In my personal experience, when I see large scale ugliness in the world, my depression does a little victory dance. It says, “See! I was right all along”.
There’s a lot of dancing going on these days.
As soon as we seem to be making progress in America, on anything (vaccinations, the passage of a relief bill by Congress, less mass shootings), another savage emergency fills the short lived break.
Last week our gaping open wound, inflicted by endless police violence against black people, got some salt rubbing. We really haven’t had a break in the year since protests erupted after we saw video footage of George Floyd screaming “I can’t breathe”, and crying out for his mother while the knee of a white police officer pressed down on his neck until he lay motionless.
The atrocity followed quick on the heels of the March 2020 death of 26 year old Breonna Taylor, shot in her bed by police who forcibly entered her apartment in the middle of the night.
With 2 more fatal shootings of black men last week, a deeply disturbing fatigue is setting in for me. I simply can’t absorb any more pain. I can’t watch the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer whose knee we saw block Floyd’s access to air. I can’t read about the miraculous humanity of another innocent black man or boy who is now dead. Too much thick, coarse, sea salt. Too close to my wound.
Yes, the world is an ugly place, seemingly full of sadists in positions of authority.
Depression has been telling me the game is rigged my whole life—that when given the chance people will hurt you. It’s said things don’t work out in life. They end and they end badly.
I write all the time that these are viscous lies that keep us ill. Total untruths. Fabrications from a malevolent source.
Looking at the world these days, I think “depression could easily make some pretty solid supportive arguments in a hypothetical court of law…”.
As my depression gains ground from these sources of validation of my worst suspicions, it starts chipping away at my most reliable source of strength; my faith.
People are so quick to hurl the trite sentiments “everything happens for a reason” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “pain builds strength and character.”
Please refrain from speaking those silly words.
Because at this phase of the game, America long ago missed the character part of its suffering. Now we live past any sort of productive pain threshold (if such a thing even exists). All subsequent failures will only inflict deeper trauma. And trauma dims our human light, depriving the world of our gifts while all our energy becomes devoted to simply making it through the day.
Some say that in order to become whole, you must first break. That sentiment has always made sense to me. But what about life post-brokenness, when you think a new worldview has coalesced, only to find nothing actually changed: that new foundation of strength you built from pain is just a straw house. It will not protect you.
People pick up their pieces many times throughout a life. Endings are the surest thing out there: divorce, death, estrangement of any kind.
From where does the stamina come for those who have to pick up the pieces on a regular basis? I can only imagine what kind of exquisite agony the loved ones of those lost to police violence meet every morning of every day.
The ‘tragedy fatigue’ has arrived to save me from utter despair but it doesn’t stop me from thinking and writing about each crisis as it comes.
And that’s how depression doesn’t win the day.