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Home: Writings: Essays & Rants: The Agony and the Ecstacy

The Agony and the Ecstacy

There are no guarantees that the sun will shine tomorrow
by Timothy Hoy I once heard someone say that depression makes poverty look like a picnic. In the economic sense that may be true. But in the psychiatric sense, serious depression makes physical death look like a party.

In physical death your heart stops beating, no more breaths are taken and the brain ceases to function. Slowly the body begins to cool and the stiffness of rigormortis settles in. This all happens without the knowledge of the deceased.

Depression is akin to the beginning of a mental ice age. Before the victim understands what is happening the warmth of the sun is replaced by the onrushing freeze. He is dying a mental death. His brain begins to slow down like a mountain stream in the dead of a harsh winter. Thoughts barely trickle between the ice that blocks their free flow. He desperately seeks the warmth that will melt the glaciers that are carving deep dark crevices in his psyche. The bitter cold settles into the pleasure centers of his brain and pushes out the emotional warmth that once nourished him. As this ice age covers more of the emotional landscape the victim tries everything to free himself and escape the deep dark freeze that keeps pulling him down. Slowly, any and all warmth that once dominated the visionscape of the mind is replaced by the desperation and bitter cold of emotional pain. Unfortunately, depression doesn't kill all of the brain and stop one from breathing. No, it's victim is all too aware of the hell into which he has slipped. But the emotional rigormortis has made climbing out all but impossible. He watches his life slowly become frostbitten and die. Suddenly, he's face to face with the painful reality that he just is. He's just there...not alive and not dead...just being. His old life is just a shimmer of hope onto which he clings. Never knowing if he will return but staying totally focused on the dim light of those memories that remind him of what once was. He waits in a suspended state of emotional desperation never accepting the predicament but realizing that he cannot extract himself. He teeters upon the razors edge between surviving the mental ice age and precipitating his own physical death.

The lucky and the strong might survive long enough to see the light of the oncoming spring. From somewhere a sensation breaks through one of the emotional glaciers. A quick feeling of warmth and a glimpse of light. A single photon that magically increases hope and strengthens his resolve to hold on. Slowly the light of spring breaks through the eternal emotional winter. He can see the light of hope again but he still frozen in emotional hell. This in itself is a new trauma for the victim. Surrounded by the light of hope but still deprived of the emotional warmth. It's seeing life but not living it. Like mother nature dangling a carrot in front of your minds eye but keeping it out of reach. He wonders is this all there will be. Again he waits.

Suddenly he feels a tinge of life fight it's way through the freeze. A simple warm feeling that came from nowhere without reason. A drop of water from his frozen pleasure center. Then another drop and another as the depressive glaciers begin their spring thaw. Thoughts and pleasurable feelings begin to once again flow freely. A sense of well being begins to sprout out of some previously buried seed. The mental freeze slowly gives way to the warmth of life. It is the agony and the ecstasy of living. Glaciers becoming mountain lakes and their tributaries. Memories and thoughts all in their prospective places. However, he realizes that he is no longer what he was. The crevices created by the emotional glaciers are much deeper than before. They are now full of the cold clear water that once was the ice from which there was no escape. Emotional lakes full of the knowledge that life holds no guarantees. Waters so deep and dark that hold the memories of the emotional death and despair through which he has just emerged. He never swims in these lakes but never forgets them. Their depths are always with him. The only way he can avoid diving in and drowning is to live life to it's fullest. Painful memories of the never-ending despair are transformed into empathy and compassion for the living. He realizes that he is deeper and wiser than before. Life's little hassles are put in their proper perspective. For he realizes that feeling life's hassles is being alive. He welcomes the challenges of life and all the living that they provide. No longer does life seem so hard to live when compared to not being able to be alive at all.

But deep in the dark cold crevices of his mind is the constant reminder that another ice age could be cast upon him. His only alternative is to live life to its fullest every day. For he knows that there are no guarantees that his sun will shine tomorrow.

Modified June 26, 2006

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