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Slowly Digging Out of Depression’s Darkness

Slowly Digging Out of Depression’s Darkness

A metaphorical description of my personal inner battles

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I am running, running, on the racetrack, trying to get to the finish line so I can finally sit down with my feet up, to enjoy the satisfied pleasure of accomplishment. My feet ache, the sun’s rays are burning, and a headache is forming and gaining strength. I wish that my path wasn’t so long—and that the weather be cooler, that I would be stronger, that the headache would wait until I could sink into oblivion on my cozy bed.

Frustrated, yet driven to achieve my goal, I keep going, and going, and going, and going some more . . . and then I trip, slip and findI suddenly land with a thud on a surface deep down under myself tumbling down, down, down into the dirt. Into the dirt?! How can that be? Solid ground is solid ground—my track has no pits, my shoes are not tools able to drill. Without finding answers to my dilemma, I suddenly land with a thud on a surface deep down under.

The darkness is deep and thick; not a bit of sunlight reaches this unfamiliar strange place. Eerie sounds can be heard in the background. The smell is dusty and musty, like an airless cellar that hasn’t been cleaned in years. I gingerly touch the ground beside me; I feel the roughness of pebbles, the scratching of thorns scraping my skin and gritty dirt lodging under my fingernails.

I am terrified; fear fills my head, then my chest, arms, legs, and soon, my entire body is gripped with overwhelming, choking, powerful fright. What will become of me? Will I perish here of hunger and thirst? Will I go insane from lack of stimulation? How could anyone ever find me or help me if I don’t even know where I am—if this is a newly discovered place that does not appear on any Google maps?

I think of the sunlight, the carpet of grass, the joy of moving and progressing, the company of other kindred souls; will I never have those pleasures again!? I didn’t even know they were pleasurable, just as I didn’t know it was possible for the ground to betray me and deposit me in this forsaken location.

“I can’t! I can’t!” I scream. “I can’t deal with this! Is anyone there? Can someone hear me? Did anyone else fall down with me? Is there any way up and out?” I scream and scream like a madwoman until my voice is hoarse.

A madwoman? I am gripped with a panic that seizes me tightly in its deadly embrace; I can’t breathe. “You’re going crazy!” pronounces the panic in a chilling whisper. Crazy? No! No! Anything but this! I am normal, you see. I am not “one of those” who have issues or missing screws. I am a productive member of society, a good person who tries her best. I don’t deserve this shame, this pain, this . . . this . . . I don’t even know what to call this environment, this experience; I never saw a word in the dictionary describing such a thing. What will everyone say? What will everyone think? Will anyone want to marry my children? “Stop it!” I shout at the panic. “Go away and leave me alone!”

Slowly, the panic subsides, but in its stead comes sadness. I cry and cry from the depths of my heart, and when the tear supply is used up, I sit spent, drained, with a heavy sadness filling my heart and mind.

Think! Think! Maybe there is something to do about this. My mind is fuzzy, and amid the fuzz I find a rational thought—my cell phone is in my pocket! Cautiously, praying that there is service here, I call my husband, and he answers. The sadness inside does not allow me to feel joy at the ability to communicate with the outside world, at the hope of freedom in the future. But I manage to say, woodenly: “Jack, I am stuck! I fell into a deep hole, not sure where or how. Please try to find and rescue me. There is no food or light here, and I really want to come home!”

A silent pause. Then he responds with a confused edge to his voice, “Judy, I’m not sure what you referring to . . . I see you through the kitchen window, picking up the garbage the kids left on the lawn. Um, maybe you are very tired and should go rest in bed? Did you eat anything today? Maybe you should eat a nutritious meal so you’ll feel better . . . ”

“Are you crazy?!” I yell back. “Maybe you are hallucinating! I am not in our yard; I can’t be in two places at once! Meanwhile, I need you to feed the kids something for supper and make sure they end up in their beds. You also need to go shopping because by tomorrow there will hardly be any food left. If you don’t do the laundry tonight, then everyone will have to wear smelly clothing from the hamper, and their teachers will think they come from a dysfunctional home.”

This time, Jack raises his voice slightly, and speaks slowly like to an old man who is hard of hearing. “Maybe you forgot that I don’t know how to cook or do laundry, and can only manage shopping if you make a very detailed list. If the kids are hungry, they know where to find cereal and milk, and when they are tired enough, they’ll fall asleep. Don’t worry so much!”

