Thursday, February 11, 2016

Find The Good

I can remember times when doing anything more productive than getting out of bed seemed to be an insurmountable goal. I have vague memories of times when even getting out of bed felt like too much to ask. I know of a couple times when getting out of bed and even being productive both happened as often as they were supposed to happen, but they happened with little to no conscious effort on my part, and those aren’t really memories. I know these times exist because I can look back and see their shapes in the past, but I have no active memory of having done them. I just know that they were done and no one else did them, so it stands to reason that I did them. It’s one of those things that can’t really be explained if you haven’t experienced it, and doesn’t need to be explained if you have.

Depression sucks. Whether you get that or not, on a visceral level, I trust that you believe that or you probably wouldn’t be here. You may not experience it personally, but maybe you know and care about someone who does. In many ways, that can be just as bad. We do not acknowledge it as often as we should, but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we who live with depression know full well what a pain in the neck we can be for those around us. That’s actually part of the vicious circle, one more reason to feel that life isn’t working. Not only can I not cope with my own life, but I am making it more difficult for my friends and family to cope as well. One more stone added to the burden.

That is, at its heart, a huge part of how depression works and what makes it so difficult for some to overcome. It is so easy to see what’s wrong, what hurts, what is bad. It’s easy to see the negative, and the negative is contagious. Once it starts piling up, it begins to infect everything around it. The more negative you have, the more negative you get, and ever goes the downward spiral. Contrary to the reports of physicists everywhere, perpetual motion does exist. It’s just called depression, and is the most useless phenomenon in the known universe.

There is, however, one little pebble that you can throw into the gearbox of that perpetual motion engine and bring it crashing to a halt. Find the good. Like many contagious organisms, the negative is relatively fragile and needs a particular environment within which to thrive. Upset that environment and you upset the condition. The more advanced the condition the more difficult it is to reverse, but continuing to upset it tends to make progress.

Find the good.

From a relative observer perspective, there is no inherent difference between the good and the negative. Both are abundant, and both often depend on one’s point of view. What we are looking for often determines what we find. If you’re looking for good, you are more likely to find good. If you’re looking for bad, you are more likely to find bad. It’s almost like magic.

The problem is that depression causes you to go looking for the bad without even realizing that is what you are doing. Depression leads you to believe that you aren’t worth the good, and guides your view to everything that supports this belief. Since you’re looking for the bad, you’re finding the bad, and the more bad you find, the more bad you expect to find, so the more bad you find. Round and round we go, world without end, Amen.

It can have an end, though. It feels like it is without end, but nothing in this world is truly without end. Even the mountains rise and fall. Even the stars burn out. Everything passes in time, even time. The trick is to change your perspective. The trick is to find the good.

Not every day will be a good day, but there will be good in every day. Sometimes it’s in a friend’s smile. Sometimes it’s a flower pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk. Sometimes it’s a song that just feels like home. It doesn’t have to be something major. It just needs to be something you can grab onto, something to focus on to remind yourself that there is good in the world. It is possible that finding this small good will snowball, just like the bad can, and lead you to finding more and more good, but that isn’t necessarily the point. It’s great when that happens, but what matters is that you remember the good exists. Don’t lose sight of that, and you can more easily hold onto hope. Hope is how you get through a bad day.

I can remember one of those periods when I wasn’t remembering much of anything, when I could look back one day and realize that an entire month had gone by without my active participation. It is difficult to find the good when you can’t even find yourself. I was working the graveyard shift at a local convenience store at the time, and there are not many jobs better suited to helping you get lost inside yourself. Long hours of no human contact, punctuated by sleeping during the day and hardly ever seeing the sun are not a recipe of ideal self care, especially if you’re also going through a heavy depressive period at the same time. A dear friend of mine helped to bring me back. She would stop in occasionally while I was at work and either ask if I had remembered to eat or she would just arrive bearing food. On the surface, that may seem like such a small thing, but it meant the world to me, and I have never forgotten. There have been days when the best example of good I could find was the memory of that, and experiences like it. What you look for tends to be what you find, and that applies to inside as well as out.

The smallest good can be the difference between life and death. That can be both literal and figurative, and sometimes it can be very hard to tell the difference. You may have to look for the good, you may have to work for it, but it’s always there. There is a light in every tunnel. There is a lining to every cloud. Find it, and find hope.

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