Thursday, August 31, 2006

It's lurking around,
and I can feel it
(a personal story)

Several years ago, at a fine arts photography workshop, a young girl showed what at first seemed to be an unrelated bunch of poorly shot 8x10 photos. The rest of us had 11x14, well-executed images mounted on museum quality boards. It seemed that she was not going to be up to standards.

Many of her photos were of a girl or a woman lying on a bed, and many were out of focus. As she put these images up, one by one, she came to a particular picture that showed several medication vials. One label was in focus. It showed her name and the name of an antidepressant. The pictorial, as it turned out, was a heroic documentary of a depressive episode she had suffered. When the session broke up for dinner, four of us just kind of hung back and gathered around her. As we all made eye contact, no one had to speak. We knew why we had stayed. We all had, at one time or another, suffered significant depression. We all knew the pain of that dark, unforgiving and hopeless pit, and we knew no one who had never been there could ever understand how horrible a place it is.

The air now is cooler at night, and the sun is setting earlier each day. Intellectually, I know that the serotonin levels in my brain will soon begin to drop along with my levels of vitamin D. I know it is time to get my bright light box out of the basement and to spend as much time as I can before it as I read the morning paper. I know that signs that look like this:

Could easily begin to look like this:

I once had a lumbar disc slip out of place and literally send me to the floor screaming in pain. It felt as if a truck had parked on my leg. It was the the second worst pain I have ever known. Still, I would accept that pain gladly rather than experience again the hopeless blackness which I and my fellow photographers know all too well.

I am a happy guy now and have been blessed with the best of everything in life. And, I need to remember that, repeat it in my head, as a mantra and add it to my arsenal of bright light and exercise as winter approaches.

If you have been to that dark place, you need no further explanations. If you have not, none is possible.

Paddle safe...and be happy.