Looking Ahead to 2015 - Acknowledging What We're Up Against, But Keeping the Dream Alive
If you are reading this, chances are that "have a happy new year" comes across as a very cruel joke to you.
In all likelihood - if you are experiencing depression right now - you are dreading having to spend one minute in 2015, much less enduring it for a whole year, and I’m going to do nothing to disabuse you of that notion. To do otherwise would be to invalidate your terrible pain.
Someone once described depression to me as the equivalent of having a rat gnawing at your brain. I’m no stranger to those sharp pointy teeth eating away at my sanity. I’ve also felt the incessant drip of water wearing down the bedrock of my very being.
It’s also been more sudden and dramatic - like a ship sinking, like a building imploding, like the power going out.
Plus there is a damned-for-eternity element to it, a life-within-death feeling of being buried underground, cut off from daylight, from your thoughts and feelings and sensations. Like walking through mud, like having rags stuffed in your head - that’s how people have described it to me.
Like I just want to sleep and never wake up, is how I have described it to others.
Depression is the negation of hope. As William Styron in A Darkness Visible describes it:
I had now reached that phase of the disorder where all sense of hope had vanished, along with the idea of a futurity; my brain, in thrall to its outlaw hormones, had become less an organ of thought than an instrument registering, minute by minute, varying degrees of its own suffering.
Virginia Woolf couldn’t take it anymore. Cut off from her social circle and feeling herself going under yet one more time, she left a note for her husband: "I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times ""
If you are feeling like this right now "
I’m not going to wish you a happy new year. Nor would I deem it appropriate to do so even if you were in better shape or even in complete remission.
When someone says, "Happy new year," to me, I can’t help but wonder: Will it? Or will it be my last year?
Believe it or not, I am in a fairly upbeat mood as I am writing this. But I also know that there is nothing like surviving a depression to make one lose trust in his or her brain. Completely. You’re always wondering when that next one may come along. You simply don’t know, nor how it will end up.
What I will say is this: I validate your suffering and your pain. Either what you are going through right now or what you have experienced in the past. I also validate your sense of uncertainty and insecurity. The present is often an enormous struggle and the future a terrifying unknown.
Together, we can acknowledge our strength and courage and resourcefulness in making it this far. Yes, let’s give ourselves a pat on the back. In the meantime, instead of "happy new year," here is to a renewed sense of commitment. We enter the new year in the full realization of what we are up against, but nevertheless we have the audacity of actually dreaming to thrive rather than merely survive.
Let’s keep that dream alive …
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.