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