Depression can hit you like a thunderbolt out of the blue sunny sky. Literally. But first, to explain, I need to discuss the weather with you.
A Weather Report
This was one of the strangest winters I can remember, and not because of the snow or the ice. For where I live, in the Netherlands, there was no snow or ice this year. There was no winter. Warmth records have been broken. This winter, Dutch skaters got no natural ice to practice on: we had no frost. Not one single day. And so we had no real snow either, none at all. One or two days with a few wet melting flakes. That was it.
The weird winter was like a spring, and it seamlessly continued into a weird spring. A month ago, halfway February when there might have been snow and frost, I already had flowers in my garden. Right now, halfway March, the garden is blooming like it’s May. Honeybees are already buzzing from yellow to blue to red flowers. My neighbors’ cherry tree is already in pink blossom.
I do know that some Americans did get a winter, so this warming was not global. But over here, it was so warm it felt absolutely unnatural.
In view of this warm spring weather a few days ago I left my coat at home. I found myself walking the dike alongside a morass where wild geese have already installed themselves. A gentle warm breeze was caressing me in the sunlight under a metallic blue sky, when suddenly a Thunderbolt of Depression Hit Me.
This depression struck me in the form of one simple thought:
“I don’t want to live through yet another summer again.”
I had already nodded to myself in agreement before I was aware that this was Depression talking to me. Depression thinking for me. Depression feeling what I apparently felt: sunshine and all, go ♦♦♦♦.
Here I stood at the slope that can set the Avalanche Mechanism of Depression in motion: I don’t care for the next week ► I don’t care for the next season ► I don’t care for next year ► I don’t care for the rest of my life. Because according to my depression, it’s all the same ♦♦♦♦.
Lines of Defense
Maybe you notice that with the words “according to my depression” I try to put some distance between myself and my depression. This is the first line of defense in situations of acute danger: making clear to yourself that you hear your depression talking, but that this depression is not yet quite the same as yourself.
The second line of defense is to force yourself to stop listening to what your depression is trying to tell you. This can be achieved (most of the times) by completely concentrating on some trivial object in your direct environment. The space this fills in your head, cannot be filled by depression.
So, are there some yellow flowers in the grass? Start counting how many of them you see. Drop to your knees and start counting petals, to check if they all have the same number. Do not just smell the scent of the grass, but try to figure out a descriptive name for that smell.
So far so good. Back home, I tried to analyze why this happened. This is the third line of defense: ask yourself why your thoughts slided down into the depression realm. Try to understand the mechanism, so you can see it coming the next time.
Looking back, I think this time it was the warm weather that triggered it. I think this warm weather had taken something away: the expectation of things being different soon.
Because things already looked and felt like summer, I must have felt I had no summer left to look forward to. Instead, I had been triggered into a feeling that nothing would really change anymore for a long time.
This idea that the future will hold few surprises (or none at all) is a typical depression feeling. It leaves no room for other surprises than the feared depression thunderbolt itself.
But of course, this idea is wrong. It’s a feeling that has no roots in reality, in this ever-changing world all around us. All we need to do from time to time, is to venture a few steps into this world and look instead of allowing ourselves to be blinded.
Since yesterday, over here the weather has changed. I still spotted one honeybee bravely going from flower to flower, ignoring the wind, but it’s really overcast now and cold enough for us humans to warrant a coat. I cannot say I dislike this weather for now, even though it’s less than ideal. It’s a change, and this brings the promise that more change will follow.
People sometimes tell you that change just for the change is bad. Maybe occasionally that’s true, but as a rule I disagree. Change is often a sign of life. Change is good.
And now you must excuse me, for I’m going to move that heavy old bookcase to another wall in my room. If I’m happy with the result, or happy with at least having tried it, this change may also help me to ward off the next depression thunderbolt.
I’m sorry if you feel this post is so excessively optimistic that it only worsens your motionless, immovable, unchangeable depression. Well, let me tell you, of course I’ve not become immune to thunderbolts… Believe me, we’re all in this together.
For some reason, the song Necromancer by Soltero comes to my mind now, where they sing the lines:
everyone thinks that we’re okay
because they don’t hear what we don’t say
we found a saint that doesn’t care
and every footstep is a prayer
• tip: Think of something you could easily change. And then, even if you don’t know yet if it’s a change for the better, just try to do it.
• footnote: Necromancer is a song from Soltero’s 2008 album You’re No Dream. Here is a link to Soltero’s Bandcamp site where you can get (well, buy) all their great albums.
• note: Sorry for all those doodles this time. The last few days I was so busy counting petals and stacking books that I forgot to take photos.