The funny thing about depression is that it isn't sad. At least, not in my experience.
The sources of my own depression are primarily two-fold. The first is the deep effect my parent's divorce had on me. I know my family reads this blog (hi mom!) so I want them to know that this is not an indictment. Life is what life is. However, truth is true. The trust, stability, and security that one is supposed to experience as a child is forever radically ruptured. Trust becomes difficult or even impossible. This in turn makes love all that more ungraspable. Also, it makes you a little crazy. You begin to think that it is essential for you to be perfect so that you are never abandoned. This is a big fat lie. It is a lie whispered in your ear by Satan and it is lie you constantly tell yourself.
As you get older you realize that perfection is always out of reach. In fact, as I get older it is becoming harder to be perfect. The body and the mind become betrayers. If this perfectionism takes over completely it can lead you into some pretty scary places. The anger that you feel over your imperfections can turn into a very sorry and unfruitful state of life. If you have experienced this sort of emotional self-mutilation you know what I mean. It makes you depressed. You look in the mirror and all you can see is failure. There is little to no consolation for this feeling. You start seeking consolation in the wrong places and usually in the wrong way. This can manifest in any number of compulsions be they sexual, emotional, or activity related compulsions. It is a deep dark rabbit hole that can be very hard to escape once entered.
The other source is from when I was an Undergrad at Texas A&M. My Sophomore year we had a tragedy on campus that forever changed many lives including my own. While our annual Bonfire was being built it collapsed eventually killing 13 people and injuring hundreds. I knew 4 of those who died. Three of them were friends and one, Chris, was one of the freshman in my Corps of Cadets outfit. The last time I saw Chris alive I was being less than kind to him.
Perspective. Death and destruction gives you perspective. You realize that some things can never be undone. On the flip-side you also realize just how precious human life really is. either way, the first time you encounter this it is extremely traumatizing. The first time you encounter mortality in all of its brutality it shakes the very ground upon which you stand. When this happened to me I was immobilized. I didn't eat, I couldn't sleep well. When I did sleep, I couldn't muster the will to get up for our morning activities or go to class. The fire that had been in my heart and been smothered.
This is the feeling of depression. It is the feeling of the inner fire of life being smothered. It isn't a sadness so much as it is a deadness, a numbness. Initially this feeling came upon me because of extreme events in my life. Now, like a chronic illness it is something that just arrises. I never know when it is going to happen. One day I'm on top of the world, the next I'm lower than the foundations of the world. The worst part of it all is that I never recognize what it is until it's almost past. While I'm being held tightly by this feeling it seems normal. It is like an old worn pair of jeans that fit perfectly and comfortably. But, the reality is that it is the opposite of normal. Where there should be feeling there is only numbness.
I think that some people will never fully understand or appreciate this. They interpret my dulled spirit erroneously. Or, maybe, I just think they do. This is part of the problem. The shame of depression. No matter how normal or how clinical depression is made, it is still shaming. The American in me wants to try to hike myself up by my bootstraps and carry on. But it's not that simple. When I'm in the grips of depression I have neither hands to lift with nor bootstraps to grasp. I'm stuck in a state I don't even realize I'm in. When I begin to realize I feel the shame set in. And, like a tortious, back into the shell I go.
This is why I'm eternally grateful for good company. My family is exceptional even in all their flaws. They love intensely as befits Latinos. I've never felt unloved by them. I am fortunate. I understand God's love because I've experienced true unconditional love from my family. They have never allowed their own faults and failings to get in the way of their love for me. This doesn't stave off depression but it does make it bearable. I'm eternally grateful for my 'Buddy' Matt. When I was at my lowest after the collapse of the Bonfire he lit a fire under me, moving me, by the force of his will, and care, out of the depths of depression. Good friends and good family – I'm lucky.
This, I think, has led me to where I am today. I just crawled out of one of these states. One pretty nasty occasion of it I might say. But, the goodness of my Dominican Brothers, their care and concern, their willingness to let me talk through my irrational emotional states has been my consolation. It's funny, they are a fusion of both friends and family. But, why? How? These guys are just a bunch of odd guys who dress funny and live a life inconceivable to most people. Why do they care? How can they care so much? I think it's because they love God. In loving God you can love anything that God loves. In loving God you can hate anything that God hates. As you live this Dominican life, this Christian life, and grow in the capacity to love God more and more you are empowered to love others more and more. I'm for the first time grateful for my depression. I hate it, but I'm grateful. God has willed me to become weak so that I can be an object of charity for others.
My weakness has become salvific.