Frustrated and hopeless, I begin to cry again. “Don’t you care about me and our children? I’m your wife, remember? Can’t you at least do what I explicitly asked for?”

“Judy, it seems we are speaking different languages. I’m not sure what you are trying to say. Can we continue this conversation later? I have a phone call to make. If you still need help later with the laundry or shopping, then give me detailed instructions and I’ll try to help out.”

Click.

I sit stunned, tempted to call back but afraid to hear more of the same. What’s going on? Does he love me? Is he normal? Maybe I am crazy.

I dial my mother’s number. “Ma, the strangest thing happened to me. I fell suddenly into a deep pit and have no idea how to get out. ICrawl out of this tunnel? How? called Jack, and he says he sees me in the yard, but I know this forsaken place is not my yard! He said I am not speaking the same language as him! Maybe you can organize a search party and try to find and rescue me?”

“Oy, I’m sorry to hear that, honey. I fell into such a pit years ago, after Susan was born. It’s actually a tunnel with openings in both directions. It’s tough, but try some deep breathing exercises to relax and energize yourself. The roof is too low to stand up in, so crawl slowly in a straight line, and eventually, you find your way out. Within a few months, you’ll be back home, and hopefully, you won’t fall in again. Don’t be concerned about your children; they’ll survive one way or another, just like mine did.”

I hang up, my thoughts racing in so many directions. What is my mother saying? Crawl out of this tunnel? How? Does she really get what is happening? Does anybody?

My fingers mindlessly dig through the dirt; I am way past caring how dirty I am, way past caring about anything at all. Absently, I find myself holding a hard metal object. I rub away the dirt to determine what it is and find a gold coin, stamped with the words “HUMILITY” on it. I guess I have no choice but to be humble when I’m so low down. A thread of sanity compels me to put the coin in my pocket, and I whisper: “If I’m here anyway, it can’t hurt to pocket a valuable item. Maybe one day if I ever get out of here, it will be helpful.”

I ponder my situation in a vain attempt to make sense of the senseless. I finger the coin in my pocket, and it brings a touch of calm to my empty heart. Yes, empty. I never knew that within me is a core—an emotional foundation around which all else is built, from which everything I am and do draws strength. And now, in its absence, I appreciate and oh-so-desperately crave it.

At the thought of how messed up I am, my spirits plummet again, and the anxiety monster grips my chest in a suffocating squeeze. Vaguely, I hear a familiar beep. My cell phone. A new text message. Someone cares enough to connect with me.

I look at the screen and see a message from my husband. Judy, I did some research and found a therapist with great references who might be able to help you. I will ask her to visit you to get started. Good Luck.

I swallow the lump in my throat and text back. OK. Thanks for arranging. Will try my best and keep you posted. Then the tears come. Me? I need a therapist to help me be normal and functioning again?

Help! I can’t deal with this, this . . . I don’t know what to call it, but whatever it is, I can’t deal with it! “Oh, G‑d! My Father in Heaven! You created me; you created all the billions of people, the trillions of creatures, plants and everything else. Only You have real power, see what happened to the power I thought I had! I don’t know why You gave me this unbearable affliction, this impossible test, but there surely was a good reason that I don’t know. And surely you can take me out of this dungeon! Oh please G‑d, I know you love me, and I love You, too. You’ve given me everything from the moment I was born, and even now, whatever I do still have is from you! Please, free me! Save me! Heal me! Help me get out of here!”

Spent, I lapse into silence. An expression floats through my mind—one I heard many lifetimes ago, and only now do I begin to understand. There is nothing more complete than a broken heart.

Suddenly, something hard hits my shoulder and bounces to the floor. What’s going on, are there acorn trees in this hole-in-the-ground? I look around and see a brilliant sparkle, so incongruous on the bare brown dirt. I lift the object, and to my surprise, it’s a diamond. Engraved on its surface are the words: “Connection to your Creator.”

The minutes pass slowly. Before long, I see a woman approaching me. She doesn’t look like she fell here in the way I did; she appears poised and confident.

“Hi,” she begins softly. “I am so sorry to hear that you are stuck in such a painful unpleasant situation. I have helped many people in your situation before; this type of fall is not as uncommon as you might think.” She pauses, apparently waiting for a response.

“Sounds good,” I venture hesitantly. “But how exactly can you get me out of here?”

“I have a toolbox”, she responds, “with many tools that you can learn to use in order to climb out of here. But it will take commitment on your part, and I cannot guarantee how long the process will take. Are you interested in working hard together with me?”

