The first rule of holes is: when you find yourself in one, stop digging.
Depression is a funny thing, though. Well- you know what I mean.
I hate when people conflate sadness and depression. They are not the same, not by a long shot. When you’re sad, you can just sit and let the rain trickle down your nose and plaster your hair to the sides of your head and have a good cry. You can push your fingers through the dirt and angrily tear out clumps of grass. You can wallow and feel sorry for yourself, scratch out a little moat in the mud for the rainwater to trickle through.
But at some point the rain stops. At some point your clothes dry, the sun comes out and warms your cheeks. Your clothes and hands might be stained with grass streaks and dirt, but you can get up and wash your hands and change.
When you’re depressed… Sometimes the tears will come when it rains, and sometimes not. Sometimes they’ll come when it’s sunny. It’s too tiring to pull out the grass- hell, it’s too tiring to even think about it. You turn around and around and around in the same little spot, and you brush the dirt or mud away apathetically, and one day you realize that all that sitting in one spot, all that turning in circles, has worn you down into a hole. You can’t stand up- your body aches and aches, in every muscle and every joint- but even if you could the surface is too high to reach. You are cold and alone and filthy. All you have are four dirty walls and a dirty floor and a speck of sky so small and distant you’re not even sure it’s really there. You get far enough down and even the sunniest days don’t reach you. But the rain always does- the dirt walls run into mud and weigh you down, the water pools around your ankles and knees and waist and you’re sure if it keeps rising you’ll drown.
And honestly, at the bottom of a dark hole, with no hope of climbing your way out, no hope that the sun will dry the mud and warm your face, drowning is so much easier. It’s practically inevitable.
I’ve been sitting in that hole for years, waiting for the mud and the rain to swallow me whole. Medication helped- a little umbrella dropped down the hole, to keep the rain and the mud off my face. If you’re really lucky and nail down the right chemicals, the right dosage, you might get a few planks dropped down on your head, that you can hammer into the walls and climb your way out. It never stops being exhausting, though, and sometimes that medication stops working- the pointed edge just won’t push into the earth anymore. Maybe there’s too many roots, or rocks, or it’s just worn down from all the climbing.
And even if you get out, there is always the possibility that someday you will find yourself at the bottom of another hole. Depression is not the chickenpox. You don’t get it once and then you’re safe. A steady dose of sunshine is no vaccine.
I am keeping my eyes trained on that patch of sky, but I am still in a hole. Medication brought me partway up, and now I am clinging to stray roots and gopher holes and protruding rocks. I have a fury in me- I am determined to see the sun, to sit on the grass. It is faith, now, that is keeping me going. The hope that if I keep pushing, the gods will sneak me a foothold where there wasn’t one before. That they will divert the mud so my fingers don’t slip. But I still have to do the climb myself.
I am going to get out. I have to believe that, because what other option do I have?
[This was originally written for the 2012 Pagan Blog Project.]