The Secret Handshake

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There is a moment when the mask falls, the gloves come off, and you realize you are depressed. It is such a relief. There is a word for this howling ache, this cold numb, the flat, colorless cast to everything around you.

“Oh!” you say to yourself in stunned recognition.  “I’m depressed! ” And it is not a hardship, because now you know, You know that you are wrestling a gorilla, not a Chihuahua, and can adjust your weight and expectations accordingly. There is grace in this. You can stop guessing. You can stop taking your temperature or judging your willpower or castigating yourself for being lazy.

“I’m depressed,” you say aloud, weighing the word, feeling its heft, and wrapping it around your shoulders like a blanket. And once you know, you have choices.

You can wallow in it. And, frankly, it’s always a good start. Especially if you’ve been avoiding it. Sink into sorrow like a pool of warm water, like a dark womb. Surrender. Denial takes so much energy. Denial just delays the inevitable. All that cheery chipper you think keeps you afloat will keep you right there – afloat and stuck. So sink into sorrow. Let your muscles give way. Let your heart give way. Exhale and surrender. Like any storm, there is more danger from resistance. Sink into sorrow, so you can rise again renewed.

You know this terrain. It has a name. It comes with a badge, a pass, and a clear set of instructions. Be tender. Speak softly. Say no to things you didn’t want to do anyway. Breathe. That might be the biggest job – keep breathing. Treat yourself with care, like a small bird fallen from the nest. Gentle hands. Food. Water. Sleep. Time for the wings to heal.

“I am depressed, you tell a friend quietly, and they understand. It’s the secret handshake.

© Deborah Edler Brown 2017


Please Note: I am a poet, not a therapist. This is solely my experience of  sorrow. If you are feeling a sadness, grief, or depression that seems intense or long-lasting, please seek out a counselor or hotline. And be exquisitely kind to yourself. 

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