“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought,
And not waving but drowning.”
— Stevie Smith, Not Waving But Drowning
The state of depression is a tantalisingly near but ever-so-stark disconnectedness from our world, where we grapple alone with the demons-of-mind within. We may be languishing in the deep, but the safety of shore is still possibly there to be seen. And from the beach there are people who see us, though rarely will they identify with our desperation. When we are depressed our perception of the world is that it’s uncaring. How could it possibly know how we are feeling? How could they possibly help when we don’t know how to help ourselves?
These are some of the dilemmas of the depressed.
Images and States of Disconnectedness
In depression so often the physical reality betrays the spiritual reality. What we see doesn’t align with what we feel. We notice the fun and merriment in life, but we can hardly experience it. Others’ experience betrays us. And this sense of disconnectedness estranges us ever more to those who might like to help, but feel patently useless because of our indifference.
They may often try to cheer us; their inner anxiety speaking about a situation they cannot control—they want to help, but cannot.
But then there are the people who have no empathy. Possibly they’ve never been scourged by the Black Dog. Possibly they have cares of their own to deal with. Possibly they have no capacity to care. Most probably we feel evermore disconnected.
When we feel as though we are drowning, where somehow the world sees us waving, this disconnectedness is profound. It makes the scenario of depression a whole lot worse. These are, many times, the activators of suicide.
Turning Home Toward a Hope of a Closer Shore
In a depression we just want the strength to swim, even slowly, towards the shore of hope. All we want is dry land and safe footing with which to rest and contemplate; to be at peace.
Turning home toward a hope of a closer shore is truly about connectedness—with our world and with the people in our world. When hope turns north, fear turns south, and we can begin to look forward again.
Depression is like struggling helplessly in the surf. We may look like we’re waving, but in fact we’re drowning. We’re desperate for connection—for the love in reconnection.
We should reach out to the depressed, understand them, and do whatever we can to help them to shore.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.