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Metaphors of Depression - or - Help. I'm in a hole.

I'm in a hole. I'm in a hole, and I've been in a hole.

A hole is dark. A hole is deep. And given enough time spent in a hole, one begins to find the hole comfortable or, at least, comfortably familiar, which makes crawling out of the hole less appealing. Eyes adjust to the dimness; skin adapts to the dankness. To crawl out of the hole is to be blinded by the light, it is to be overwhelmed.

Living outside the hole is less difficult than crawling out of the hole; yet no part of living in proximity to a hole is easy. One is constantly aware of the hole's holeness. The hole is always there. What varies is how much energy one must expend on not falling in the hole. At times one may simply know that the hole exists. At other times one may walk directly to the rim and say, "Look there's a hole; I will not fall into it." Yet again, one may stumble, crashing in up to one's shoulders, clawing handfuls of dirt and sticks and stones for traction and still be able to find a toe hold and climb out. Spent, emotionally and physically exhausted, one carries on, knowing that next time... next time... it may have rained and the soil that surrounds the hole will have turned into slick mud that, given a foot's sudden slip, will cause one to slide swiftly in, tumbling and turning along the way down, to land with a thud, breathless, sweating, and sore on the hole's floor.

I am in a hole.

The problem with being in a hole is that I am not allowed to be in a hole. And so I, like so many others living in holes, pretend that we are not. We rub sticks together to light a spark. We use our hands to cup silted water from underneath rocks into our mouths. We eat bugs. And we survive. Just barely, we survive. We work, we lead, we live—all from within our hole. Being in a hole, of course, makes it harder, as does continually maintaining the ruse—for ourselves and for others—of not being in a hole.

It is a matter of expectation that forces us to live in this way, this hole dwelling. We expect so much of ourselves, and we bend to the expectations of others. We take on too much because we feel that we should. We never say no because we feel that we shouldn't. And when our burden of expectation grows too great, we still stubbornly refuse to ask for the one thing that we need—help.

Help. It carries both the foulness and usefulness of its other four-lettered cousins. It can be used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb. It is a command. It is a request. Yet, for all its uses, help is so seemingly impossible a word to utter. To say it exposes a weakness, an inability to do something on one's own. To ask for it is the opposite of self-sufficiency, the opposite of strength, the opposite of leadership. Or at least that's how it feels for me.

Disguise receiving help as delegating duties and perhaps I would be more apt to take it. As it is, I am stubborn. Often I react poorly to offers of help, putting them off for the fear of seeming incapable on my own or, at other times, preferring to exercise control and failing to trust that others will live up to my standards. I know enough to recognize that this methodology is neither extremely efficient or effective. Yet, I also know enough to realize that in this modern, insulated, self-centered world, there are too few out there who are truly willing to offer—no strings attached—help. We've even developed the terminology "professional help" for the group of workers who are paid to do the things that others will not help us do be it care for our loved ones, clean our home, or listen to our weeping heads and hearts.

We must do better. We must reimagine help. We must give what we wish to receive and open ourselves to the possibility of receiving it.

I am in a hole. I am in a hole, but I am willing to bet that someone has a ladder. Once that ladder arrives, it is up to me to climb out. After that, I'll be looking for shovels and strong shoulders to help me fill in the hole so that next time my fall isn't as deep.

Comments

  1. A very useful metaphor for depression is a cave.
    The list of implications of the cave metaphor can provide strategies to deal with depression.

    Caves are natural formations found worldwide and each one is unique.
    The forces in nature that create caves can be compared to emotional states.
    Erosion: Problems “eat away” at us and feelings can erode.
    Waves: Outside forces (over which there is no control) pound away and wear us down.
    Volcanoes: Stress can cause destructive dormant feelings to erupt.
    Earthquakes: Upheaval after release of built-up pressure or sudden unexpected trauma followed by aftershocks.

    Trying to figure out exactly how a cave has been formed doesn’t change the cave.
    The ENTRANCE to a cave also serves as the EXIT.

    Caves are better for temporary shelter rather than long-term residence.

    Caves can be fascinating, comforting and starkly beautiful but at the same time, very dangerous.
    Going too deep and getting lost in a cave may require help in getting out. This is a good reason to stay close to the ENTRANCE/EXIT.

    Caves are useful for storage. Unwanted, unneeded, painful and harmful memories can be consigned or stored in deep pits. Treasured memories and thoughts can be stored near the ENTRANCE/EXIT.

    Attempting to fill in a cave creates a hole or depression somewhere else.
    In a cave or any dark place it is much wiser to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

    okavern@aol.com

    ReplyDelete

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"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." — Buddha

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