escaping the prison of depression, out into a landscape of … ?

escape from prisonalmost two weeks ago now, catatonic kid (let’s call her CK) posted another entry in our cross-blog conversation about depression and language. in fighting darkness, recovering words, CK took her words and crafted a beautiful post. it’s a work of art and it, along with her readers’ comments, also raises a number of very interesting points. i found myself combing through at as i would for text research.

here are a two of the themes that came up for me:

though shalt not know, thou shalt not speak
dano macnamarrah left this comment:

my body shows the awful truth of living silently in pain. my arms and legs bear witness through countless pale scars of sewn up cuts, pink clouds from burns and livid areas of scabs i worry at.

… it’s safer and better to vocalize my pain, than share it on my skin.

i’ve spent years painting and scribbling my pain, but i have found that writing a blog is better than a diary. in a personal journal, one can get swept away by the terrible tides of isolated madness.

as CK pointed out, in an earlier post i had talked about the connection between creativity, oppression and depression. this connection can be seen again here. a therapist i saw for a long time often used the idea of torture as a metaphor of suffering in relationships. the essence of torture, he’d say, is to be captured and “done by”. torture is oppression. “living silently in pain” sounds like that to me. pain is the torture, silence is the prison guard, silence that says, “you are not allowed to know what’s going on. you must not speak.” and we all have that instinct to break out, or at least to do something about the torture and the prison. dano’s solution was to “share it on the skin”, using the language of torture (cutting and burning) to attempt a prison break.

says CK,

sometimes depression is all we know, all that’s familiar, and even though it’s dark we incidentally feed the darkness by not naming the seemingly unknowable.

a similar image, isn’t it? prisons are dark, and after we’ve spent a long time in them, they start to feel familiar and oddly comfortable. and we start using the language of prison.

how much healthier it is to use the language of words and creativity, and to share them out loud, as dano and CK and so many others do on their blogs.

language as a key to unlock the doors depression slams shut
when i first started collecting these themes, i had not even seen the connection between the images of prison and torture and the idea of unlocking doors.

CK again:

… discover those words which fit into the sore spots in our minds, and unlock the doors depression slams shut. meaningful language is a key – a very powerful tool we can use to experience the totality of being.

what a freeing thought, that these words are “discovered”, not, as in a prison situation, keys that are stolen and smuggled. what is needed then, especially in more intense experiences of depression, are the patience and energy to keep exploring. fortunately, if the right light is shone on what is found, every word, every phrase, every image can be a key, a gold nugget of freedom. the trick is to ask ourselves at every turn, “how can i use this? how can i use this word, this description, this little story, to escape the prison of depression?” (by the way, that brings me back to creativity. i’m thinking of my father, an artist, who would often exhort us not to throw out any little odd-looking doodads: “no, no, we have to keep it! i can use it in a collage!”)

my job as a counsellor is to help the people with whom i work to find and sustain the needed energy and patience. and when depression hits me, i need to run (yes, i said “run”; no time can be lost) to those who, in turn, can help me with that.

further on, CK says,

“i am depression’s dictionary”; and
“what resources do you discover when you begin to speak, and to map the hidden country of your mind?”

for those of us with years and years of dealing with depression, there is definitely still discovery, but somehow there is also a repository, a “dictionary” of depression. as i am writing this, i am actually imagining a word cloud. “lonely” probably wouldn’t show up big in my cloud, but “paralyzed”, “confused” and “indecisive” would loom large. when i “click” on these words in my mind, i will hopefully find some meaning – but also beyond that – maybe i need click again – an escape map: yoga. poetry. sunlight. walks.

if you deal with depression or other types of mental health challenges – what does your word cloud look like?  what’s on the map?

(ps. i wrote this post very tired, my eyes half closed through much of it. first i thought i should just leave it and edit it the next day. but it occurred to me that in view of the topic, writing it in this trance/fog might have its own revelatory power …)


image by amin tabrizi

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