The title of this post is from a Dylan Thomas poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.  Thomas meant to plead with  his Dad to fight against the illness killing him.  The words “Rage against the dying of the light”, however, make me think about the battle against depression that so many of us face. The worst possible consequence of depression is, literally, death as well.  When someone is so lost in their own darkness that they cannot imagine that there is a light, even a light they cannot see, the temptation to give up can become very strong.  That said, there are degrees of giving up or losing hope.  Most importantly, losing hope is almost ALWAYS temporary no longer how long it’s gone on.  The only time it’s not is when a person takes their own life. There is a saying that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and that is the case almost every time. It’s also a solution that traumatizes those left behind for the rest of their lives in many cases.   A person opting for suicide because they are already dying of something else is the only time I can imagine it not being a solution for a temporary problem. I will discuss the grief of the people left behind in another post.

Chronically depressed people spend a lot of their lives feeling like they are drowning.  They have to swim so hard to just exist.  They get used to this but it’s exhausting. Their suicidal thoughts are often rooted in this exhaustion. Folks who fall into a deep depression for the first time sometimes think that nobody else has ever survived this sort of darkness or that they couldn’t have survived it. Others think they just know there is no hope and anyone who says otherwise is either delusional, has no idea what a terrible or weak person they are, or just cannot possibly understand their particular predicament. They imagine that since they cannot see any hope, hope might really not exist.  It’s like a little like a baby who has no object constancy yet.  Baby’s caretaker leaves baby’s sight and baby generally thinks they have evaporated so baby screams and, if it’s a lucky baby, someone rushes in and gives comfort.  It’s not so simple when we fall into depression.  

Think about it like this. You are in a tunnel and it’s very very dark. You cannot even see your own hands and you have no idea how to get out of the tunnel.  You don’t even know which way to go! Maybe you curl up on the ground and give up. Maybe you cry and scream hoping someone will hear you and maybe they do, but maybe they don’t. It’s also possible that they will hear you and not know how to get you out of there either. The thing that you don’t know is that if you keep on walking, there is light just around the bend. A loved one may hold your hand but still not know how to get you out.  Maybe it’s the loved one who calls in expert tunnel navigators to help you or maybe it’s you. With depression, it can be either but the most important thing is to have someone who can understand your darkness, but  who can also see the light and help you find it. 

The tools used to achieve this vary from person to person. They range from behavior coaching, to helping to change thinking patterns, to going  deep and disabling the  roots of the depression (that may not be apparent), to medication. Someone who is depressed by the pandemic or the death of a loved one may need something different from a person who has been fighting darkness their whole lives or for years.  That said, all those folks can benefit from therapy and deserve help.  Even you! This is true even you think you are unlovable or incapable.