Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Ugly Sweater

"I've cried, and you'd think I'd be better for it, but the sadness just sleeps, and it stays in my spine for the rest of my life."
~Conor Oberst

I'm not sure anyone who's made it to adulthood can't relate to that quote. Whether it was a circumstance, experience, decision, mistake or accident, we've all had a time in our lives where the sadness of what we're in feels overwhelming, suffocating.

For too many it's a real depression, in some form, that covers us like an ugly sweater. It makes us afraid to go out, and if we do we know everyone can see our sweater and how hideous it makes us feel. The sweater can be itchy and uncomfortable, often feeling three sizes too small in it's constriction . When we look in the mirror all we can see is how ugly it is. But as much as we try we just can't get it off.

Sometimes we get crafty, we can hide the sweater under layers and no one can see it's there, but we know. And sometimes the sweater can be put away for weeks or months before we wake up to this terrible wardrobe change.

This time of year, with short, cold, dreary days, is when many discover their sweater. Holidays are another trigger, or it can be as simple as a Tuesday.

Depression is a strange, tricky weave that hits young and old equally. About 22 veterans a day take his or her own life. Teen suicides in the U.S. range about 4,600 a year.

There has always been a sort of stigma to depression, as if it's a weakness that should not be acknowledged. But strength comes from the acknowledgement. It's a disease that can be treated or managed but not ignored. The sweater will only get uglier the longer you wear it.

Martha Manning wrote; "Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern, just a slow erosion of self, as insidious as cancer,it is essentially a solitary experience; a room in hell with only your name on the door."

So pay attention. Pay attention to your kids, your spouse, your friends or coworkers. Can you see their sweaters? Or maybe you are the one donning the disgusting. How can you shed that layer, or at least make it a little less itchy and uncomfortable?

One of my favorite quotes is by A. A. Milne, "Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

And so you are.

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