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Pragmatism and Depression: Kick the Constant Sorrow

Man of Constant SorrowHowever it gets kicked up in the first place, depression’s constant sorrow is fed by thoughts that nearly everything is heading south, at least as far as you own life goes. You’re hamstrung and harrowed now, the Big D counsels, and that glimmer bobbing on the horizon? It’s just reflected pitch fire from the smoking ruins you’re chugging toward.

That’s what your bamboozled brain is telling you, anyway. While you’re under depression’s hoodoo, its buzz-crushing cant seems persuasive, no matter how wild-pitch inaccurate it might be. You have to start to get out from under it to really see its blinkered mendacity.

Then, when you get a purchase on slightly more reasoned perspectives, you can lift your baby blues to spy the footholds that will support your trek up and over those black hills.

Release from the Big D’s stranglehold can be as variable in method as the circumstances that hatch the bastard, or the terrain where it tries to root itself. You wanna derail, deracinate, deflate or deconstruct this sumbitch, right? Then, podnah, you gots to gear up and train your mind.

Sometimes the depression lifts and you can start to feel good, even great, elated by the reprieve. By all means, go ahead and get some grins. Punch sun through those paper shades and bust out some bright guffaws. Wag the residual gloom out of your head. Craft some kick-ass art. Hike your shoulders and high-step it down the boulevard, tipping your chin to the clouds.

Sometimes life is a carnival, and you can just enjoy the fireworks, calliopes and clowns. You deserve it after what you’ve been through.

But the sun don’t shine on the same dog all the time, and you know this dark night’s tendency to descend on you a week or a month or a year after your tail starts to flap again. Whatever else you do with this off-season, it’s smart to shore up your cognitive and behavioral resources so you’ll be better prepared weather the next eclipse.

To maximize your success in dodging or defeating or even just mitigating depression, it helps to develop some versatility. Physical strength being equal, the fighter fly with MMA moves alongside classic boxing techniques has a big advantage over a conventional slugger. A physician whose holistic approach includes the best of traditional and alternative, eastern and occidental treatments is likely to fight disease more successfully than the tunnel-visioned sawbones who limits himself to culturally circumscribed western medicine.

It’s the same with depression. What works to amp up your energy or brighten your scene one dark day might go low-batt on another, and the failure of this relied-upon tactic can plunge you lower than not trying anything at all. Unless, that is, you have another method waiting in the wings that might be better suited to dispelling your current doldrums.

The posts on this site explore a broad variety of ways to deal with depression, from Positive Psychology to negative capability, from secular science to spiritual wayfaring, from Manichean clash to Stoic acceptance.

Some of the recommendations might seem mutually exclusive. For instance, certain pages advocate a scrappy, dukes-up method—seeing depression as a cutthroat opponent and learning how to pummel it into the mat. Other posts lay out the power of passive resistance, of dropping your hot fists and training a cool eye on the darkness until it spins itself out and evaporates.

Remember, YMMV—you only find out what works for you through experimentation. What worked last year may not do the trick now. The mix of memory and desire that failed in April might just jack you high in the kinder month of June. All of the approaches I recommend on Hangdog Revival have helped me at one point or another.

Does the site contradict itself? Very well then, it contradicts itself. Depression is large, it contains multitudes. But the human heart and mind and soul and strength are larger. Hitched to sprawling light-year stretches of unseen spiritual reality, they’re cosmically capacious, busting out with multiverses of love and intelligent potency.

At certain frontiers of human experience, paradoxes ride the range like salty outlaws. They can clue you in to the terrain even as they stump your reason. They can buck up your gumption and help you hound those blue devils right off the continental shelf.

So don’t worry about the contradictions. Neither you nor I have it all figured out. And as our buddy Ralphie observed, a foolish consistency is the Freddy Krueger of munchkin mindsets.

Let’s just hump the ridges and ford the rivers and tramp the ravines, map that twilit psychic wilderness together. Load up your saddlebags with pragmatic openness. Toss in matches, a moral compass and a few scraps of gritty faith.

What are we about here? Scouting ways to circumvent or finesse the next depressive Waterloo. Scaling ace-high meridians. Kicking back under the stars as coyotes shagged with moonlight howl on the ridge up yonder.

No sniffy gatekeepers here. No closing of ranks or circling of wagons. High-hatting’s banned. High-fiving’s compulsory. Irony’s optional.

Our red carpet’s dusty and threadbare but it’s sincere. Our tents are pitched on terra firma. Supper wood-smoke ghosts up to fill the Big Dipper. Banjos ring out twangy against high lonesome harmonies as campfires glaze our faces gold.

We’re a medicine show minus the snake oil. We bat around desert and plains and mountains. We barnstorm through backwaters and boomtowns. We move from straits to strength mining veins of bang-up resilience and prodigal joy.

Don’t tell me this site ain’t got no heart. You just gotta poke around.

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