CLEF Newsletter - September 2019

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

“Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is to lose your reason for living.” ― Jo Nesbo

“Sometimes, even to live is an act of courage. – Seneca

“O Lord, I have cried out by day and in the night before Thee. Let my prayer come before Thee; incline Thine ear to my cry! For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol. I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom Thou dost remember no more, and they are cut off from Thy hand. Thou hast put me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the depths. Thy wrath has rested upon me, and Thou hast afflicted me with all Thy waves… (Psalm 88:1-7)

The quietest and most insidious killer in the world, one that can take us down as it slices deeper and deeper into our soul each day and agonizing moment through the night, is an often irrepressible and dispassionate darkness that envelopes and suffocates every element of hope we have left. Mental and emotional depression, and especially that which can so deftly fragment and ultimately collapse us into despair is an unpredictable, uncontrollable and terrifying foe, one that can devastate us even when we least expect it to. And there is no description of a darker existence or more overwhelming adversity, or adversary. Dr. Martha Manning, author and speaker (“Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression”) described depression as “such a cruel punishment. There are no fevers. No rashes. No blood test to send people scurrying in concern. Just the slow erosion of self. As insidious as cancer. It is essentially a solitary experience. A room in hell with only your name on the door.” Another stated “Depression is being colorblind and constantly told how colorful the world is.”

Once again our LE community has been rocked by another tragic casualty of this punishing, lethal nemesis to our profession, touching a beloved family that spanned both the S/O and SDPD. I have responded to more of these than I care to recount, and each time I do, I am, as is everyone involved, left with a hollow sense of futility and regret. We want to rewind the clock, to somehow counteract the process taking place, to turn away the unthinkable and deny its victim. We go home only dreading tomorrow’s truth.

There is an unnerving consistency about depression which makes it difficult to understand and deal with, and that is its inconsistency and difficulty to forecast. It’s a disease that can come upon you without warning and is very individual in its nature and duration. Worst of all, especially by those who have never really tasted its bitterness and taken to some depth by it, those afflicted can be gravely misunderstood and misjudged. When seen by the few who either understand or can empathize, there is hope and help. Yet often those who suffer only generate an increasing exasperation from even loved ones who just want them to get over it, snap out of it, focus on the good things or just dig in and deal with it. It can be hardest at night when robbed of sleep, dealing with the pain of isolation or just raw despair, which only adds to the affliction. It takes tremendous resolve just to press on in day to day responsibilities. Actress Juliette Lewis said the bravest thing she ever did was continuing her life when she just wanted to die. Hanging on is in that sense so very important, realizing somehow that depression in itself is not terminal, but losing all hope can be. Yet acknowledging its impact and getting the help and resource to get you through it can make all the difference, and even bring about a new beginning, stronger and more resilient that before. 20th century German writer and philosopher Hermann Hesse declared that he “had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.” School Of Life author Alain de Botton also advises “Don’t despair: despair suggests you are in total control and know what is coming. You don’t - surrender to events with hope.”

Our biology actually changes and adapts to chronic condi-tions, positively or negatively. Allowing depression to continue is never a good thing. Keep your eyes open and your heart sensitive to those around you, be intentionally intrusive, and show that you care. And if it’s you that’s suffering, grab that hand that reaches out to you.

I waited intently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the mire; and set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a son of praise to our God… (Ps. 40:1-3)

“Why are you in despair, O my soul: And why are you disturbed within me? Wait for God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God.” (43:5).