It used to be that, whenever I felt sad, I would watch Schindler’s List (1993) or some equally horrific film about the atrocities committed by people against their fellow men and women. Telling people this always led to quizzical expressions in response.
“Why on earth would you do that?” they would ask. “Doesn’t that make you more sad?”
Oddly, it didn’t, and not because I’m secretly a sociopath. I found that, most of the time when I felt sad, it was really me just feeling sorry for myself. Watching a film about people who suffer considerably more than me helped me appreciate what I had going for me.
As time progressed, I discovered that there were occasions when I would spiral into a very dark pit of despair, with feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and hopelessness swirling around me, mocking me with sharp tongues. I learned that no amount of exposure to the plights of others could lift me from those depths, no effort at counting my blessings could cheer me. I came to call those occasions “depression.”
I started this blog a few months ago because I wanted to stop feeling angry and cheated at the misfortunes in my life. I’ve had my share of life disasters, but I also have a supportive family, a job, my wife, my children, my health, etc. Stopping each day to acknowledge something beautiful and wonderful in my life is a way of realizing that my blessings far outweigh the little crosses I have to bear from time to time. Starting this blog was my own personal brand of cognitive-behavioural therapy, and a heck of a lot cheaper than a shrink.
And it worked! On the whole, I have been much happier. Those moments of sadness were more easily chased away. But depression has still lingered at the sidelines, waiting for me to trip over my self-esteem so that it can fly in and attack me when I’m down.
Some of you might have noticed a period of absence this past weekend where I wrote no posts of gratitude. Depression had been haunting me all week and finally got the better of me. It was saying a lot of horrible things about me, and I didn’t feel grateful for much.
Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) often says that depression is a liar. I agree with her. The challenge is getting yourself to acknowledge that when depression is sitting on your chest and you’re gasping for air.
Today, I am thankful that my periods of light far exceed my times of darkness, both in length and in frequency. Others aren’t so lucky.