I’ve read lots of books and articles about depression. What’s strikes me about most of them is how redundant they are. It’s as if there is a place called “Depression Town” where a lot of these authors live and reach consensus about what should be in these books
Most of the books I’ve read didn’t particularly help, some did. Yet, I felt compelled to keep buying them. I would show up on a regular basis at my neighborhood Barnes & Noble looking for new self-help titles or troll Amazon hoping –just hoping – that there would be a depression book written especially for me. During the worst of my depressions, I didn’t read the books so much as use them as emotional tourniquets.
The titles would usually be great – “10 Was to Stamp out Depression for Good”; the content not so much. Many of the books were boring. How could this be true, I thought? How could they be writing about depression – one of the most God-awful experiences you can imagine – and bore me? Most of the authors seemed never to have suffered from depression. If they had, they didn’t say. If they had, I wished that they had told me so. Maybe I would have felt a greater connection to what they were trying to say.
I think it’s easy to get lost in so much advice. And we’re all seeking pearls of wisdom; nuggets of truth that we can take back to our nest and ponder. I think the best wisdom not only deals with the particulars of depression, but also connects us to the larger human condition and all humans search for meaning within suffering.
Sister Kathryn James Hermes, author of the book, “A Contemplative Approach to Depression”, writes that prayer and contemplation help us to deal with depression in a larger spiritual context:
“Both of these practices lead to vulnerability – the learned powerlessness of the truly powerful who can simply be: simply wait, simply be present, simply wonder, simply trust that much larger hands are holding us and knows for whom we work in view of a much larger plan that we cannot as yet understand.”
Absent this, I think many of our efforts to get better may fall flat. Without such nurturance, advice becomes just another self-improvement project. Not much really changes. Oh, it might for a short while. We feel better, and then one of the wheels of our lives starts to wobble as we try to traverse our days. We feel like that is something about ourselves that needs fixing, and we get to it. Yet, there’s something very isolating and lonely about these Oprah-like projects to remake ourselves. Often, it involves rejection of some important element of who we really are.
That being said, we may come to the conclusion that depression is bigger than us, but it’s not bigger than God. A God –however you define Him/Her, who “holds us in His/Her much larger hands.”
When the turbines of depression were really churning in my life, dealing with it felt like a full time job. I had two jobs really – working as a lawyer and trying to get better. This often, in retrospect, would take on a grim earnestness that wasn’t very constructive. Sometimes, or so it seemed, God would drop these moments into my life to remind me not to take myself or my depression too seriously.
My then 5 year daughter would say, “Daddy works for the Depression Company.” As I tucked her into bed at night, and looked into those magical eyes that all small children possess, I said, “That’s right honey. And I’m the CEO.”