“Yes.” I respond simply. “Yes, I am.”

“Way to go, Judy! With an attitude like this, you can do it! You are amazing!”

And so the journey begins.

It takes many moments, hours, days and weeks. complete with setbacks, growing pains and lots of patience. But slowly, I climb higher and higher, towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

Suddenly, I am back in the fresh air! I look at the carpetSuddenly, I am running of soft green grass and breathe in the delicious, nourishing air. I test my legs; to my delight, they’re in working order. I break into a run, and suddenly I am running, running on the racetrack, and then the thought hits me like a thunderbolt: It is the energy, the running, the moving towards a goal that is in and of itself the greatest pleasure in the world.

“Master of the Universe,” I whisper. “Thank You for releasing me from bondage, for bringing me back to the joys, pleasures and pains of a healthy growing life! Please help me always to be able to connect to You, to my family and to my inner world from this place of clarity I have reached.”

In the warmth of the sun, I feel G‑d hugging me tight. So I go inside to pass on the hugs to my beloved family, who has been looking forward to my return.

Yehudis Pinter is a pen name.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous April 6, 2017

Absolutely wonderful story. Described my experience very much. Was healing to read. Thank you very much to the author who wrote this. Reply

anon March 30, 2017

yes, to laughter
yes to therapy, Torah learning and positive thinking
yes, to drugs in moderation
but I have found that I for one must not forgo them entirely if I wish to to play my rightful part in society, & not be a basket case. Reply

Anonymous Montreal March 29, 2017

I loved this story. It's made me think and re-live my life with more meaning. Thank you so much . Reply

jim dallas March 27, 2017

about the drug therapy,,,my experience is relative to myself and to many who shared the facilities over a two or three wk period.
with an initial wk of consultation and determination (as good as this seems to get) regarding needed treatment and specific medications, each gets their own and then for weeks the meds effects are monitored and adjusted as to product and dosage level...some drugs must be initially heavy then lessened...every one spent several years outpatient-wise doing this with close observation....
for many there came the time to wean off the drugs, given good yearly reports by self and drs. and so quiting was good for some (no downside), others needed more time....some tried to quit prematurally without commiting to a real clean lifestyle, for them reoccurences of psychotic proportions...real bad, rearrested etc.
G-d be with you! Reply

jim dallas March 29, 2017
in response to Orli:

m. diane has a great remedy!
but what you say is possible of course, i had concerns but placed myself in supernatural hands and depended on HaShem to do special things, i knew and know how able He is.
everbody is unique, we do our best according to our judgement and take risks....jews certainly take risks and have access i believe. Reply

Orli uk March 28, 2017
in response to jim:

Acepting how psychiatri is nowdays diagnosing and treating what is call "mental health" illness, specially us the ones who believes in Judaism and have some understanding about the Kabbala are under their "labels" and therefore with a possibility to be "treated" for our own good as happened during the inquisition. Burning humans was decided by people of high positions in society, therefore with a high responsibility on tge wellbeing of society, their purpose was to "save our souls".
Apart from the actual research in this matter published by proffesionals and scientist, I have been a witness from friends and outsiders of how those drugs affects the brain and specially our connection with G_d and therefore our happines and the possibility to achieve as much as we can, which is in no doubt part of our duty. Our believes are abstract matters and coincidentally those drugs blocks the developing of abstract thoughts by blocking the frontal part of our brain where we connect with G_d. Reply

M. Diane Queens, NYC March 27, 2017

For me, there is no medicine better than laughter. If there is anyone who can make you giggle until you snort, heave, chortle and cry, try to remain near or connected to that person. I know two such individuals.Then if I follow the gigglechortlesnort medicine with a deep drink of the water of Torah by hearing the words from an effective teacher, in only a few minutes I feel better. G-d bless the ones who make me giggle and give me Torah instruction. Reply

another 'Rena' March 27, 2017

I understand your hesitation concerning med's, but unfortunately, sometimes they are truly necessary to correct chemical imbalance in the brain - whether caused by illness, stress or trauma. Therapy isn't always enough on its own, either.

no less than you would recommend that a diabetic stop taking insulin. Reply

Orli March 27, 2017
in response to another 'Rena':

