m able to alert myself, “This is anxiety.” If I can identify and name the intruder. Changing my mind directly by sitting and meditating, or indirectly by changing my behavior by taking a quick walk or playing with the dogs, can interrupt it, knock it off the tracks. But too frequently I don’t catch it here. It marches on.
I know next to nothing of Mr. Williams’ health history and have followed news of his death only in passing. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just, like the Williams we’re all suddenly becoming better acquainted with, I have my own struggles demanding my attention.
Truly, I’ve always felt the allure of Williams as a performer and human being. As a young comedian crashing into the nation’s psyche via the Mork and Mindy show, his high-energy antics communicated to my young mind the stimulating possibilities of life itself. In later performances, he exuded an almost palpable sense of compassion and tenderness betraying the perfect frailty of human existence.
While bad acting can so often feel like the clumsy fabrication of a life from dead matter (thinking Nick Cage here in his more Frankenstein monster moments), the good stuff springs from the deepest parts of a person and seems to tap into a shared emotive energy that binds all people. We recognize ourselves when gifted with such performances.
What came from Williams, I choose to believe, came from inside of him. It was earned (it would seem) in the forge of his own suffering, a suffering that concluded this week with his final decision: the decision to silence the pain by extinguishing his own life.
That decision has been kicked around in public for days now by a good number of commentators and supposed friends. And, in almost every case, these people just need to shut the fuck up.
Here’s a chicken-and-egg for you: Which came first, the lazy prefrontal cortex signaling classical signs of depression or the low-energy body that must be dragged about from room to room without a seeming will to even exist? If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent many an hour kicking the tires of this brain tickler.
For many years I assumed I was one of those unfortunates born with a vitamin Prozac deficiency. It was a conclusion backed up by, if not originating with, the lab coats who I ran to for answers. But what if my mood is actually based in my body? (As if the brain weren’t of the body, but that’s for another day.) What if my brain merely interprets an illness originating in the gut, for instance, as depression and is making up stories to back up its conclusion?
What if my food is making me “crazy”?
I’ve learned a lot in my healing walk this past year and a half, but I realize also that–since writing up the depression device trial a year ago–I’ve shared very little of it. I’m comfortable being dogmatic about the planet and our place on it, apparently, but shy about posting about matters of the heart that are so critical to being good planetary tenants.
I write /against/ failed social, economic, and political forces picking apart our biosphere but rarely write /for/ basic inter- and intra-personal practices required for building and sustaining a healthy society supportive of the needs of all of earth’s families. It’s easier to decry a problem than craft a solution. But there’s another reason for my reticence. It’s rooted in my own history, my personal pain, and this resulting general distrust of people and resistance of intimacy. It’s not a unique story or experience.
But here’s where I step out and start to correct that pattern.
This project was supposed to be done by now. Depression Time was intended to chronicle my final assault on my illness, either built up into book form or abandoned completely after a successful recovery. A last dance. A final goddamned go-round.
This was definitely not supposed to be just another mile marker on my (seemingly now interminable) journey into obsolescence. And yet here I am: still sick, still struggling to get good health care, and thrashing about desperately for a job and career, for this thing called “wellness.”
In fact, I’ve been so sucked into my admittedly marginalized social corner that I had forgotten all about the DT blog. Then Wordpress rang, alerting me to a surge in traffic on the site. Obviously some news outlet somewhere was writing about synchronized transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS), I thought, as the treatment I received in a double-blind clinical trial more than a year ago is known. Continue reading