Darkness Visible

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?



11 Responses to “Darkness Visible”

  1. sustainablemum Says:

    It is hard feeling helpless. Being heard, thought about helps but it cannot make it all be ok again which is what we want. Depression is terrible to live with it wraps you in its blackness and won’t let go, I will always be grateful that I have let it go.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      thank you sunstainablemum. I don’t know how horrid it is, I can only imagine in witnessing mum. and my imagining probably doesn’t bring me close. thank you for writing.

  2. Muddling Along Says:

    You have hit the nail on the head, the greatest thing you can do, that you are doing is to understand and accept that this is an all encompassing illness and that it takes time – I hope your Mum is ok

  3. Domizia Parri Says:

    I recommend you google “EFT” and “EFT for depression”. It’s a simple self-help technique, half acupressure and half psychological. You can learn it from tutorials online but for serious problems it’s best to work with an operator (and you can do it on Skype). There are loads of tutorial videos you can work with. Check out Brad Yates’ ones.
    It probably looks too good to be true at first but please give it a try, maybe even only for yourself and your own feelings about this. It has changed my life.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      that’s really kind Domizia – and interesting – i shall certainly look into that.

  4. Domizia Parri Says:

    Oh and I really like reading you. I’ve been following you for a while. I used to live in Tz as a kid and I found your blog some time ago while googling fire tree images on a bout of nostalgia.

  5. TatuMbili Says:

    I know you’ve probably read about this one but as a person living with depression, as I got older I found that I was more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, which just multiplied the effect of those “rogue chemicals”. I purchased a SAD light, use it every day, even in the summer as I work at home and don’t get out as much as I should/could and my office is on the dark side of the house. It has helped tremendously: I’ve been able to mind the gap for almost two years now. Not a cure, but even one tiny thing that lifts me up a tiny bit is a miracle!

    Hope your mum fights that demon into submission!

  6. daisyfae Says:

    Somewhere in there, whether she realizes it now or when she’s on the other side, she will know that you are understanding, accepting and loving her… i’m not an expert, but i suspect that’s about as much as you could do to help…

  7. nappyvalleygirl Says:

    I had an episode of depression two years ago and I don’t think there is one thing you can do to just make it go away — other than perhaps drugs, or therapy (although those don’t work for everybody). I truly believe that it’s a chemical thing and it takes time, that’s all. I hope your mum starts to emerge from it soon. xx

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