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How Low Do We Go?


The people who study the weather know about tropical depressions. When an area of low atmospheric pressure is surrounded by thunderstorms, the trouble begins. If it escalates with an increase in wind speed, it can become a tropical storm and then a hurricane. This natural sequence of events could be considered a metaphor for human beings who struggle with forms of depression. Low energy or motivation, low self-esteem, low levels of optimism, low productivity, low participation in activities with others… how low do we humans go before a detrimental storm rages within us and potentially around us?

While we love it when our blood pressure numbers are appropriately low and when gas prices tumble, having our mood plummet isn’t usually the most wonderful experience. Sometimes it is short-lived and runs its course with minimal harm to our relationships and quality of life. But if the depression lingers or deepens and runs unchecked, we may be inviting a stormy season to set in. Medical professionals can help if they are made aware. A sturdy friendship is a certain asset. Faith often carries the day. And the night too.

Faith isn’t just believing in some higher power commonly called God, although it is that. It can be important to trust that we have some purpose in life, some contribution to make to our families and communities. In other words, it’s not egotistical to have faith in ourselves. We are of value. We matter. And genuinely embracing this is not just mental gymnastics, some sort of game we can play to try to trick ourselves into feeling better; it’s the truth of our existence. Can we hear that? Do we believe it? What do we accept about ourselves?

Can we hear the blessing in addition to the berating? Do we take to heart only the criticism or does encouragement wiggle its way in as well? Are we surrounded primarily by people with a dismal view of life or are there merry “music-makers” in our midst too? Words are powerful and we humans have the capability to use them like weapons to cut others down. Perhaps we’ve known what it’s like to be whittled on a few too many times.

If we do know what that’s like, our eyes and ears are better trained to see the signs in someone else. When we spot another person slipping into a patch of depression and down the hatch of withdrawal, the question facing us is, are we willing to reach down to offer a hand, a hug, a word of help and hope? How low do we go to meet the eyes of another who feels abandoned, alone, pummeled? That, by the way, is somewhat sadly the origin of the customarily lively Limbo. Enslaved Africans brought by ship to the Caribbean islands were separated by gender. For men to catch a glimpse of their beloved women – and vice versa – they had to pass through low spaces in order to reach one another. How low do we go to make a connection?

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