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  • Liberty laughing and shaking your head
    Can you carry the torch that'll bring home the dead?
    To the land of their fathers whose lives you have led
    To the station at the end of the town
    On the southbound train going down.

    Equality, quietly facing the fist
    Are you angry and tired that your point has been missed?
    Will you go to the back-room
    And study the list
    Of the gamblers using the phone
    On the southbound train going down.

    Fraternity, failing to fight back the tears
    Will it take an eternity breaking all the fears?
    And what will the passenger do when he hears-
    That he's already paid for the crown
    On the southbound train going down.

    By Graham Nash

    This song always reminded me of depression – the southbound train going down. That’s what it’s like – things happen around you, things that seem to be beyond your control; you struggle for awhile, soon finding yourself in the middle of a battle raging inside, and then, at some point, you begin to see the signs that you’re losing the battle, and heading down to that lonely, yet somehow comforting place, where you wrap yourself in an emotional cocoon, and just hope all the forces pounding on your head eventually go away. You seek a peaceful end to the battle, but you go down without a plan for how to negotiate that peace. Gravity pulls you down; you grow too tired to fight against it, so down you go.

    I have a documented history of depression. I also have an acquired inherent belief that depression, like most things in life, is a choice. This sets up an interesting inner conflict when seemingly “natural” forces begin vying for my attention, and for my soul.

    When I was younger, I was naturally more prone to the forces of depression, since I was, at the time, also battling addiction. My primary drug of choice was alcohol, a powerful depressant. You can’t imagine the internal battles that raged in my head back then, because I had the unfortunate (or maybe, in the long run, fortunate) access to a lot of knowledge about alcoholism and addiction. Mom was a recovered alcoholic, and Dad was big into AlAnon. He spent a lot of time talking about alcoholism and depression. I always cringed whenever he’d start into that discussion. He was trying to be helpful, but I always thought, “Here, he goes, messing up my world again.” He was a real downer to be around when I was trying to enjoy my life, and I had a lifestyle that I thought would help me do that. We were not friends in those days, to put it mildly.

    Mom just quietly “knew” what was going on with me. That bothered me, too, but wasn’t nearly as annoying as Dad and his lectures. She was cool about it, but she knew, and I knew she knew. I tended to try to avoid the subject altogether whenever I was around them. I was still very much in denial that I really had a problem, even though deep down, I knew. I just wasn’t ready to do anything about it. I wasn’t beaten down enough to think I needed help with it.

    Plus, they’d had me pegged as a potential alcoholic years before I ever even took my first drink. Their alarm and concern when I first found the joys and wonders of alcohol, and then pot, were real turn-offs to me. Here, I’d finally found something that made me feel good and connected to the world outside my head, and they wanted to tell me it was a bad thing? I just wasn’t about hearing that bullshit.
  • It was a terrible depression that first brought me low enough to be willing to seek help with it. Anti-depressant medication and some therapy helped me to climb out of the depression, but for what ailed my soul on a larger scale, I needed more. I couldn’t tap into the spiritual aid I needed to fully recover from addiction while I was medicated. I settled for the even keel the medication brought to my life for a couple of years, abstaining from alcohol during that time, but that was not sustainable. I eventually went off the medication and as I sought that elusive spiritual recovery. Fortunately, I eventually found it, or it found me, or some combination thereof.

    While, recovery from addiction has not made me completely immune to depression, it has certainly provided me with an array of tools that help in the battle. I still experience depression, but on a much milder scale than I once did. Sometimes, a day or two is enough, and I climb right back out. Maybe that wouldn’t even be technically considered depression, but I know what it feels like, and it feels like depression to me. I’m always most grateful when it ends. I derive no pleasure at all in wallowing in it. But, it also doesn’t help to put up a big fight against it. I’ve learned that that often just makes it worse. Some things you just can’t fight – you have to let go, surrender, and let it be. Get out of your own way enough to allow the healing energy to peek through your own walls of resistance.

    There’s always a tremendous sigh of relief when it’s behind me. I still carry the fear, each time I find myself on that Southbound train, that this could be the big one. This could be the one that debilitates me, causes me to stop caring about everything, that I might just take that train all the way down into the endless pits of despair. At some point in the journey, I just have to let that fear go, and be o.k. with whatever the outcome might be, trust that it’ll all work out for the best. Letting go of that fear, before I know it, the train rounds the bend, and I find myself back on level ground, heading in the right direction.

    Thank God!
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