Rainbow Connection

It is depressing to write about depression.

Really.

Day in, day out, people proclaim to be depressed. Some feel outright miserable because things didn’t go their way. It could be a case of a bad hair day or someone didn’t call you last night kinda thing. The glum feeling could also be brought about when you don’t get your act together and you feel oh so frustrated about it. But far beyond suffering from a myocardial infraction when your lover betrays you or when there’s some hair-puling drama in the domestic front, depression is such an underestimated killer. For it puts you in a place where happiness exits through the backdoor and worse, you have no way of knowing when you would once more hear that knock of felicity. Aside from appetite and sleep being compromised, when someone is down in the dumps, jokes are rendered ho-hum, the world is portrayed as a darn hypnotic static and all that you see is black and white.

Depression is a when you feel that a dark cloud is hovering over you and whatever you do, you simply couldn’t get rid of the gloom.

Depression is like my second skin. I have had my share of mean episodes of being sucked into the dreaded emotional blackhole. Such claim is backed by legit reasons and not just made-up ones. Adult realities not juvenile delusions. My life is filled with stories that can make your tearducts dry as the Sahara and give me that much needed Winnie the Pooh hug of all time. Aaaww. In retrospect, I never willed for my depression to come. It just came. Or maybe it was forthcoming and I was just too darn sold to the fact that the pessimism of my youth was sad enough to begin with. I knew that what I was feeling wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill blues … it was something deeper. Even if there would be days when I’d find myself exercising my socializing muscle with friends and lovers, in a depressed condition, there will be more days, weeks, or even months in fact, when I’d find satisfaction being catatonic and pensive about what I’ve been going through. Looking back, depression has eaten me for years.

I have a best friend whom I bother when misery creeps in my system. In a series of midnight calls or during rounds of cheap beer in the neighborhood grill, I would relentlessly argue with him that my emotional state had nothing to do with a comatose biological clock or a romantic void, or some lame career frustration. With his big flappy ears at work, he would process my desolation. But it seemed each time I spoke of my sob stories, somehow my disclosed despair would be lost in translation. Yet in some context, I knew my best guyfriend got me since he shared with me one movie quote that would echo my being – “Everyone wants to be found”. Eegad, he just summarized the story of my life in one cheesy line.

When one treks deep into the forest of depression, the idea of a life compass is far-fetched. You just walk on, without knowing where you’re headed, till you bump into a tree and become unconscious in the process. And it’s not a sleep that you can willfully wake up from. Depression lets you lie in a pillow when you feel hopeless, helpless and dreamless.

I remember being diagnosed as “manic depressive”. People think of this tag as a fanciful term in everyday conversation but believe me when I say that depression is one hell of a serious condition. Just like a plague that attacks you when you’re not looking, it is an outbreak that can cause damage in the long term if left unattended. The saga of my woefulness is captured in another webblog (which I will only share for those who are extremely open-minded) but I am grateful that I have semi-parked that for now. Rather than shooing away the sunshine for the moment, I would prefer to tell you of my attempts in dealing with this dejected state.

During the height of my great depression of yesteryears, I would seek solace in a friend’s house in the same municipality where I live in. It had been a usual tease when people ask me about my place of residence, “sa loob o sa labas?” {inside or out}. It is common knowledge that my city is known for roaming lunatics. You bet, there’s no place like home. But getting back to my story, when sadness pays me a visit, I find myself in the sane apartment of Patty and Noel, one couple whom I would consider as my ultimate lifecoaches. Whenever I would pop up in their abode, they would merrily put on their shrink hats for me and listen to my rants and raves. My lifecoaches suggested that I try out a different kind of therapy. An act of rehabilitation to put the slightest hue in my monochromatic perception of the world. Thus, my therapy began.

