Today I want to speak to you about hope…unfortunately, I won’t be able to. I had a speech planned out, plotted out, practically perfect, but with no outline and no note cards.
It was simple. I was going to talk about the meaning of failure and the meaning of the word “play,” and then tie the two together. But procrastination kicked in. I know I’ve spoken about that before, but yesterday it wasn’t quite that simple. It was depression.
I left class yesterday thinking about what I was going to say. I kept putting off my work. I distracted myself, I tried to sleep, tried to play video games, ate with my family, played card games, and so on. Yesterday evening I baked six dozen cookies.
See, I wanted to finish this class with a positive message. My goal was to say that no matter what the outcome is, of this class or anything, you could be proud of what you learned and what you accomplished. I wanted to take the truism “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose; it’s how you play the game” and make it mean something.
Well, why didn’t I do it? I didn’t feel it. I didn’t believe it. I knew I couldn’t share a message I didn’t feel. I was in no mood to encourage others, much less myself. Instead, I moped, I slumped around, and I kept thinking about the very things I wanted to forget completely: negative thoughts, dark thoughts, and bad events from the past.
That’s just what depression is. It’s not just sadness; it isn’t a bad mood. It’s a battle within your soul. It’s dark and it’s unpleasant. You want to cut out your own heart just to stop feeling. A psychologist once told me that he was so depressed he had to decide between getting up to urinate and just going in his bed. If you’ve ever felt that way before, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
I’m not here to educate you about depression because there isn’t enough time. I want you to know what to do if it ever happens to you or someone you love. The easy advice is still the worst. People may say things like “just cheer up” or “do something you like to do.” In other words, they want you to magically change the way you feel. If people give you that advice, it’s a sure sign they don’t know what they’re talking about.
It’s easier to say “just say no” than it is to just say no. In the same way, it’s much easier to say “keep trying” than it is to keep trying. Depression is not a one-time thing, it is a lifelong struggle. Every day can bring a depressive episode or a terrible event, no matter how well you may have been doing.
What do you really do when you don’t want to wake up in the morning? You don’t just bake cookies, you talk about it. Just like the greenhouse effect, if those thoughts keep bouncing around in your skull, things will only get worse. Get it out. I can’t stress that enough. Eventually, the solitude inside your own mind becomes a prison, a trap you can’t escape from. Get out while you still can.
Etgar Keret put it perfectly: “you never know what goes on inside people’s heads.” Even so, you have to do your best. If you establish close communication with your friends and family members, you won’t have to guess what they’re thinking or feeling, you can ask. Be the person that others can go to, and I assure you you’ll have someone to go to when the time comes.
I wanted to talk about hope, but I can’t. I’m just not feeling it right now. But I can tell you that I have felt it before and I will again. Depression truly is a nightmare, but I promise you can wake up from it. Talk about it now and you’ll be ready if you ever start to fall into that pit. The rest of us will help pull you out.