I’d been doing really, really well.
Then, last Sunday, it hit. The internal systems-freeze, the molasses of mental shut-down. A numbness of the heart, an inexplicable exhaustion of the spirit.
Of course, I fought it. This is not a new experience for me, and I am well-equipped with a veritable garage of tools. I know how to best stay afloat in the black sea of depression; I’ve gone through the winterly cycle of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) for over a decade. I’m an old hand at the game.
… but nothing worked; nothing helped. I moved like the undead and barely had enough energy to keep breathing and blinking. My partner rose to the occasion like the blessing he is and led me through enough mundane activities to get me to, albeit only a little, reboot and re-engage.
I fumbled for my phone and read interesting things to get my synapses to start firing again. (I read this and this, if you were wondering.) I stared at my hands, and then over at my colorful shrine, then at the dogs who were being obnoxious and cute.
The heavy yoke of SAD and other forms of depression is nothing to sneeze at, invisible as it may be. I consider myself a fairly self-aware and mindful individual with a decent amount of practice in coping with and getting through cyclical depression, and still I am not at all surprised when I get knocked on my ass as I did last weekend. There’s no insta-fix. As capable as I might be sometimes, I am far from immune.
And so, the title of this post has layers: the obvious for literal darkness, the shortened daylight of winter that inspires the body to trip over its own serotonin production and faceplant. I am, in fact, so sensitive to the presence of sunlight that my mood will frequently shift gears after sunset, even in the summer when I’ve soaked in plenty of daytime radiance.
The second layer is the feeling of darkness that accompanies my experience of depression. There is no light, no spaciousness, no clarity. It is heavy and close-pressed and dark, like black velvet layering the air. My headspace is so closely keyed to my physical environment that the external, atmospheric darkness becomes internalized, subconsciously persistent no matter how many paltry indoors lights may be turned on. What helps me partially dispel that internalized darkness are lightbulbs that mimic daylight colors and, most powerfully, a good fire in the hearth.
The third layer, however, is the mythos of the night. And this is where the contradictions arise, the sharp contrast between SAD and my love of nighttime, between my mother goddesses Who are largely nocturnal and my punctual mood-crash after sunset. Nebt-het (Nephthys), a lady of shadows and twilight and the long, quiet nights spent mourning. Hethert-Nut (Hathor-Nuit), the very sky itself at all times of day or night, but most especially that glittering, fathomless expanse of infinite space. These are my Mothers, and I am most assuredly not a bright and burning solar creature… but my health and my heart are yet tied to the sun and its presence, and more mythologically, to two solar deities in particular, each of Whom can take the role of Eye of Ra: Sekhmet and Ma’ahes. Never truer has been the phrase “there is no darkness without a light.”
Depression may not be innately spiritual, but I can’t deny the parallels between my night/day cycles and my affiliations with nighttime and daytime deities. And, while knowing benevolent nighttime gods does not miraculously cure my depression, it does make the weight of darkness a little easier to bear when I know that, just past the closing shadows, there are stars shining.
Last year’s second D post was on Deity.