Aside from taking with me the golden nuggets of wisdom that fateful weekend, I was given the basic equipment to calm me as I embark in a journey to lucidness — a bubble play set, a box of crayons and a coloring book. I attempted to indulge in some minutes of blowing bubbles at home which irritated my dogs, and then I was set to take on the next big challenge of tinting some papers. I was summoned to color for the sake of coloring. No big purpose. No immense rewards. Nevertheless, that night I’ve persuaded myself to color my cares away.

The initial thrill was that I felt like a little girl exploring my limits. Afterwhich, the next feeling I get was that I was like a soldier sent off to some goddamn war, for some clueless mission. With a world-changing task at hand, I needed to have sophisticated gear to pull this off. Not content with my crayon gifts, I saw myself rummaging through my drawers for an old crayola set I’ve kept for years. When I got my hands on a 64-set of crayons, I must say it was an exhilarating experience. This was the closest thing to holding the rainbow. It probably simulated the same euphoria an art director would have upon acquiring the most advanced version of Photoshop. My delight had its share of pauses since I found myself arranging the crayons according to shade. The OC in me kicked in. Shrug I did.

It’s been a long while since I’ve managed to while away coloring a coloring book. It’s been more than two decades since I was that appreciative of those waxy sticks that put a smile on my face and a twinkle of wonder in my eyes. So Minnie went through the motion of being lost in emotion. I started my task by coloring the flowers red, the bushes green and the water blue. Yada, yada. My, my, talk about logical. There was even a page that you had to color by numbers. There was a point that I felt pathetic. I felt stupid. I just couldn’t get it right. Choosing a particular crayon was a major decision. Every stroke I let out had to be precise. The picture ought to be perfect. Admittedly, when I was a child, I’ve never been a master of the color wheel. I mean whenever I shaded a figure, I would tend to skip the designated lines before me. Even if with much carefulness, my hands would have a mind of its own. I would never reach that level of fulfillment. My work would always exhibit some kind of flaw somewhere, somehow.


Then came my a-ha moment. I don’t know what got into me but I started to operate just the opposite. Belonging to a society plagued with the dreaded “what-if’s” in life, I began to perform the unexpected. I colored away obsessively. I put on my Picasso beret and held each crayon like I was conducting Pachelbel’s Canon & Gigue in D. In no time, the pages were filled as my world took form. With crayon crumbs caught in my fingernails, it was time to take a bow. I have finally done justice to my bookpapered canvas. Lo and behold, the grass was pink, the trees were orange and the water was far from the conventional blue. What a lovely sight. Bravo. Yet I instinctively knew that if there was a grown-up breathing down my neck, he would have muttered invectives at me, saying “My god where the hell did you get such idea? Get real Minnie”. But I knew that in that moment, all the peripheral voices were meant to be muted. It was my voice that mattered. So color I did as my ipod blasted some Bananarama ditty to make the scene chirpier than usual for the mad artist at work. Noo-nee-noo-nee-noo.

The next day saw me propping open my coloring book in between breaks in my workplace. I’m not quite sure if my officemates found me a little loopy with my coloring antics. I really didn’t give a damn since all I cared about was regaining my sanity by coloring away and I knew that I was cuddling the power to make all these unmindful adults around me turn green with envy. Who wouldn’t be? I had in my hands sheets that boasted of a purple snake with a tophat and a polka-dotted dinosaur. It felt good. I felt good. It was like I’ve invoked the spirit of Michaelangelo and have created a masterpiece that would be a source of bedlam at Sotheby’s.

Too bad that that the days that followed saw me setting aside my coloring books and crayons for official work. Yes, I was back in the real world, with real issues and real deadlines. Once again I got lost in adult complexities. But the thrill of my coloring therapy lingered on for days to come. That was good enough.

