Saturday, April 2, 2011



When I was young, Hee Haw was on every Saturday Night.  There was a skit in the show that no matter the years has always stuck with me.  Grandpa Jones and his buddies sat on boxes with their moonshine jugs in front of them.  A sad looking basset hound completed the picture and would sometimes howl along as they sang this song:

Gloom, despair and agony on me
Deep dark depression
Excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck
I'd have no luck at all.
Gloom, despair and agony on me.  

The song stuck with me because it made me laugh and I could relate to the self pity inherent in it.  I have always identified with Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh whose mantra is "oh dear, it looks like rain."  Somehow my identity has become inextricably linked with my depression.  I have not been able to rise above it. Fear and despair are my defaults when it comes to dealing with the challenges that are part and parcel of this world. The truth is that depression has been a part of me for so long that I can't remember ever being without it.  Winston Churchill used the metaphor of a  black dog to describe his depression, an ever present companion, vaguely menacing, lurking in the darkness, growling and threatening to overwhelm him at any time.  The poet Jane Kenyon describes it below.

When I was born, you waited
behind a pile of linen in the nursery,
and when we were alone, you lay down
on top of me, pressing
the bile of desolation into every pore.
And from that day on
everything under the sun and moon
made me sad — even the yellow
wooden beads that slid and spun
along a spindle on my crib.
You taught me to exist without gratitude.
You ruined my manners toward God:
“We’re here simply to wait for death;
the pleasures of earth are overrated.”
I only appeared to belong to my mother,
to live among blocks and cotton undershirts
with snaps; among red tin lunch boxes
and report cards in ugly brown slipcases.
I was already yours — the anti-urge,
the mutilator of souls.

The worst part of depression is that it robs me of my life.  It robs me of a relationship with myself  because as Kenyon states, it is a mutilator of souls.  It destroys my spirit.  I have lost so much of my life to it.  Later in the poem Kenyon says:

Coarse, mean, you’ll put your feet
on the coffee table, lean back,
and turn me into someone who can’t
take the trouble to speak; someone
who can’t sleep, or who does nothing
but sleep; can’t read, or call
for an appointment for help.

There is nothing I can do
against your coming.
When I awake, I am still with thee.

Sometimes it makes me suicidal.  Again Kenyon:

The dog searches until he finds me
upstairs, lies down with a clatter
of elbows, puts his head on my foot.
Sometimes the sound of his breathing
saves my life -- in and out, in
and out; a pause, a long sigh. . . .

The only defense against my own black dog is to do my best to try and tame it.  Each day I fight not to surrender to it's pull.   I fight to connect with folks.  I fight to not climb in bed and hide and waste this one life I have been given.  I fight to stay in the day with my feet on the floor knowing that I have everything I need in this moment.  I fight to know that regardless of how I feel that life is a gift, a joy and that my life is worth living despite it all.