Not too long ago a friend asked me what it’s like to live with depression. At the time I likened it to something like living with Diabetes. It’s something that shapes every day, and it’s influence on your life is constant and needs to be nursed, but it doesn’t necessarily weigh on your immediate thoughts and behavior. If I’m on my bike having a fantastic ride, I don’t mull it over and lament, I simply enjoy.
But now that I’ve given it some thought my response wouldn’t be so dismissive. I’ll paint this picture…
I had a problem growing up.
I had this thing that would hit me out of the blue, usually driving out to my friend’s farm, but sometimes walking downtown Waterloo after a summer class, sometimes driving out towards Elora to go fly fishing on the Grand River, sometimes sitting in my parent’s backyard or walking the stalls at the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market. In over twenty years I’ve never written about it because I never felt that I would do it justice with the few words at my command. I’ve never even spoken about it.
During these moments I could do nothing but cry. An awareness that there is in life and the world this most crystalline perfection, something so profoundly flawless and full of good that there was no way anything harmful could happen. A sense that without question there is some kind of benign thing looking over me, creating that wonderful picture of the Grand River idling down in a valley below the roadway, sun in the hay of the meadow; or the sun setting in September over a corn field past it’s prime, the maple trees haunting the fence line and sheltering deer and wild turkeys. The landscape of southern Ontario was then this infliction to me, a glimpse through the mire of our lives and into something entirely immaculate.
But what brought me to tears in these moments wasn’t absolute beauty. What forced me to pull the car over and dropped me to my knees overlooking that valley of the Grand River, or walking a treeline into the forest beyond, or coming home through Waterloo park in the evening, was the heartfelt knowledge that I was not that crystalline perfection, was not part of that profound flawlessness, could never be full of good.
My problem growing up and to this day, is the sickening suspicion that we are so far from grace, so horribly flawed and pining to belong to something greater, something meaningful, something with purpose, but with little hope of getting there.
That, in a nutshell, is living with depression.