perfectly, beautifully

Monday, January 30, 2012

typographic art by Mati Rose - I love her work !

more soul digging
subtitled -
the funny thing about despair

with warning - a very long post

The funny thing about despair is
you don't recognize it as despair until after it's gone.

The capacity for despair is probably equivalent to the ability to experience joy; such depths in the self are required in order to make possible the mounting of heights

But despair and depression, of course, are not the same thing. Depression is nearly always the consequence of despair, a despair one cannot feel one's way through in order to emerge from the other side, a despair that will not be moved. Sometimes such pain–perhaps especially when it's been known for a long time and all one's resources are used up, depleted–takes hold in the self; it becomes the climate in which we operate, a daily weather. Depression–simply the state of being exhausted by despair?–takes up residence in the desk drawer, the pile of shoes at the bottom of the closet, last night's unwashed dishes tumbled in the sink. Despair is sharp, definite, forceful; it is a response to experience. Depression accumulates, pools, sighs, settles in: it is the absence of response. It does not make things move. Consider our tropes for it: a cloud, a shadow, a weight. It lingers, broods, sits heavily, it replaces the sharpness of grief (which no one can bear to feel for very long) with the muffling emptiness of fog. Except that I love fog, with it's veils and secrets, it's lusters and atmospheres. Depression, more precisely, is a kind of dirty haze, and dims everything without adding mystery. It slows and conceals and stills the circulation of the air. p 155

A passages from the book Dog Years by Mark Doty. His writing feels so much like my own thoughts, my own feelings. I don't remember a book that's ever struck me like this one did ...

Every early morning for as long as I can remember I spend the first hour-hour + a half in bed with my coffee & journal. I like to wake up slowly, I hate to rush, I love flannel & down, I love my nest, I love coffee & writing in a journal has always been a part of my daily morning routine.

This morning, prompted by all this dusting off of my soul & also by my re-reading of the first passage above (from Mark Dody) that I linked to yesterday - a passage about despair & depression. A passage that when reading it again last night, slowly & carefully I couldn't catch my breath. I wondered how did I ever survive ? The funny thing about despair is you don't recognize it as despair until after it's gone. Despair in my life had piled up so slowly and gradually, year after year, layer by layer, quietly, softly - it rarely felt like despair or maybe it was denial, it felt more like it was me - who I was - there was something wrong with me. Thankfully at that time my best friend MLou could see the despair & recognized it for what it was and she pushed me to find help.

With my doctor's advisement I had 2 appointments with a psychiatrist, a kind, sweet, dog loving man (ya know that always score mega bonus points with me) who I felt extremely comfortable with. I was hoping he could tell me what was wrong with me & how could I fix it/me. After the 2 hour long meetings he said to me You have a depression of the soul - there is no drug I can prescribe for that. My inner circle, of 1 or 2 (I guess that hardly makes a circle) my inner half circle initially tsked, tsked a bit at what he said, with perhaps some eye rolling, there's that word soul again. In their defense I believe their reaction was simply wanting so desperately to protect & to help me, that diagnosis didn't seem helpful, seemed intangible, useless even. But inside of me when I heard those words I felt so validated, almost vindicated. I had been dragging my feet for years & years at the suggestion of medication because I felt that for me it wasn't the solution - I had tried a few fairly brief stints with anti-depressants & anti anxiety medications. I can't explain why but I always knew that what was wrong with me was not a chemical imbalance. I really felt like I did have a depression of the soul. That was exactly how I felt. My soul felt crushed & pinned, buried & trapped under layers & layers of rock hard despair & sadness.

My soul wanted to give up, it thought about giving up constantly but didn't know how to give up. I was so tired from trying - another layer of despair floated gently down & landed. I was caught in some strange & terrible limbo of living & not living. Walking around as if everything was OK, when inside nothing was OK. Pretending that there wasn't anything wrong with me. These 2 passages from 2 different books always make me cry when I read them because it's as if they lived inside my head and took all my thought & feelings & expressed them perfectly, beautifully.

It's deep water week here at 29 Black Street - a little like Shark Week at the Discovery Channel

She awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day her heart would descend from her chest into her stomach. By early afternoon she was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for her, and by the desire to be alone. By evening she was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of her grief, alone in her aimless guilt, alone even in her loneliness. I am not sad, she would repeat to herself over and over, I am not sad. As if she might one day convince herself. Or fool herself. Or convince others–the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because her life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. She would fall asleep with her heart at the foot of her bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of her at all. And each morning she would wake with it again in the cupboard of her rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the mid afternoon she was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad.

Jonathan Saffran Foer - Everything is Illuminated

I changed the "he" to "she" in the above passage - it describes exactly the rhythm of my life for years & years - no wonder I'm so excited & happy to see my soul again, to be getting to know her, showing her around & now to barely recognize despair when I meet it on the street. Another grateful thank you to Mlou who helped me to save myself - I see that now- I did save myself.


  1. And I am so very glad you are not swimming in such deep water anymore. You did save yourself and I hope you will always remember the strength that is within you. xo mlou

  2. Susan, this post is fantastic. It's so raw. And I have to tell you I'm surprised that I feel so personally touched by it; like you've reached those tap roots hidden down below. And now I'm sitting on my couch saying "Oh no. Despair? What now?"

    You are brave to have kept fighting.

  3. Long time lurker – I had to stop and say that, although the passages you shared moved you, your words have moved me. Tears roll down my cheeks, drip from my jaw, and my heart recognizes its own passage. But joy flickers at the thought of a way out, at the hope of finding my way. Thank you for this – for putting yourself out there for others to connect with – for sharing your journey.

  4. Susan, you are so brave to share your thoughts like this. Such powerful and moving words. From the first time I met you all those years ago (!) I could sense you were looking for something. There was always a wistfulness about you that i could never quite put my finger on; but now I can see that what I thought of as wistfulness was really a deep, painful longing. I'm so glad that you've not only finally discovered what it is you were longing FOR (ain't that the tricky part - so many people never do), but also that you seem to have found it at last. I've always known you were crazy smart, but I'm developing a new appreciation for how resilient you are, too. Congratulations on your new-found freedom, my dear. As Robertson Davies would say, you're "coming out of your cell with a hell of a yell"! xo n

  5. It's so good to see your soul. The writings were beautiful and descriptive, yes - but your first image really says it all. I wonder what it would be like if we could each have a special mirror that showed us our true, good, selves. How would we feel, how would we live, then?

    Thank you for being an inspiration and a mirror to my own soul, my far-away friend.

  6. Truly moving to us! Thought of you:


  7. thank you all for helping me along this journey to discover & uncover myself. & Moose I LOVE that poster !! thanks also for the Alt link the other day - can't wait for that channel of videos to be available - love you guys xos

    I'm lapping up inspiration from all directions

  8. Thanks for sharing- very insightful
    Glad you worked out of that- whenever I start to feel a little off- I take fish oil capsules and then deep breaths....

  9. thank you - I get it - well I get what you and others wrote - I hope to GET IT soon - thank you for being brave


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