Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self—to the mediating intellect—as to verge close to being beyond description.
William Styron, Darkness Visible
Mum has been mired in this episode of depression for fourteen months.
I nag her with Skyped texts.
Have not seen you today. hope you are ok?
Or I issue stern warnings:
If you are idle, be not solitary;
If you are solitary, be not idle.
you can have one or the other ma. not both
She describes feeling fearful and I try to calm her by instructing her how to breath deep and slow, to stop her heart from beating so quickly, butterfly wings trapped in a chest , to bring back into line the rogue chemicals in her system that are exacerbating such disabling panic.
I copy pages of text from sites that may help and paste them into messages to her. I don’t know if they help. I don’t know how much of it she reads.
The madness of depression is, generally speaking, the antithesis of violence. It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk. Soon evident are the slowed-down responses, near paralysis, psychic energy throttled back close to zero. Ultimately, the body is affected and feels sapped, drained.
I try to discover new ways that she might learn to cope, I want to unearth an innovative, novel weapon in the arsenal she has deployed over the years in battling this demon Depression, but Google doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know: there is no silver bullet.
I type the same question into a dozen search engines ‘how to get get going out of a depression?’
And I get 222 000 000 hits.
Everybody has an opinion. But nobody has the answer.
Some of the suggestions are sound: walk, eat, sleep, breathe, read.
At any rate, during the few hours when the depressive state itself eased off long enough to permit the luxury of concentration, I had recently filled this vacuum with fairly extensive reading and I had absorbed many fascinating and troubling facts.
Some are facile and patronizing: “make yourself a fancy dinner, maybe invite somebody over; take a perfumed bubble bath; rent comedy videos.”
If only you could shoo a stubborn Black Dog from your door because you ate asparagus for supper, or smelt prettily of Lily of the Valley or watched 100 minutes of Friends?
If only it were that easy.
It has to be emphasized that if the pain were readily describable most of the countless sufferers from this ancient affliction would have been able to confidently depict for their friends and loved ones (even their physicians) some of the actual dimensions of their torment, and perhaps elicit a comprehension that has been generally lacking; such incomprehension has usually been due not to a failure of sympathy but to the basic inability of healthy people to imagine a form of torment so alien to everyday experience.
Nothing that I say, nothing that I do will alleviate mum’s pain. I have learned this over time.
In the end I resort to Styron. And in his beautiful anguished words there is, oddly, comfort. I am reminded that though I, mercifully, cannot comprehend the measure of this horrid illness, it is enormous, nontheless. It is real and all the more awful for its intangibility.
Perhaps in understanding that, in endorsing Mum’s illess as appalling and all-consuming, that is the best I can do.
Perhaps it is all she needs me to do?