I was struck this week by two quotes:
“The opposite of despair is not hope. It’s struggle.” – Mordechai Anielewicz, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” Iris Murdoch.
The Warsaw Ghetto uprising, in 1943, was a reaction to the quarter-million Jewish deportations to the death camp of Treblinka. The remaining Jews began to train and to smuggle in weapons. On 19th April the ghetto refused to surrender to the German Police, who then ordered the whole area burnt down. 13,000 Jews were killed, half of them burnt alive or suffocated. Another 36,000 were captured and deported to extermination camps. The uprising was doomed from the start, and the leaders of the resistance knew that. Nevertheless, the uprising was, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “one of the most significant occurrences in the history of the Jewish People.” The inspiration to fight, said Marek Edelman, the only surviving leader, was “not to allow the Germans alone to pick the time and place of our deaths.”
Depression is a hard and dark place. I’m not saying it is anywhere near what the Jewish people went through, but I believe each of us faces times of despair. Most of us have looked over the edge of the abyss at least once. When we are in that darkness hope is impossible. We cannot see an end to that darkness and believe we will stay there forever.
I’ve just come out after 40 dark days. It was a grim time. I think the last week was the worst. I could look at the statistics – the average length of these depressive episodes is 42 days – but my Moodscope scores were falling, and the Payne’s Grey fog was turning to a charcoal smog. My struggle in these times is just to hang on. I say I live with bipolar disorder and that is exactly it: I live with it. And will continue to live with it.
And I give thanks for the medication which makes hanging on much easier than it used to be. I will not let my condition determine my life choices.
Which brings me to the quotation about treats.
Part of the fog is Anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure and enjoy anything. Things we would normally see as treats are - meaningless.
Nevertheless, I think it’s important to build treats into our day, even if they are tasteless. They are like medicine: you cannot feel each dose but taking it every day makes a difference.
My treats are watching David Suchet as Poirot, solving mysteries in the 1930s; spending time in my craft room, even if my creativity is zero and I am just aimlessly sticking down bits of paper; a box of good chocolates.
Now I am in the sunshine again, I can see that giving myself at least one “treat” a day was actually treatment. It helped me get through, and it’s another weapon in that struggle to just hang on.
A Moodscope member.