-- Winston Churchill
I know, I know… everyone thought that was an original lyric by country singer Rodney Atkins. But no, Winston beat Rodney to it by several decades. But here, I’ll quote Rodney, too, from his song of similar title:
Things go from bad to worse
You think they can't get worse than that
And then they do.
That seems to describe what it might be like to be in hell. And it pretty well sums up what many of my depressive episodes have felt like, too.
There is apparently some debate as to whether Churchill’s quote was referring to England’s dire situation during WWII before the US entered the fray, or whether he was referring to his own bouts of major depression. Since I know very little about wars and thus would have a very short blog post if I tried to talk about them, I will instead use the quote in reference to depression.
In reading the quote, notice that it doesn’t say “if you’re headed for hell…” If you’re headed for hell but not there yet, by all means shift yourself into reverse and get the hell out of there. But the quote also doesn’t say “if you’re in hell...”
There is an assumption perhaps that if you are going through something, there must be a way in and a way out. Therefore if you stop midway, you’re not ever going to make it to the other side. Makes sense, and yet when we are in our “hell” of depression, losing heart and giving up is a very strong possibility. We come to believe that there really is no way out. Thus we stay stuck where we are.
The idea to “keep going” seems like a fairly subtle response to a pretty bad situation. But maybe that’s the best way to approach it, with acceptance of where we are and a determination to be proactive. We’re not being told to fight our way out of hell. That’s like telling a depressed person to just get over it. Mind over... well, mind. I’m not sure that’s possible even on our best days.
If we are going to simply keep going, though, it would really be helpful to know in which direction we should go. That might be a matter of introspection and an honest, objective evaluation of our circumstances, which unfortunately is not easy to do when we’re depressed.
In my mind, that’s where therapy comes in. Good therapy can help us see the way out of the hell we have landed in. I did say good therapy, didn’t I? I guess we all have our own ideas about what constitutes good therapy, and I’m no therapist so I can’t offer any professional opinion. But I do have opinions nonetheless, and in my opinion, when we’re standing in hell, it’s not good to stop and eternally ponder how we got there. Sure, if we are carrying baggage that is weighing us down, we need to learn how to set that down, at least temporarily.
But we also need the help of someone who can give us encouragement and hope, someone who can show us effective tools for getting out of our slump. Notice, they are only showing us the tools. We have to be the ones putting them to use to get ourselves to a better place.
It is doable. There is a way out. We just have to keep going. That’s what I’ve been doing and I haven’t seen fire and brimstone for some time now.