Oh no, not another article about depression, I wish it would go away. Funnily enough so do a lot of us.
But it won’t. It’s here to stay, this 21st Century disease, or could there be signs of similar dark phantoms in the psyche of our past? Hold that thought. Anyway, we really do need to acknowledge its existence and attempt to fathom out what the hell it is all about by listening, learning and not just paying lip service to a frightening foe. “Time to Talk Day” should be “Time to Talk Week/ Month/Year” or as long as it takes. There’s a lot of frightened and confused people out there who still can’t get to grips with what they have going on in their heads. Why me? Is it a tumour? What is it? Am I mad?
They really don’t know and can’t articulate their feelings and fears but we could make it easier to understand. Just knowing that this feeling has a name and that many people suffer is a major first step to alleviating and addressing the problem. Many suffer in silence and shame, they are not on public records in the “One in four people suffer Depression” category. They feel alone when they are actually in a group of millions in a similar situation to varying degrees. Come together, right now. Today.
Rant over and back on point. And breathe ahhhhh. We know vaguely about the Ancient Greek myth of Pandora and her box, no sniggering at the back, but really most of us know only three things about it. No 1 – There was a woman called Pandora. No 2 – She had a box she mustn’t open. No 3 – It was full of ummm bad things. So that’s a C- minus, must do better. On reading the tale as a bedtime story to my 5 year old, which by the way went way over her head, I realised that it could be seen as a very accurate description, or allegory of what we consider to be a modern disease. So, bear with me, and let’s look at the story.
Are you sitting comfortably? Well now I’ll begin.
There were once two brothers called Prometheus and Epimetheus who had angered Zeus because they had stolen the miracle of Fire and given it to the people. Zeus decided to punish them. Along with Hermes and Aphrodite they created a woman called Pandora imbued with beauty, curiosity and deceit. He sent her to Earth and in accordance with Zeus’ plan Epimetheus fell in love with her instantly and married her. As a wedding gift Zeus gave to Pandora a box with the instruction never to open it, ever, not ever. While her husband was away she heard sad, pitiful voices inside the box imploring her to open it. Hmm, but did the voices come from the box? Her curiosity got the better of her and so open it she did and released thousands of stinging moth-like creatures representing all the evils of the world. As a swarm they escaped through the open windows. Immediately she felt anger and despair, hurt and misery. She shut the lid tight. Too late. Her husband came home at this point and they argued for the first time (and surely not the last) as another voice pleaded from the box to be let out (oh not again). What more harm could be done they thought and so open it they did and out fluttered a single shining spirit, like a butterfly. It was Hope. And luckily, Hope has stayed with us to this day. The End.
So, thanks for that Pandora, maybe not too wise to follow the advice of those voices. Look what a mess you have left behind. And Zeus, a bit harsh on the punishment front, but cheers for the Hope bit. The Antidote, the Anti-Virus. It keeps us going. We all know the expression “Put a lid on it” which could be a reference to Pandora’s box. Keep things in check. Keep things in order. Don’t show emotion or weakness or temper. That’s easy to say and more difficult to do. With depression we don’t want that box to open but many situations and circumstances can conspire to break that lock and let the bugs free. Maybe we literally hear those voices in our head to some extent exhorting us to open the box.
Telling us nefarious lies, distorting the truth. It certainly isn’t curiosity that makes us want to peer into that deep, hellish hole. It’s usually factors way out of our control and understanding that trigger that lock breaking and then confusion reigns as we try to fathom out what the HELL is going on here?? Try to always remember what has been left behind in the box to help you gather what’s left of your wits and wisdom. Hope. Capital H. Cling on to that till you have your bearings and a safe mooring. And to have Hope you must have the knowledge to know the how, what and why of your condition. To unburden yourself of your fears and to have people listen, to properly listen and care. One major symptom is a fear of being worthless and a burden, convincing your bad self that everyone would surely be better off without you. WRONG. You are ill, nothing wrong with that, we all get ill, some more visibly than others. It’s still ill. (Thanks Morrissey)
My book “The Black Dawg” embraces the antidotal Hope which can be found within Depression. It is an illustrated poem getting to grips with that beast and should help anyone suffering from depression or in search of a greater awareness of the condition. Every picture tells a story and the wonderful illustrator Kathryn Hockey perfectly nails the poem’s message with visually striking, bold images. Our personal goal when we publish the book later this year is that we can help to illuminate the menace of depression and empower Hope. Touché Zeus.
More information on our Black Dawg project here.