Oh, depression! It’s this insidious undercurrent, difficult to explain, articulate, and pinpoint, and yet it’s presence is so stark, so absolute, so heavy.
Without being able to define what it was I was experiencing, I struggled to even “be” with it. I didn’t know what it was, I just knew it was there. And it was more than just a discomfort. It was like a voice that was screaming bloody murder in my head, only I couldn’t hear it. There was something I needed to hear but the sounds wouldn’t come through.
It was dizzying. I recall many of the worst times when the silent noises were the loudest and I would bring my hands to my head, squeezing hard, just desperately wanting the noiseless sounds to stop swirling around inside.
Then, there came a moment in time when I was able to describe a particular feeling associated with the depression. It was angst. There was a constant, incessant vibration of angst that ran through me but I couldn’t explain what it was or why it was there.
In that moment of recognizing the angst I asked my wise friend how he defined angst…because I couldn’t. I knew only how it felt and vibrated within me but I didn’t know how to explain it.
His definition blew me away. I felt like, for the first time in my entire life, I had an answer to the stream of haunting white noise that flowed within the recesses of my being. I could identify it and, as a result, could begin to hear it.
His definition of angst: “The feeling that something bad will happen or that something good will end.”
I sat with that for a bit and understood that that is exactly the tension that I was holding in my body. It was a constant state of fear (stemming from a childhood trauma) that had me on high alert all the time, taxing my nervous system to the point of fatigue, confusion and incomprehension.
From that point forward, when I felt the angst and tension in my body, when I became aware of it (which I was able to do through my practice of mindfulness and breath awareness), I began asking myself two questions:
- Is something bad happening?
- Is something good ending?
Often times, there was nothing happening at all – nothing bad happening or good ending, not in that particular physical moment anyway.
What was happening though, what I was able to recognize, was that there was a broken record of old memories playing in my head. The record had ended a long time ago but it had kept skipping at the end. The needle had never retreated to the starting position in order for a new record, a new sound, a new song, to be played.
Now, when I feel the angst and ask the questions, it’s like I’m able to stop, pick up the needle, and move it to a new song. It still gets caught and skips every now and then but, when it does, I am able to pick up the needle, recognizing that I’m just stuck on the old song, and then place it on a new one.
Now is the moment of power and all power comes from within.
Depression is not outside ourselves. It is within. And, if we are persistent, I believe we can all locate the spot where the needle is stuck, un-stick it, and move it to a new song.
Be persistent and don’t ever give up. Depression is not who you are.