Declaring Independence from Depression

Here’s one part of a post from a couple of years ago, written a few months before I knew I’d really gotten past depression. Stephany at Soulful Sepulcher had suggested that I try assuming this: I have recovered. That really got me thinking and actually proved to be a turning point. I started imagining what it would feel like to be recovered and wrote this as if it were spoken by an actor in a play. It was an experiment to have fun with that helped me get closer to the real thing. It’s a method I can highly recommend.

What do you think you might say or do if you suddenly felt fully recovered?

You’re history, you busted old fool, unholy one, always stealing me. You trespass, you offend, you have nothing good to say, and surely nothing new. You bore me over and over again with the same stripped life, torn to its emptiness. I don’t want your lightless streak in my soul any more.

I’m sick of your dismal dispatches, your chemistry of night, your endless calls to inaction, your fog of unthinking, your poisoning of love, your invitations to deadly impulse.

I see shining faces around me again. How could I have remained so stuck in this sickening web, waiting to be a spider’s meal? It’s over, I’m out of here. I’m taking the power of my mind and soul with me into broad daylight!

NO! Scratch that. You’re out of here!

I won’t replay this scene anymore: awake at 4 am, deep in obsessive shame, feeling the despair of it again, the incredible inability to act, the sluggishness, the incomplete projects, the excess of a grim self in everything – all of it so deadly – so implausible. So long as you were living with me, I could barely be there for anyone else. How did it happen that I could stay so long in that stupefying place with you, shattering everything in life I had so carefully assembled.

After these decades, It’s divorce time, thief. And breaking this unholy union is sanctified by every higher power there ever was or will be!

And as I shove you away at last, I know – and hate to know – that it hurts to break the hold you have in me, deep in some psychic core. In there, you were a habit, an addiction, and withdrawal hasn’t been easy. But that’s a pain I know, like ripping a barbed hook out of my arm so fast the pain is over before I can begin to feel it.

So strange – I kick you out, heavy being who covered my mind in darkness, turned me to lead, sat like a mountain squeezing all breath out of me. Yet when you’re gone, I see there’s nothing to you, no trace of mass, no shadow on the land, no shape of any living thing, or any dead thing either.

What were you, then, that felt so massive, so impenetrable, so opaque? Now you’re invisible. And how does that feel – as if you had any feeling in you.

My mind has light again, I can see through the dark. I can do this living biz – I can feel. Out of cramped hallways and small rooms at last, where nothing ever seemed to fit, I can open wide an unfillable space to everything that is. I hardly knew before how big was the world I could walk into, how much love there could be to take in and give back. I never thought there was enough of that to go around.

I still see your silent violence everywhere because there are millions who remain in your shadow. But if I look more closely, I can see in them angels falling and struggling to come back.

Some Rights Reserved by iChaz at Flickr

9 Responses to “Declaring Independence from Depression”

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  1. Ryan says:

    It is such a blessing to be without the darkness of depression. It has been over 15 years since I have experienced the light of day, the green grass, the smile that connects a human with another. While you were here, I believed you were life. You actually tricked me into believing that you were me. Depression, you son of a bitch. Well, how does it feel? Slowly shrinking, dying away from your own existence now that you have lost control. You are a pain body, you are suffering, you are an entity that found its place in my mind and now has nowhere to hide. You are not in my thoughts anymore and so cannot exist for much longer. Try as you might, I will become aware of you every time. My eyes are beginning to open, and what I am seeing is a whole new world. All that is light, holy, beautiful is beginning to take your place. You left a space of energy so large in my mind that it must be filled with something in order to continue. Well, how does it feel to have that space filled with the very things you were so against during your time with me? Love, emotion, relationships, spirit, compassion. I bet just seeing those words makes you shrivel up and cringe. Well good mother fucker, I hope you cringe for the 15 years you’ve made me. Just know that whenever you pop up, I will be there, aware, watching. There is nowhere for you to hide. You can no longer hide in the memories of my childhood, or in the guilt from the actions you led me to. While there is obvious anger toward you, I must tell you that I forgive you as well. You were simply looking for somewhere to take hold, to exist, just as any other entity. You thought you found a place inside of me, but you were wrong. You have underestimated me. That was your mistake. See, I will never underestimate you. I will always be expecting you, always aware of your sneakiness and drive to exist. Believe this: whenever you show your face in the form of worry, anxiety, or pain, I will see you for what you are, dying and desperate to exist. Sorry old friend, time is now your enemy.

