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“That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.” Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, Artwork used by permission from artist Kelly Rae Roberts

“That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

If you asked me about the pointlessness of depression several years ago, I would have said, “Depression is a total waste of time, so get over it.”

But not now.

Without depression’s help, I’d likely be stuck in my past. Stuck in pain. Stuck in a life I hated.

Depression felt so bad it forced my hand and forced me forward.

Going through it reminds me of the chant I taught my kindergarten students when I wanted to settle them down between activities. Seriously, what kept coming to mind was The Bear Hunt.

The kids would follow my lead. We’d tap our hands on our legs twice, then clap our hands in the air twice and do it again, all the while chanting, “We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going on a bear hunt.”

Once we were on our imaginary trail, the obstacles appeared. We’d act out whatever it took to go on. 

“Oh, look. There’s a lake up ahead.”

“We can’t go around it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to swim through it.”

They and I made swimming motions until we were through the lake, then we’d repeat tapping, clapping and the verse that said, “We’re going on a bear hunt.”

During our treks in the dark woods, we went over bridges, around quicksand, and through tall weeds. The bear ended up back in the safety of his cave.

Depression seems about the same. Slogging through my emotions, I think, “I can’t go around this. I have to go through it.”

Going through depression has been the only way to settle me down. Prior to now, I ran and ran and ran.

I feel strangely comforted by finally taking depression’s path. Learning its lessons is more poignant than I could have imagined.

Here are a few from a list of 53 I found written in a journal I kept during my lowest months.

  • They (whoever I feel like blaming today) may be responsible for all my problems, but the solutions are up to me.
  • Staring at a problem makes it bigger.
  • One small step makes a big difference in changing my direction.
  • Relationships feel safer when I focus on myself and say “I” instead of “you.”
  • Finding a period is hard for me, but necessary. I talk too much and explain too much. Rather than trying to be understood and approved, I’d be better off being quiet and ridding myself of self-doubt.
  • It’s okay to feel my feelings even when others don’t like them or they disagree, as long as I don’t react which means taking my feelings out on them.
  • Lots of times, dreams come full circle. Having dreams for my family and friends is okay, but the only vision I can make happen is the one I have for myself, which then sets a dreamy example for others.
  • I’ve waited to get on with my life until it’s straightened out, but life only straightens out when I get on with it. Sometimes “getting on with it” means stopping, like I mentioned in Stopping For Help (depression, part 2).
  • Other people’s unhappiness, anger, and negative reactions are not my fault. Neither is the car pileup in Texas or the colossal blizzard of 2011 that paralyzed New York City. When I take too much responsibility for everybody/everything else, I’m overwhelmed to the point of not being responsible for my own physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
  • I’m merciful with others and their circumstances, whereas, in the past, I felt judgmental and insinuated they get off the couch and get over it. I’ve learned compassion.
  • Quiet acceptance makes most things easier.

Who or what has been your teacher? What have you learned?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Mostly, I acknowledge it has taken this much pain (the pain of depression) to get me to a safe place where my heart is softer and I’m compassionate and available. The insight gained from depression made it worth going through.

On the side: Click to view more artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts.

Related posts:

What’s Your Secret? (depression, part 1)

Stopping For Help (depression, part 2)

The Cure (depression, part 4)

We Need To Talk (depression, part 5)

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