Hold Your Happiness Close. Hold Your Depression Even Closer.
I just heard a story on the radio about a woman who travels alone in places like Sudan and the Phillipines in areas where rebels of all different kinds live. She told a couple of stories of how she handled herself when faced by a group of teenage men with guns. She would march up to them and say, "I am so glad to see you!"
It utterly confused and disarmed them. The gang in Washington ushered her to the subway, all the while warning her against walking alone in the area she was in. In the Philippines she ransacked every house in the village for sugar and coffee, and when they arrived she said, "I am so glad you finally came." She served them coffee, and they went away without damaging anything.
It reminds me of a story Grace Paley, the author, once told at some gathering or another. She said she came home to her house to find a young man with a gun standing in her kitchen. "You look hungry," she said. "Can I get you something to eat?" And that's what she did and then he left, taking whatever it was he found, but leaving her alone.
What does this have to do with depression? I am thinking about the negative thoughts we terrorize ourselves with. Sometimes, I think, it does no good to fight them. They want you to fight them, and if you try, they win. But you can really confuse them if you say, "What took you so long to get here?" Invite your terrorists in and give them coffee, and they will be so confused, they'll leave without hurting you nearly so much.
For me, this is a mindfulness technique. I learned it the hard way. I fought and fought and fought. I had been trying to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques and I lost, and the more I lost, the more I blamed myself for losing, and the worse it got. Finally, I had to give up. And when I did; when I no longer devoted all my energy to fighting my depression, it didn't have as much to hold onto, and much of it slipped past without grabbing me.
Now my attitude is that my depression is a wonderful thing. Not because it doesn't hurt. It hurts like hell. But it is wonderful because it teaches me so much. But the funny thing is that now, when I embrace my guest and offer it a beer, it isn't so interested in hanging around. I guess it's not the touchy-feely type.