Research for forty years byscientifics and psychiatris has shown that antipsicotics, antidepresants provoke irremedial damage in the brain as destroy the natural neuronal networks that is intrisenic to each person as a result of our own unique experiencies. Those drugs destroying our neuronal conections aleatory. That meds provoke a disfunctional brain and actually brain damage and once you are on them and the longer you are on them the damage can become irreversible phisical and mentally. Most of the named "mental illness" do not exist as they are portrei. There is not yet any evidence of the old named chemical unbalance. Most of people diagnosed with mental illness are sufering from undiagnosed physical aillments, sensitivity to enviormental pollution (i am refering to but not only to electromagnetic polution) that affects the inter-communication and proccesses of the cells, and the need for real human love and understanding in our society which cannot be given in tablets and inject Reply

Shmool Brooklyn March 27, 2017

Drugs have helped me. I was against drugs for a long time, but to be 100% against drugs is greedy.. I have a family! I take low doses and they give me the balance and catalyst I need. My family feels much better... Reply

Louise leon Pa, USA March 26, 2017

Since I regularly get depressed, I now cope by telling myself that it will pass in time. I read mysteries, do word games and watch movies until it passes. Reply

Orli March 27, 2017
in response to Louise leon:

Analize what has changed around you since you have become depress. Turn off wifi router when you go to sleep and if you can change it for wired connection. Check how you feel if you spent less time near tv, computer or other electrodomestics. There are a few countries in Europe I believe France, Norway and Switzerland among others that people are given pensions for illness related to electro sensityvity which can provoke serious illness as depressions and neurological damages to any of us and that appears accepted as well by the ecological medicine in UK (GP that applied the understanding of the human body illness to each individual and not as the actual health system that compares studies to a general design value )
Sometimes chinese/indian nutritional herbs can help a lot but you need a trial and error.
Maybe your brain is telling you that you have a higher potential in your life for achievement and maybe it could be the case that you are not realizing it. Reply

Orli Uk March 25, 2017

Great essay! Please do no confuse " a therapist" with the drugs prescribed by most psychiatrist. Antidepresants, antypsicotics are a false route to the recovery, and can seriously provoke worst mental illness, if any of you needs help look into professionals that can help you wihout these so dangerous kind of drugs. Psychiatry has become a big business and as Dr Bob Johnson (psychiatrist) say the "emperodor has lost his clothes" refering to the actual stated of psychiatry. Reply

gina bucharest, romania March 25, 2017

Thank you. Reply

Binya Ireland March 23, 2017

I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am currently taking medication for chronic anxiety and depression. This story expresses accurately how it feels to be deep down under, away from the Light. I can't help but think G-d may have brought me here today to help me. Thank you, thank you. May G-d bless you. Reply

M. Diane Flushing March 23, 2017

Thank G-d,
G-d plans for every thing.
Just as G-d designed Shabbos
He also designed Death,
a parole from this worldly prison.
I try to remember this:
While I must remain here inliferated
since I do not deserve to be with Him afterwards
Let me try to take advantage
of the books in His library
and the courses and programs
He offers through his instructors
and better myself so that
maybe I have some chance
to get close enough to our L-rd.
Because I'll wedge my pinkie toe in the door
of even the lowest Heaven
and try to
plead grovel cry
my way in.

p.s.
Rena's never-ending Cheer

Yaaaay Rena!
GO RENA, GO!
You are not alone.
Get up!
Higher up!
All the way up!
When you're getting up
find another "Rena"
and say to him or her:
Go, Rena, Go!
You are not alone.
Get up!
Higher up!
All the way up!
and when you're getting up
find another "Rena"
and say to him or her:
Go, Rena, Go!
(and so on and so forth) Reply

Anonymous Chesterfield March 22, 2017

I wish that my husband would take the initiative to find help for me the way the woman in this story's husband did.
when I fall into this scary place I can't do a thing. I can't think, smile, or leave my house without great difficulty. Reply

rena goldz Los angeles March 22, 2017

if only it could be a one time experience. I seem to fall back into the pit again & again - with no understanding family to cheer me on from the sidelines. May the One Above continue to hold my hand on my journey. Reply

Anonymous March 21, 2017

This is amazing... Reply

jim dallas March 21, 2017

i thought it would never end, i really thot certainly my end would arrive before a solution came. hours and nights and days of holding on to trust in HaShem.
and then, finally, the answers flooded into my life experience. He was there all the time, i was the problem.
long read but worth the time, thanks....oh, and that artwork expressing the overwhelming alarm and hopelessness, sefira as she is capable, adds the visual dimension to the authors words, all a powerful moving, movie on email, really, thanks yehudis! Reply