T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain.”
I would submit that spring is the cruelest season. But it doesn’t need to be.
Farmers plow their fields each spring, while we the depressed plow the furrows in our brains deeper, compounding the perennial effects of negative thought patterns year after year.
I guess this is my PSA, sprouting from a sudden attack of public vulnerability. Usually no more than one or two people read my posts. And that’s perfectly okay, because I hope that this at least speaks to the one—you—who is reading this. Maybe it will help you. I don’t know. These are only a few thoughts. Thanks to time and therapy, I have gained a little more perspective now, and perhaps I can contribute something positive.
Early spring has always been the most difficult time of year for me. I’m not sure if other people experience this particular brand of depression. Many people experience seasonal affective disorder (or SAD), which causes someone to feel depressed during a particular season, which is usually winter, when the amount of daylight is least.
For the type of depression I have experienced, winter is not the worst. Yes, everything is dead and brown, the trees stripped; one doubts they’ll ever bud. And then spring comes, and the miracle is that the dead trees do bud again. And suddenly, everyone’s sadness seems to fade away as fast as winter fades away into spring. Yet for some, the depression is only just beginning. You at least had solidarity during winter, when everyone felt crappy. But then spring comes, and nature and people immediately move on without you, and you’re still the same. For everyone else except for you, black and white give way to Technicolor. Everyone’s having a grand old time—meanwhile you’re pounded by bad memories into the black hole of depression.
What prompted this post is that I heard a song the other day that I haven’t heard in eons that reminded me of a very difficult time, which happened in a spring when I was rather young.
But like I said, things have gotten better in the past year, and listening to this particular song, with ears many years older, made me reflect on things differently. Never mind the specific song. You have your own, I’m sure.
I’m not making the definitive statement about depression by any stretch of the imagination. Could I ever? There are so many angles, faces, shades, tones, depths.… But my hope is that perhaps you, the one person, if you’re out there, can derive some comfort in knowing it will get better. That someone else goes through this shit too, and it will be better. Even doing just one thing, one tiny thing differently, could make a difference.
Here’s an example that helped me: a gratitude journal. Not exactly earth-shattering advice here. However. This is what I did differently: no “buts,” “even thoughs,” “excepts.” For example: “I had fun with so-and-so today, even though I probably bored them.” NO. “I had fun with so-and-so today.” That’s it. Period. Leave it alone.
Just that one small thing. Just don’t say “but.” Just say what you’re grateful for. Nothing more, unless it’s more stuff you are grateful for. Every time you qualify it with a negative statement, you’re digging the furrow in your brain deeper.
You could even be grateful that there’s one tile in your shower that has no mildew on it. It’s that simple. No “but” or “except.”
Tell me if you can spot the difference:
“I am grateful that one tile in my shower has no mildew on it.”
“I am grateful that one tile in my shower has no mildew on it, but all the rest of them do.”
And I get it. We’re probably both tempted to say, “But the reality IS that almost the whole shower is filthy! The whole bathroom sucks and can’t be cleaned!” Listen, friend, we can’t focus on this anymore. There’s one clean tile! Keep the g–d– tile clean, do whatever it takes, just keep that one clean. One day you’ll get up the strength to clean up the one next to it.
Traveling down that negative neuropathway road will never, ever, take you anywhere except straight to hell. I looked back through diaries that I wrote over the years, and they’re pages and pages and pages of the same thing over and over and over, ruminating over everything that is wrong with me and my life. Here’s a spoiler alert: it never helped me. But by following that one tiny rule—something happened. Eventually, in time, my hand has become reluctant to be complicit in the matter. Even if I want to do it, my hand says, “no, don’t feel like it.”
Hearing that song took me way back. I remember how bad I felt then, and I feel tempted to linger. But the new me says, nope, don’t wanna go there again. The sad lyrics felt very immediate to me at the time. Now that I realize they are hopeful lyrics, I have a sense of wonder that they described, almost prophetically, without my knowing it at the time, what my journey into the future would be like.
Maybe there are positive prophecies out there for you. Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” and to those who don’t know, he sounds downright hopeless. But he was in fact quoting the first line of Psalm 22. The psalm describes terrible agony, but by the end, God saves the psalmist and this good news will be told to generations to come.
My point here is, don’t stop reading after the first line.
If I were to say to you right now that I did a few things differently, listened to some jams, did a little therapy, got some perspective, and now it’s all good, I’d be a terrible, delusional, harmful liar. I know all too well that the negative feelings are almost like a drug or addiction, and you can relapse if you aren’t vigilant about them and allow temptation to take over. It happens from time to time. All is not lost if it does.
But doing that one positive thing, one teeny tiny little thing, just a 1% change in your day can change everything. Take one step away from the beaten path in your brain that leads to hell. Just that one step, every time, can eventually turn into two.