  2. misha says:

    thanks for the amazing post. know that you have helped me feel a little better at a time of utmost dreadful isolation. i try to be strong and be optimistic but i feel broken inside. I feel the way you did before. it does feel a little better knowing there are others who have suffered for years alone without anyone to really open up to.
    thanks for giving me a brief bit of hope. i will do your suggestion of imagining being better. it cant hurt right? the emptiness consumes my every thought and being.

  3. ayelet says:

    i completely understand your words. but some proffessionals taught me its not all black and white. in the beginning i was angry with them. today when im better i agree.
    there are also benefits. i went back to being a child. i got a lot of support and my family was always around me. i didnt have to lift a finger. no responsibilities ect. of course today i bag to do more and more but than i couldnt imagine myself doing something. thats one of the reasons it was so hard to finally declare war like i did just lately after difficult 5 years.

    health to all.

    thanks so musoch for your important site!

  4. Maronne says:

    Thank you for sharing that book info with me. I’ve got to tell you – I feel so blessed to have found your blog. I am already being helped so much from all that you’ve shared on it. It’s so helpful to find others who are familiar with this isolating experience . . . especially others – like you – who really can articulate what it’s like and what helps. It offers another dimension that is often missing in work done with a therapist. In fact – it seems at least equally, if not more, helpful than therapy. I guess it makes sense that someone who has been through this tunnel and is willing to look back and offer a guiding hand to those still stuck in it would be profoundly helpful.

  5. Maronne says:

    Thomas – thanks for bringing up this point. And John – I’m a new browser of your blog and very much looking forward to reading “Is There Comfort in Depression?” because, like Thomas, recovery terrifies me.

    I’ve been able to avoid “being employed” for the past five years . . . and it has always been that my places of employment become HELL for me within 2 – 4 years. The thought of returning to employment makes me consider any and all alternatives. I don’t understand how so many people accept turning over their freedom during the majority of their waking hours to “The Man.” It feels worse than jail to me because not only do you have to BE at a certain place for most of the day, but you have to THINK ABOUT and FOCUS ON whatever is dictated to you at any particular time on any particular day.

    • John says:

      Hi, Marrone –

      I know what you mean. After working on my own forever, I took a job with a group that is one of the best in my field. But that turned out to push me over the edge in terms of stress and depression. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to earn a living, and I would hope that recovery doesn’t have to mean poverty. It would force a huge change in the way you’ve lived, though, and that’s an enormous challenge. I’m working on that right now. Julie Fast has a good book on having a good work life with depression. It’s called Get It Done When You’re Depressed. I found that very helpful.


  6. Tomas says:

    Your post shines with peace. And that forced me to read it more attentively. I have read “Declaring Independence from Depression” many times and picked up lot of phrases that were the keys into myself – the keywords that were worthy pondering and just captivated me. I could start my own story with EACH word I read here. That was just hard to believe!

    “What do you think you might say or do if you suddenly felt fully recovered?” (me under my beloved nickname) just jumped up. The thought was so unexpected. What could do a 55 years old man without any profession ? I was out of work my whole life … While thinking what would I do, I have grasped that … my disability causes less problems to me than total recovery could produce. The retired live on what was earned by them. Total recovery would leave the disabler without nothing to live on….

    At a moment I do what I can – I am musing on life and play the art ….

    The total recovery would be the hardest test I had till now.

    Wow! Thank you for the help to grasp the real meaning of the word the needlessness.

    • John says:

      Thank you, Tomas –

      It’s so gratifying to know this post is helpful to you. I well understand how hard a test recovery can be. For me depression was at times a strange comfort, a sort of poisonous rest from real living – simply because it seemed to explain who I was, and I could just sink away into it. (I wrote a post a while back about this – Is There Comfort in Depression?).

      The butterfly in the plaster idea is a wonderful one, and I look forward to reading your new blog.


  7. liz says:

    Bravo! I will pass this along to my loved one who suffers from depression. I mentioned in a previous response to one of your other posts that he is looking for more tangible methods to help him move past depression. Since he is a writer himself, I will suggest he tries your suggestion. Thank you John.

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