Blog Post 4:
All stories have multiple beginnings and the story about my battle against depression is no exception.
Two posts from now, I’m going to tell you about three of those beginnings: the beginning of that battle, the beginning of treatment, and the beginning of this blog.
Three posts from now, I’m going to give you a list of EVERYTHING that helped me get better and helps me stay better in the hopes that it will help you too. It’s a pretty long list.
And in the post right after this one, I’m going to tell you a very wonderful story from my travels to make up for today’s post, which I warn you now, is not so wonderful at the start. You see, today I’m going to tell you about Solomon: the good, but also the bad, and there is a lot of bad. It’s essential that I say it, because to truly understand depression, you HAVE TO understand Solomon.
First of all, all stories have one beginning. ONE. How do you not know that? It’s one of the most basic tenets of storytelling. What kind of writer are you?
Second of all, why are you talking about two posts from now, three posts from now, and the next post when you just started this one? Finish one post before you start rambling on about another one. Also, it’s utterly confusing how you didn’t list them in order. Two, three, one. What kind of order is that? Don’t you even know how to count?
Third of all, “my struggle”? How egocentric can you be writing only about your struggle instead of other people’s as well? And how inconsistent! In the last post, didn’t you say this was OUR story? So now, you’re not just a bad writer, an idiot, and an egomaniac. You’re also a liar.
Fourth of all, writing about the beginning of your depression, treatment, and this blog is going to be depressing. I already know all of those stories and not one is happy. I thought you wanted to uplift readers, not depress them. This is the worst inspirational blog about depression EVER!
Fifth of all, who the heck is Solomon? You should say who he is in the FIRST SENTENCE.
Sixth of all, none of this really matters because no one is going to read these posts except you.
Seventh of all, if anyone else does read them, for sure they’re going to hate them.
SO, why don’t you save yourself the time and effort and JUST STOP WRITING.
Before I tell you about Solomon, let me take a moment to explain who, or rather, what just said all those horrible things, because it is going to be appearing again in this blog, and even though it looks like me, it is not me. Let me make that very clear from the beginning.
No, this is not me. And in a little bit, I’m going to fix that picture so it’s much easier to tell “me” and “not me” apart.
You may be wondering, if “not me” isn’t you, who is it?
There are those who call “not me” an inner critic. Most people have one. Some people have a really loud one.
I think an inner critic can actually be a good thing. She/he/they push/es you to do better, and as an artist and a human, this is pretty important: to always try to do better.
However, there is no reason why an inner critic needs to speak to you harshly. I’ve heard it said that harshness is necessary. That it makes us TOUGH! GRRR! Like a tiger!
But I think gentleness takes much more strength than harshness. Gentleness takes going against the grain of what many of us are taught and of what many of our societies value. And that not only takes strength, that takes A LOT of strength.
We all have that strength within us. It’s just a question of: Will we use it? How brave will we be?
At any rate, I think that whatever must be said, must be said with kindness and gentleness, regardless of whether we are speaking to others or ourselves. I’ve trained my inner critic to talk like this:
Now, there’s a big difference between an inner critic that helps make you better and an inner assailant whose goal is only to wound, mortally if it can. And that “not me” is an assailant. Until I learned how to do battle with it and win, its attacks were brutal, recurrent, and at times, nearly lethal. In less than 24 hours, what began with this:
And continued with this:
ended with this:
And, on occasion, that ended with this:
With depression, it is important to remind yourself, as often as possible, that no matter how much that assailant looks like you in your mind’s eye, and sounds like you in your heart’s ear, and swears up and down that it’s you, it is NOT you.
Not it’s not. It is a collection of thoughts. They are vile. They are powerful. And despite the fact that each and every single one is a lie, without any evidence to ever support any of their claims, they are convincing.
For those readers who don’t suffer from depression and are tempted to say, “It’s just a thought! How come you can’t stop a lying thought? How hard can that be?” I think it’s time I tell you about Solomon.
Solomon, in several religious traditions, is the name of a 10th century king. Some consider him a prophet as well, others a magician. Feats attributed to him include the incongruous: the construction of a holy temple for worship and the expansion of his military. His kingdom was renowned for its wealth. The love poem Song of Songs is said to have been birthed by his heart. The Book of Proverbs, a collection of wisdom, has been traced back to his mind. And The Book of Ecclesiastes, both a treatise on meaninglessness and a call to live life, bears his name as well.
It has also been said that his his deeds were done by others and that his reign was a myth: tales from different lands gathered together, bound with the same alphabet and stamped with the same name, place, and time.
What interests me most about Solomon in terms of depression is the power ascribed to him in the following poem, which is no more or less than the power ascribed to all who have been invested with or laid claim to the right to rule over the lives of others. This poem, like many others that I’ll share with you in this blog, is by Rumi.
When you see that from a thought
every craft in the world arises and subsists –
that houses and palaces and cities,
mountains and plains and rivers,
earth and ocean as well as sun and sky,
derive their life from it as fish from the sea –
then why in your foolishness, O blind one,
does the body seem to you a Solomon,
and thought only as an ant?
Though ants, of course, have boundless strength and a wisdom as yet unmatched by the human race, for ants have learned to work together, when compared to the Solomon in this poem, ants are but bodies. Solomon is a thought. A single word from the lips of a king or queen can start a war. A thought precedes that word. The true creators of countries, the inventors of all identities, thoughts can raise armies, raze homes to the ground, and ravage all that is beautiful in a human being. And whether or not a thought is true or false, right or wrong, does not negate the power that every single one has if it is believed.
Queens and kings who assemble armies and send soldiers to battle would never, ever expect to win if they sent them to war unarmed and untrained. Nor would anyone even fathom that a single person could emerge victorious against an onslaught of soldiers.
Yet this is what the battle against depression is like. Without weapons to fight the thoughts and the knowledge of how to use those weapons, you are bruised and bloodied after every attack. As the bruises are invisible and the blood colorless, as the assailants are audible only to the person who they assail, it may be difficult for those who have never gone to war with an army of Solomons to understand what it’s like.
For those who face combat, for the wounded, in anguish, drained of strength and hope, considering surrender, KEEP FIGHTING. The battle CAN be won. Reinforcements exist. No one need fight alone. And even the cruelest, most powerful thoughts can be overpowered.
If a thought has the power to ravage beauty, it also has the power to bear it into being again. If Solomons are the queens and kings that send soldiers into battle, they can also be the authors of peace treaties. They can pen love poems. They can plant seeds, rain water from invisible clouds, and shine light from an eternal sun within the soul that will bloom gardens, iridescent and able to withstand floods, droughts, and hurricanes.
So now that you know who Solomon and “not me” are, I want to give you an accurate drawing of “not me” so that when it shows up again you will recognize it, immediately, for what it truly is.
But how do you draw a thought? How do you draw a collection of lies? How do you draw an invisible assailant?
I don’t think you can. So here is my best attempt to draw the undrawable:
The face looks like mine because that’s the mask “not me” wears.
Its mouth is wide for all the lies it declares.
Its legs are wobbly because there is no truth to support its claims.
Its expression compassionless because destruction is its aim.
It's gray like fog because it can't see what's real.
Its heart is empty for the love it can’t feel.
Its crown is shrunken and in its hand
because its time to rule will soon come to an end.
Next, last, and only in the chain of command: a best friend.
September 23, 2019