When you picture someone living with depression, the image that is conjured up is someone sleeping or staring mindlessly at the television all day. They don’t work, they don’t go school, they just do nothing all day.
While that is the experience of someone else living with depression, that is not my experience. From the outside, I don’t look or sound like I have depression. I look like and live like any functioning adult. I have a steady job and a steady income; my social calendar on the weekends is often full. But the fact is that the black dog, as Winston Churchill spoke of so tellingly, is an unwanted fixture in my life.
I was diagnosed with dysthymia when I was in my late 20’s. I saw my first therapist when I was about 12. Since then, I’ve had about a half a dozen therapists (my present therapist included) and I’m taking an anti-depressant to help to manage my depression.
The black dog is forever with me. When I’ve had a good day, it reminds me of my shortcomings, both perceived and real. When I’ve had a bad day, it is like a perpetual rain cloud that continually hangs over my head. It exhausts me to no end, if my depression had its way, I would be sleeping most of the day. It says that I am not good enough, that my life is not worth living. Some days it feels like I am wearing a mask to hide my true feelings.
What they don’t see is the constant barrage of negative thoughts that are always with me. They don’t see the energy it takes to get up in the morning to get to work on time. They don’t see the bags under my eyes and feel the overwhelming exhaustion that I feel daily. They don’t hear the voices in my head telling me to kill myself. They don’t see the unshed tears that I sometimes have to fight tooth and nail to keep from spilling down my cheeks.
I’ve been through a lot in my nearly 37 years, I have much to be proud of. But at the same time, the depression tells me that it is not enough and will never be enough.
The world can be a cold place. Many of us are not judged by our abilities or our achievements, but by the color of our skin, whether we are male or female, etc.
But despite those judgments, it is possible to to achieve what appears to be impossible.
The new book, Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage, with a forward by Senator Amy Klobuchar, contains 48 essays about persisting against a world that would deny you your dreams. While the writers are all different, the message is clear: whatever your dreams maybe, they are not impossible to achieve. All it takes is grit, work, a little creativity and the ability to see past the naysayers.
I really loved this book. I loved it because it gives hope to those of us whose dreams are just that, dreams. It is also a reminder that the labels that are used to define us are not barriers to success. They are only barriers to those who believe that because we carry a certain label, that the success we seek will never come to fruition.
No human being is without flaws or imperfections. Though many of us try to mask these flaws or imperfections, they often bubble up the surface.
One of the aspects of Judaism that I appreciate is that my faith not only respects this aspect of humanity, but it encourages us to become better people.
I find that the most liberating Jewish traditions is Tashlich. In the days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many Jews will go to a body of water to cast away their sins via throwing pieces of bread into said water. While this is being done, those in attendance ask the heavenly creator to forgive them for their sins from the past year.
Following Tashlich is Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. From sundown to sundown, most adults (with the exception of the people who are sick, need food or drink to take medicine or pregnant women/nursing mothers) will fast. We also wear white and forgo leather shoes so our creator will see how humble we are before them.
Though I am not religious, I understand the power of both Tashlich and Yom Kippur. One of the hardest things any person can do is take a hard look at the flaws/imperfections and ask for forgiveness for anything they might said or done wrong due to those flaws/imperfections.
To all who are fasting, may you have an easy fast and a sweet New Year.