This column, well allegory really, was published in 1998 when I was a columnist for a major daily in my area. The response I got from readers across the country was overwhelming. Hundreds of emails and letters. In retrospect, this was the beginning of my idea to write a novel with the theme of spiritual anorexia. To my amazement, I still get request for copies of this editorial so I thought I'd share it again - just in case someone out there might be helped by it.
In a perfect world, everyone would live in a suburb of Contentment, in the city of Happiness, but this is not a perfect world. On the outskirts of Happiness, in the valley of the shadow of death, is another city--dark city where the sun genuflects and defers to the cool, pale rays of the moon. It is a colorless city filled with colorless people wearing blinders while struggling to pull huge carriages filled with troubles, heartache, and pain. No one is actually from there and no one should be there for long.
Most of the residents of this city don’t even know where they are or precisely how they came to be there. Lost inside their own skin, they vainly search to find themselves, to find a way out. Far too many residents of this eerie place drown in a bottomless lake of tears. That is remarkable when one considers that in this city, Depression it is called, everyone cries alone.
I have been to this city.
I have been there with friends and family for a few days as we mourned the death of a loved one. I have been there alone for days that became weeks when geographical isolation and my own personal insulation deceived me into thinking that joy was meant to be shared, while sadness was meant to be hidden behind a smile that never reached my eyes. Believe me when I tell you, this place is very bad. If you have not been there, don’t be so harsh in your judgment of those who reside there. They would gladly leave if they only knew how. It’s easy to find but it’s so hard to leave. I wish I knew why. There is certainly nothing appealing about Depression.
The food is tough and tasteless. The air is always cold and heavy. Sounds are muted and a loving touch often feels like a jab from a boxer’s glove. It’s a strange, awful place. Yet people often remain there for years. Some even build mansions where they store their payload of disappointment and guard it zealously with insecurity.
So you might be thinking, “What do all these people have to be so sad about? They’ve got jobs, families, and food on the table. They just need to deal with it and move on.” Well, like the saying goes, your blues ain’t like mine. We all react differently to the various stresses of life. Some people need a little help to “deal with it.” Help might be in the form of a physician, a counselor, or a good friend with a big shoulder.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. When you’ve lost your way, you need guidance, like a map. Once you’re back in familiar territory, store the map or discard it completely. But you’ve got to get out of there as quickly as possible. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave.
My plea is to the millions of people who suffer from depression, but if only one of them heeds my advice, my plea is not in vain. Get help. You can feel better. Believe me. I know.
I have been to this city.