By David Haldane
April 23, 2020
It feels like a dark weight that’s dragging you down.
For a while you resist it by applying pressure in the other direction; you fight, as the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas famously wrote, “against the dying of the light.” At some point, though, you get tired and just want to stop. So you do, and in that letting go lies a sense of relief, almost of liberation. You go with the flow, as-it-were, and embrace the darkness surrounding you, covering everything within view in its dark-tinged hue. It is as if the whole world is suddenly at dusk. And there you sit with your empty bag of tricks, feeling very much alone until…well, until you don’t. If you’re lucky, the dusk will lift in hours. For me, it sometimes lasts for days.
However long it lasts, the important thing is not to do anything in that darkness that you can’t undo in light. Because, as sure as we are alive, the light will return, and everything looks different when it does.
What I’m describing, of course, is depression, something many of us are fighting as this damnable pandemic lockdown lingers on. Like the invisible microbes that threaten our physical survival, the darkness of depression lurks in the shadows threatening our spiritual one, ready to strike even before its tiny microbe allies can overcome our defenses to rush in from all sides.
Depression is no stranger to me, though it had been many years since it reared its ghostly head. Back then, it was usually attached to external events much smaller than the seeming end of the world; the end of a relationship, say, or the loss of a job. There was a time in my life, in fact, when therapists were my best friends and anti-depressants part of my everyday diet.Fortunately, I’m nowhere near that state now. But, having experienced it in the past, even a little darkness these days is enough to remind me of how familiar it once was, enough to impress me again how deep is that dark lake around which we tread on such narrow shores.
Here’s my advice; nourish the vision behind your eyes rather than the one that your eyes see. Focus on the little things here-and-now; eating breakfast if you have it or finding one if you don’t. Visualize the faces of your loved ones, even if you can’t see them for real. Think about the things you love doing and do them when you can. Talk to friends. Cook your favorite meals. Focus on the safety and well-being of others and help them if possible. Try to find an uplifting movie that makes you cry. Think about the things that you do have rather than that which you don’t. Brush your teeth, take a shower and get dressed every day. And, most importantly, as I’ve said, don’t do anything in the darkness that can’t be undone in the light.
For, no matter what happens in the world or how this all shakes out, the light will surely return. Though its color may be slightly altered from that to which we are accustomed, even a different light can be beautiful once it saturates a darkened soul.
See you when the lights come on.
David Haldane is the author of an award-winning memoir called “Nazis & Nudists.” A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an American journalist, essayist and broadcaster whose radio work earned a 2018 Golden Mike award from the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California. He currently lives in Mindanao with his Filipino wife and their two children. This column tells the unfolding story of that adventure. http:///www.davidshaldane.com
Published originally in Mindanao Gold Star Daily