When a tree falls
“Depression isn’t sadness. It’s blankness. It’s when reality loses one of its dimensions and becomes flat, monochromatic. I can feel them [the shadowlands] there, and I can tell when stress or loneliness or tiredness, those things we all experience, brings me closer to them.” – Theodora Goss in Shadowlands
“Shadowlands” is an apt metaphor for clinical depression. Once a person falls into the shadowlands, they always remain close, waiting for missteps, odd combinations of circumstances, a few too many bits of bad news in a week, and then the world loses color and the air itself becomes heavy and fully saturated with despair-twisted memories of loss and guilt.
Bumps, bruises, breaks and other physical ailments are easier to explain to others than clinical depression. If you have the “flu,” others say, “oh, well that seems to be going around.” If you break your leg, people ask how it happened and then ask to sign your cast. It’s easier not to mention clinical depression because those who haven’t fallen into the shadowlands equate it with the generic, garden variety of the blues that people refer to when they say, “I’m feeling depressed about my job” or “What a depressing week.” They might be suffering clinical depression, but they’re usually not, and so they say “Hang in there, you’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.”
I personally don’t know whether women are more prone to depression than men. Some people think so. Clinical depression in men tends to be under reported, perhaps because men don’t want to be viewed as weak and subject to moods. While it may be cool showing up at work with bumps, bruises, stitches and a cast and say, “You think this is bad, you ought to see the other guy,” it’s not cool to show up and say, “gosh, I’m feeling lower than whale shit this week.”
If you say that, people will say, “hang in there” and/or will hang out with others until whatever is wrong with you blows over. Justifying that “hanging in there” is hardly Chicken Soup for the Soul and being more or less avoided by others usually don’t lighten the darkness of the shadowlands. Medications such as Zoloft and Paxil help, but they’re not complete solutions.
Men are taught to be strong. That’s okay to some extent and brainwashing to some extent. We’re supposed to be like the sturdy redwood trees, standing tall and forever against time, fires, wind, rain and weeks (like this one) when nothing goes right. I dislike fallen trees because, once down, there’s no real fix for the situation unless you want to be philosophical and say that the tree will become part of the great cycle of life as it rots away into the forest floor.
When you’re depressed, you often feel you’re rotting away into the forest floor.
When I tally up this week’s conflicts with others, broken appliances, financial woes, senior-citizen health issues, and the illnesses of others close to me, I’m not quite sure what the last straw was that opened the door to the shadowlands this time. Perhaps it was the tree that fell over in front yard on a rainy, windy night. I can’t afford to hire somebody to cut it up and haul it away, and I’m not making much progress trying to cut it up with a small carpenter’s saw.
When you’re in the shadowlands, you think you’ll never leave them.
In general, I have found that it’s better to embrace the shadowlands when I fall into them rather than fighting them or telling others where I am and why I seem unenthusiastic about everything I normally care about. The shadows know me well and are well aware that sometimes a good book or a good movie or an unexpected conversation will change my inner weather. The shadows are slightly lighter now than they were this morning because a neighbor stopped by and said he’d cut up that tree in the front yard with his chainsaw.
My sore muscles are grateful and so am I. I begin to think that there’s light in the world and that I will find it.