Dear Ones –
Climb, climb, CLIMB out of that rut!
Do whatever you have to do to get yourself free.
Cut off your hair and braid it into a rope and pull yourself out of that rut by hand if you must…but do not make yourself at home down there in the dark, narrow, trench of sorrow and numbness.
My friend Pastor Rob Bell says that the definition of despair is “the belief that tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today.”
Don’t fall for that belief.
It doesn’t have to be the case.
Three years into my own dark season of depression, I remember thinking, “Maybe this is just my new reality now. Maybe this isn’t a ‘bad phase’ that I’m going through; maybe this is just how it is now, and how it will always be. Maybe this is who I am now — a perpetually sad and aching person, who has no hope. Maybe I need to just accept that realty.”
Because nothing seemed to be working
I almost went furniture-shopping, in other words, to decorate my rut.
I almost made that rut my permanent address.
But some other, more stubborn, part of me, was like: “NO. We’re getting the hell out of here.”
The thing that’s tricky about saving your own life is that it doesn’t generally happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen in one straight line. It’s not like you get a little better every single day, in terms that you can measure on a graph. It’s more like: two steps forward, one step back, three steps sideways, no steps at all for a month or so, and then finally one more step forward.
Recovery and ascension are a frustratingly slow and jerky process.
But if you keep doing the things that take care of you, the general direction will be upward. It may be slow and twisted, but it will be mostly upward. You will rise. No matter how long it takes.
In my case, the things that took care of me were: therapy, prayer, meditation, exercise, antidepressants, the solace of good friends, the comfort of reading good books, the practice of forgiveness and atonement, exposure to nature, looooooong walks, heart-opening acts of generosity, sometimes awkward attempts at self-compassion, listening to non-sad beautiful music, trying to get perspective on the human condition through philosophical study, trying to distract myself by learning Italian, getting rid of objects that held bad memories, setting boundaries with people who hurt or shamed me, moving to a new place…etc, etc.
It was not one thing that saved me, in the end — but all these many things combined.
That was the complex rope I braided, to pull myself out of the rut.
It was not always easy to do those good things for myself. It is easier to stay numb on the couch, or to cry in bed with the covers over your head, than it is to drag yourself outside for a walk on a sunny day — or to ask a friend or a doctor for help.
But I would make myself do these beneficial things, because somewhere deep inside, I knew that I WAS THE ONLY STEWARD OF THIS TROUBLED SOUL, and that I had to save myself.
Nobody could pull me out of that rut but me.
People could help — and they did help — but I ultimately had to get out of there myself.
Slowly, month by month, year by year — imperceptibly at times — it worked.
Do not make yourself at home in despair, Dear Ones.
Do not give up on loving stewardship of your troubled soul.
Climb, climb, climb.
LG (Elizabeth Gilbert)