Coloring books as a therapy can be downright gratifying. I wouldn’t mind issuing that same prescription to you. You should try it one time. It just feels different to do something so simple as an adult. If you think that coloring a page as a child seems like a major struggle, as an adult, it can be a thousand times a challenge. To even rationalize the act itself can be the first roadblock. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Now more than ever, I realized how good if felt to get lost in coloring books. To appreciate the glide of colors and how it brings to life the skeletal illustrations before me. How picking that crayon stick from the box felt like pulling out a light saber. I was out to slay my personal dragons and mental demons. The incident was magical. No one can dare dictate how I’ll see things and interpret the world. It was my lone call. Best of all, there was absolutely no room for failure. It was a pure act of simply doing something for myself. It makes me think….

How many of us are caught up coloring our
world with tints of misery and end up with
a blank life canvas?  When was the last time
you took a moment to pursue your rainbow?

My trip back to my coloring childhood taught me to consider three Ms — Mindset. Meantime. Myself.

In battling depression, all it takes is a matter of mindset. Yeah, yeah … easier said than done. But the fact is, the more you dwell in the cruelty of the world, the more you wade in misery. And when you keep burdening yourself with worst-case scenarios, the more you can not fully live in the present. Which is why living in the meantime has its purpose. My place under the sun has been explicitly described in one of my readings:

When you are not happy where you are, and you are not quite sure if you want to leave or how to leave, you are in the meantime. It’s a state of limbo. You are hanging on, ready to let go, afraid to fall, not wanting to hurt yourself, afraid you will hurt someone else.”

– Iyanla Vanzant

The meantime can be torturesome, no doubt. Just like the gray cloud above my head. It must be there for some reason. Reasons that will reveal itself in the right time.

At the end of a doggone day, no one can get you out of your depression but yourself alone. I do feel blessed that I have lifecoaches I can bug when push comes to shove, a best guyfriend who checks on me in the mornings and bails out at night, and a giflfriend cum prayer partner who I sneak out to have occasional pancake lunchouts with. But friends can only serve as cheerleaders to a certain extent since the bottomline is, you are obliged to deliver the much awaited pep dance. My friends are, what I may politely consider, as my meantime anti-depressants. With life being a bitter pill to swallow, no Lexapro, Xanor, Zoloft, or Rivotril can work magic if you cannot open your eyes wide enough to see the glimmer of hope in spite of whatever happens to you today. Depression may eat you alive this very moment that you are reading this. But you know what? The sun will rise tomorrow, whether you like it or not. You and only you have the ability and the audacity to hug life for what it’s worth. We have to take it upon ourselves to believe that tomorrow always offer us another chance to reboot our lives. It ain’t easy. But it is – possible.

Sure, everyone gets depressed. We embrace misery in varied styles. Some even resort to comparing their frustration meter to another human being to derive some consolation knowing that you’re far better off than the loser next to you. Some are more equipped to deal with the dreaded blues, while the rest of us, struggle with all our might to get out of our comfy beds and take on the day and hoping to bask in some ray of sunshine.

Cliché as it may sound, the reality is, some days will be better than the rest. Most of the time, you just see smog over the horizon; but on some days, you just might get lucky and manage to see that elusive rainbow in the sky. I am grateful that the higher power out there tirelessly paints our lives with color. Though it is a pity that we are too blind to see it, and too depressed to even care about it.
To be sane is to live in your own world. And what does it take to live? To live your life in color. Tall order? Of course not. One or two shades would do. During that short-lived week of coloring my way out of depression, I basked in a good feeling, even it was only for the moment. That time I have created a world far different from what everyone else expected. Where one person’s sense of incongruity is another’s person’s version of reality. It is only in my world where grass blades are tiffany blue and the clouds are bubblegum pink and a kaleidoscope of possibilities are just within reach. Now I know that when you are in the realms of depression, you have to find that precise moment when you can allow yourself to get lost … for you to be truly found.

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One thought on “Rainbow Connection

  1. Deep stuff.. but worth the plunge. Everyone wants to be found indeed, but more importantly by our own selves first… and that’s the hardest challenge of all. Hope your color therapy keeps your from the blackness permanently…

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