This has been an odd week lacking in activity and creativity because my old friend Melancholy came to visit. She is a bit like Aunt Flo who visits monthly the only difference is that Aunt Flo is usually on schedule so I’m stocked up & prepared, where as Melancholy usually slips in the back door while I’m sleeping & sets herself up to stay for a bit. She is like family that arrives unannounced & doesn’t honor our house’s three-day for family visit rule.
When she arrives in the middle of darkness with no warning signs, I wake up in the morning & BAM, I feel blaaaaah. There is no point in even getting out of bed. What’s the point in doing anything, ever? Why go for a walk, eat or even shower? I can’t remember what I had planned that day. The only thing that sounds interesting is laying on the couch, slipping in & out of a coma while staring at the wall & devouring creamy, cheesy pasta. That is what my week has been like.
Melancholia by Albrecht Dürer
“According to Hippocrates, melancholia was caused by an excess of black bile, hence the name, which means ‘black bile’, from Ancient Greek μέλας (melas), “dark, black”, a person whose constitution tended to have a preponderance of black bile had a melancholic disposition.” Hmmmm? This is interesting & does make sense, it often feels like a darkness running through my veins or sitting in my pancreas.
I think in Aruyvedic practice, when Melancholy shows up on your doorstep it would be the equivalent of too much Kapha (water). Too much of anything is an inbalance. Whether it is black bile or water that is keeping me in a blah, sub-level, weepy state, hardly matters, they both suggest an inbalance & a need for stirring or shifting, moving & shaking, creating & co-creating. Which is hard to do when Melancholy is over there on the couch shoving Kraft Mac n cheese in her mouth with one hand & flipping channels with the other hand.
I know it is depressing talking about depression but I guess today I feel that perhaps its a better idea to just call it out rather than hole up & hide.
Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Van Gogh
These melancholic feelings are something I have lived with most of my life but just in the past few years have I truly admitted it. I guess without a proper diagnosis it never seemed really that serious, because it is my baseline. It’s a bit like a fish not realizing she is in water, depression is just something I have always lived with. When Melancholy pays a visit my blah goes from baseline to sub-level but my natural disposition is melancholic.
Most people I have worked with in the past wouldn’t know this about me (well I pretend they don’t know, who knows if they do) because I spent my time at work with a smile on my face, pretending everything was groovy. My friend Sara says she puts on her smiling mask at work to protect everyone from what she is truly feeling because there is no way they would be able to handle the depths of the depression. I might add that I never thought they would be interested in dealing with such heavy feelings, especially at work. There could be some negative repercussions at work anyways. I know the Marine Corps was not interested in my emotional self. In the Marine Corps I wasn’t an individual but a piece of the whole, it was my job to be healthy or at least do my best at pretending in order for me to be accepted and useful. I always thought it was my job to be light, happy, upbeat, productive, & professional (this one was very important).
Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth
I have reached that point where I can’t pretend anymore. I don’t want to. I’m realizing that melancholy is my disposition, not the kind that consumes my energy & makes me want to surrender to the magnetic pull of the couch & stop brushing my teeth for days but that watchful, slower, more contemplative, deeply feeling sort of disposition.
I really don’t have any profound insights about depression or melancholy, I just wanted to bring it out into the light & share my vulnerability with you all (as learned from Dr. Brene’ Brown) to be more authentic & release some of the shame swirling around this way of being.