Monday, September 17, 2012

The Shroud

Omigod! This really doesn’t look good on me.

I’m sure it’s happened to you at some time or other. You’re out somewhere and you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror, or a shop window, and you cringe with embarrassment.

How could you have ever thought it was acceptable to be seen in public wearing something like this? It looks just plain awful – totally unattractive. It is really NOT the look you want to portray at all.

He was in his office when I came by on my cleaning rounds. I tapped on the door and asked if he wanted me to come in and ‘do my thing’ or, if he was too busy, would he prefer me to leave it until another time?
Says he ‘No – come in, by all means. I’m never so busy that I can’t spare a few minutes. I’m just not that important’

I scoffed at his pronouncement and told him -  of course he is important! But he shook his head and continued,
“Do you know how we measure our value to this company? We stick our hand in a bucket of water and then pull it out very quickly. The depth of the hole that is left behind determines our worth.’

I laughed at his joke and told him that should mean we are all on a pretty level playing field.But it was so obvious, by his manner and by the heavy atmosphere in that office, that he really believed what he was saying. He even added, in a tone tinged with bitterness
‘the only people I’m important to are my mother and my wife, and then sometimes I wonder,’

I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Not that I don’t understand depression – as a fellow sufferer I know all about the bottomless pit of blackness. But seeing it in someone else like that made me realize, with a sense of shock, just how ugly and unattractive it is.

Now it isn’t true – this idea that he is so unappreciated and unimportant. I happen to know for a fact that he is one of the ‘in-crowd’ which exists in most workplaces.  But I also know that when someone is in the midst of one of those ‘woe-is-me’ episodes there is nothing anyone can say or do to bring them out of it. They will only think you’re being patronizing.

And besides, people really don’t know what to say or do in those situations anyhow. Most of the time, like me, they just want to walk away and hope the other person snaps out of it – and soon. That black cloud, they wear wrapped around them like a shroud, repels people.

For me this experience was like catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror or a shop window. How could I ever have thought it was okay to go about wearing that shroud of depression? It’s so damned ugly and certainly not the way to make myself attractive to people – not the way to encourage them to show me love and appreciation and support.

I don’t, for one moment, suppose that this little epiphany will mean I never get down and depressed again. Be it situational or chemical depression, it’s just not that easy to manage. But in all forms of depression, attitude is the biggest factor. I can take the attitude that I really don’t care what other people think. So what if they’re uncomfortable around me? So what it if repels them and they don’t know what to say or do?
And I can wallow in my world of gloom and darkness, feeling isolated, unloved and unappreciated, for all time.

Or I can determine that this is NOT the way I want the world to see me, wearing this dark, ugly shroud of depression.
Perhaps I can write it on a piece of paper and attach it to my mirror. I’ll see it every morning as I’m dressing. It will read,

Don’t wear the shroud today. It really doesn’t suit you at all.
©Lyn Murphy 2012


Ray Colon said...

Hi Lyn,

Interesting post. When people are in the midst of the wallowing, worrying about how they appear to others is the last thing on their minds. I've seen it in others, so I can recognize it in myself, but snapping out of it can be a real challenge.

My level of empathy is dictated by how seriously I view their problem. If the malaise is brought on by something petty, the moaning is tough to take, but if the melancholy is rooted in a real problem, I have an easier time overlooking the shroud. Sometimes all we can do is try to be a good listener.

Your last line is good advice, but the shroud is like an old pair of jeans, we sometimes hop into them without thinking.

Lyn Murphy said...

I guess that's the point of my post, Ray. It's often too late once depression has a hold on you so it's important to try to keep it at bay. If I constantly remind myself of how unattractive it is to be wearing 'the shroud' it might just help me not to dwell on the things that I know will bring me down.