Out of the Pit, into the Cave

Depression is an interesting beast. It’s so prevalent in our world, has been for years, just read some Romantic poetry or wallow in Russian literature for a while, and you’ll realize how not-alone you are in this feeling that never seems to go away. I’ve seen it described as a rain cloud that follows you around, the big black dog, a pit, a hole, a cave. We come up with these personifications, these illustrations, to try to make it something we can look at, distance ourselves from, maybe even fix. My meditation guy wants me to look at my whole brain that way. Like I’m a private detective, leaning up against that lamppost in the dark, lighting the cigarette and watching the brain (hey…shouldn’t smoke!). Watch what the brain does, make notes in a little book, process it, spit out a report at the end. This is what happened, this is where it went, dry and dissected, no emotions.

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I wish my depression was the big black dog. I know how to deal with dogs. It started out as a pit, a hole. It’s been that before. Prior to my divorce, back in 2000 or so, it was a giant hole, and once I had dragged myself out of it, with no help from my husband at the time, he tossed me back in. But I got out…probably because I had spent a couple of years trying to deal with my brain and what it was doing, and I had enough tools to build a ladder out of there fairly quickly. I had some control over the situation.

Not so this time. This time I didn’t even see the pit before I got tossed in. I thought it was way behind me, filled in, totally safe ground to walk on, and I blithely continued on, carrying my little beachball of work stress and hormonal disruptions…which yes, caused a minor depression, but it was completely treatable. I just didn’t know I needed to deal with it. I think it would have eventually worked itself out with the right supports (which I wasn’t getting). But then a giant maw of a deep dark hole opened up and I just tumbled all the way down. And I can look back now and see how deep I went, how bad it was (sometimes still is).

They tell you that once you’ve experienced one depressive event that you are more prone to them later on. Great. Appreciate it. Didn’t ask for this. Mine are event-based. This isn’t just random shit being shot out of a cannon, like some people’s depression, which I can see would be much harder to deal with, because you can’t pinpoint the cause. It just is. It’s that brain chemistry out of whack. No, this is because of what other people have done, and in each case, it is out of my control. I am just the one dealing with the aftermath. It seems unfair, but I know that life is not set out to be fair…there is no arbitrator of fairness and karma setting out punishments and rewards. You may believe otherwise…feel free…but I don’t.

So once I’m in the pit, the deep hole, I have to find my way out. Sometimes it’s medications, which didn’t work this time, it’s always counseling, it’s always a time of deep reflection and artmaking for me, which makes me somewhat lucky, in that I can actually create while down in the pit. I know plenty who can’t, who are hogtied by the depression to a point of not being able to even pick up a pencil. I guess I’m glad that when my brain goes into that hole, she takes her sketchbook and her pens with her. I guess that is a learned defense against the depression.

And it really is me, the private dick, still leaning up against the lamppost, checking my watch, adjusting my hat against the misty rain, waiting for the brain to show herself again, logging her activity.

I guess the plus is that she’s moved out of the hole. Well, she moved into a cave recently, I guess…I don’t know why the visualization changed, but it did. It seems easier…she can just walk in and out of the cave, no need to build a ladder or scramble up the sides of a muddy pit. She hunches over, my brain, and she brings a bowl out into the light, gathers some leaves or berries (I’ve been eating a lot of berries lately), she blinks, squints up at the sky, sees me and drops her chin, acknowledging my presence, and then shuffles back into the cave. Brings tears to my eyes. There she is. She was out. She tried. She’s going back in for a while, because it was too much.

Some day I’ll talk about the current quilt and its title. Because it is the hardest part of this depression. I know what was in my head as I drew it, and…it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever had to deal with in my own head. Yes, only one. Sad but true.

I’d better find a way to do something restorative tonight, beyond exercise and meditation. Because…ouch. Bad place.

3 thoughts on “Out of the Pit, into the Cave

  1. I had a cloud once, when my parents died within 6 weeks of each other. It physically felt like that, hanging around my shoulders, blurring my vision, greying my world. And then it lifted and went away. I was lucky — the cloud didn’t hang long, a couple of months, and then there was so much to do and I had ignored it as well as I could, and I guess it was bored with me.

    My episode more recently felt like a pit and I tried and tried to climb out, and my husband hung on, pulling. I would get partway up and then… no, slipped. Lost my footing.

    I wonder if that is part of why I get so much pleasure from hiking these days, from the feel of my feet, my thighs, pushing firmly against and away from the ground, pushing up and away. Not slipping… except a little now and then. But then steadying, rebalancing, moving forward.


  2. Mine was/is a black hole as well – event based, as you know. It was a long time climbing out. I find myself back on the edge of it, looking in, feeling that dizziness that could pull me back in. No events as such, but I know that hole and it still has a claim on me. It renders me paralyzed – no sketchbook, no pen, pencil or paint. Just nothing – total exhaustion. There is someone now who will reach for me and try to keep me out of the hole, but it’s my climb. And I’m tired.


  3. I read a blogger who thinks there should be a silver ribbon for depression (like the red AIDS ribbon, etc.) and I believe mentioned a “sea of silver ribbons” for somebody who overcame depression. I got an immediate image of somebody emerging from a cave (a low one, therefore on hands and knees) on a hill to see a sea of shining silver ribbons. If I contemplate this, there are things on the other side: trees, welcoming people (leading normal lives), sunshine…

    I understand some of the metaphors. Mine (even more than the cave) is a blanket of grey fog, (maybe just a grey blanket), muffling everything, isolating the depressed one. I suppose that’s why I specifically mentioned sunshine.


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