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Depression: the Antidote is in the Name

5 ways to press back

Depression: the Antidote is in the Name

It used to be called melancholy, which means having black bile. If a body fluid is black, that means to say it is stagnant--in the parlance of the previous post, the habit has become a straitjacket.  Melancholy isn't  bittersweet, slightly poetic, verklempt self-indulgence. If your liver's squirting out black bile, or your gallbladder's storing black bile, things are in bad shape.

Depression, though. The solution's suggested in the name. In fact, the name suggests that you're already solving it.

Depression is pressing downward. And think about it: pressure can only happen if it's being met with resistance, if the thing being pressed is pushing back. 

Otherwise, it wouldn't be called pressure. It would be a knockdown blow, the thing being pushed just falling straight down. If you've been depressed, you probably have felt that zero-resistance falling, falling in a hole, sometimes without even realizing you've fallen. Ursula LeGuin has a short-story character subject to such depression who terms it to himself "falling black," which I could always relate to. Like black bile, right? When you forget to breathe, when colors are drained of hue and contrast, when everything's too much effort.

I consider the words, maybe I take some wormwood to rumble my liver. I step out and choose "depression" rather than "melancholy" and put the word to work.  I'm being pressed down; I'm not in free fall, so how can I press back?

  1. Walking--constantly off balance, constantly correcting through motion.  When I was very little I remember watching people walk, fascinated by how odd the method and motion are. Why do we have these two pins trading off, the one always implying and impelling the other? Why don't we have a single, central wheel, or two like inline skates, that roll along smoothly? Pressing against the ground, recognizing the constant correcting, presses back, recalls the connection with mother Earth.
  2. Raising the bar--for a reasonably healthy person, walking on the ground is effortless, without awareness or precaution around the lack of balance. But as you raise the bar and narrow the ground, the same activity gets tenser and scarier. Even a board two feet wide threatens our walking balance if it's 50 feet above the ground. Your middle ear rings with the three-dimensional instability, the threat of falling. But there's no need or reason for you to fall. Pushing back against fear, seeing yourself do what you thought you couldn't do--that's pressing back; that's the realm of our modern elixirs, dopamine and endorphins.
  3. Create a new frame--so I've straitjacketed myself into de-pression by reinforcing habits, furrows, ruts; I've hypnotized myself into worthlessness. I can build new track. I can make like an orthodontist or bonesetter. I used to loathe the concept of "act as if" because I thought it was inherently fake. But does that mean that hypnotizing myself miserable is not-fake because it was unconscious??? Ponder that. But I first heard that smiling can make you happy, as well as result from being happy, about eight years ago, and by now it seems pretty mainstream and well understood. Still, the last thing I want to do is smile when I'm depresed. But it's the epitome of "pushing back." As are affirmations, which I like to call "affirmative reminders." I'm reminding myself of all the good things I choose as truths for myself, clear as peppermint oil against the cutting self talk.
  4. Put yourself in a new context--if it's all about movement, habit, cycles, these are all also affected by who we bump into and how we bump into them. Depression, being pressed down, can be so lonely, and it can encourage self isolation. I've seen people come around simply from having more contact--with animals or humans. I know that I need a lot of time alone, and I know that I'm very good at acting "okay" when around people. But, as per number 3, acting okay is pushing back, and it's another sort of affirmative reminder: hey, here's a different way I could be. Even though I'm in the hole right now, there's this other universe and way of being to which I still have enough connection that I can pretend to be there.
  5. 1-4 all press back by disrupting the stagnation. 5 presses back by holding firm to helpful routines/habits/patterns. Sleep, food, meds/supplements, meditation--things that help when done regularly. Doing them regularly is another affirmative reminder.

About the Author

Ela Harrison

Ela is a wordsmith and herb lover who has lived in many places and currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

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