The hospital stay in the nice new Heart Hospital was actually the nearest thing to a vacation I've had in a long time; I just put it in there to impress you. The cycling depression didn't bother me much during that busy time. Inbetween being tested this way and that I enjoyed sitting at the window and watching the Life Flight helicopters come in. I thought a lot about sudden death. I also thought about depression as a spiritual ailment.
My first inkling of this idea was from Parker Palmer many years ago, his little book, Listen to Your Life,which has become a classic. There he talks about his own disabling major depression, how he learned through it that the way he was living and working was not the life for him. He had not found his own life and work.
|The black cat of depression|
I've found that the best way to put aside the dark thoughts and feelings that come unbidden to people with depressive disorders is always just to do the job in front of me (though sometimes intellectual tasks are beyond me). One of the women talked about this last week, how she moves through her own unwelcome thoughts when she's cooking by putting her mind back on the task. I've found this is a really good idea when I'm trying to chop carrots - not my fingers.
For me, another key to doing anything is that I don't do it perfectly. My house is never perfectly clean (oh, I hear my Mother turning over in her grave). When my group meets, I sometimes forget to put the tea water on. Last time I forgot about the chants altogether until after we got our tea, and so had the wonderful woman who helps me set up. So we did a chant at the end. Call it Imperfect Zen.
It happens that leading and teaching on this small scale are part of my way, and they are not for most people, depressed or not. But there are opportunities to give to and serve the world in every single life. They are there even when we are crippled by depression. When you go to the grocery store, you can smile at the older child who isn't getting the attention the baby gets. You can let someone cut in ahead of you on your way home. You can give yourself time to walk around the block, a change of air. You can share a funny dog video on Facebook. At your worst, you can "like" a friend's post.
It's the holiday season - you can wear a Christmas sweater - you can't possibly look as bad in it as that poor cat. You can call someone and not talk about how bad you feel, but instead ask how she's doing. If you're on the phone, not on Skype, you don't need to wear a Christmas sweater, but can stay in your gloomiest bathrobe. Nobody needs to know. No matter how the call feels, congratulate yourself after you hang up. You're a nice person. It was good of you to try.