Depression is  a Winged Demon
A parable from someone who was there, and is still fighting the nightly battle
Grig Larson

I didn't know how far I had wandered.  The ground was so wet with rain, each step was like lifting lead. I didn't want to go on.  I wanted to curl up an die.  Nobody cared for me, people I thought were my friends had betrayed me, and when I needed people most, they shied away from me like a leper.  The world sucked.  I had a rotten childhood, was treated like shit by all my teachers, beat up all the time by bullies, and my own parents like my older, smarter sister so much better, they let her stay home, take my bedroom, and threw me out.

All I could think about was giving up, but I kept going.  I had no idea where I was going, and parts of me were so tired from walking slumped over, I felt death would be the final answer.  I had started today by trying to find a cliff to jump off of, but they had fenced it off, typical of my bad luck.  Then some park ranger thought I was a vagrant, and when I tried to explain it didn't matter, my life sucked, and dying would be the only way I could make the human race happy, he just laughed.  The little fucker laughed like what I said was reaaal funny.  I got so angry, he decided to let me sit in jail to think about it for a little while.  Then they had to let me go.  I decided then and there to end it all.  I planned it, wrote a "Fuck you all" note to everyone, and told them where to find the body.

But, true to my loser past, I was lost.  And it was dark, and stormy, and my jacket, which couldn't repel water if it was sealed in wax left me soaked, cold, and my glasses fogged up. Life is shit, I will be so glad when I am dead, I thought.  But then I saw a house, lit with only yellow light in the windows, outlined by the lightning flashes.  I bet he's all cozy, in that shut up house in the darkness, I thought.  "Lucky bastard!!" I shouted.

"Actually, my parents had been married for several year before I was born," said a voice right next to me so sudden, I nearly shit in my pants right there.

"Goddammit!" I screamed at the old face in the rain.  "What the hell you got to scare the shit of an old kid like you before I..."  

Shit, true to form, when I get mad, my words get all jumbled up, and I make no sense.  Now this guy, who had already made a fucking fool out of me, would now laugh at how stupid I was, but I was already close to the cliff, and I was going to die anyway that night.  Who cared anymore.  That thought made me laugh inside, thinking that would show him.

"Such a mouth," said the man, who smiled at me not in mockery or patronization, but almost like he was merely stating a fact for my benefit.  "You are soaked in that cheap sweatshirt, you poor, poor, boy.  I have watched you slog through the sorry mud in front of my house for the last few minutes.  Please come in."

I don't know why I did, but I followed him, thinking, Oh, what the hell, anyway...

The house was warm, and sealed like a vault from the weather outside.  If it wasn't for the windows that accented the lightning and pouring rain outside, you would have never guessed how bad the weather was back behind the door.

"Take those wet clothes off, and I think I have an old suit and pants you could wear. let me get them for you," he said.

Oh, I though, one of those guys.  Probably wants me to be his sex slave or something.  Maybe he'll threaten to kill me, and I'll say he wouldn't dare, and --

"I know these clothes won't fit exactly, but it's all I have.  Down the hall and to the left is a small bathroom where you can change.  I'll get us some tea and Ritz Crackers, and we can talk."  The old man handed me some clothes.  I looked at him, short, thin and stooped.  Yeah, like his clothes would fit me at all.  But still, I was wet and cold, and found myself in a bathroom that was larger than one I had ever seen.  Outlined in dark blue and dark green, it seemed dark, but friendly.  I changed, and was shocked that the clothes, albeit a little tight, fit a lot better than I thought. I joined him for tea and Ritz crackers.

He stared the conversation.  With a threat.

"Whatever you do, you must listen to me.  Soon, you will think I am crazy. You will assume what I say to you to be wrong, and that I don't understand, but you MUST listen to my voice, and do what I say! Do I make myself clear???"

What are you going to do, kill me?  Oh, how awful... really, I'm scared now...

"Shut up!  I am not speaking to you, I am speaking to the boy!"


Listen to me.  Right now, you are suffering from the effects of a Demon.  A Demon called Depression.  It has been feeding off of you for many years, and has grown strong.  Depression is a Winged Demon, red, ugly, and perverse.  Like a viral leech, it has attached itself to you, and is sucking on your emotional energy.  As we speak it is whispering in your ear right now that I am an enemy.

He doesn't understand.  Mr. Therapy here is just like all the rest, he only cares because he thinks it's his civic duty and he wants to be a hero.  What a sad old--

See??  What did I tell you!  Right now, it knows I am a treat to its food supply.  I, too, fight this Demon.  And many years ago, it was as strong as yours, even stronger.  But you must listen now, because learning is half the battle.  Like I was saying, depression is like an evil demon that sits on your shoulder. No one can see it, and only you can hear it. It will whisper lies to you one after another, and gains power when you believe in it. Right now, it will be telling you not to listen to me, that "I don't understand", or you feel too tired to pay attention. If you want to stay depressed, you will ignore me. If you truly want help, you will listen. It is important to hear what I have to say.  If for some reason, you feel like you cannot understand it, say it back, shout it if you have to. But you must listen.

Okay, okay, I can do that, but you'll see that you are STILL wrong!

This demon has a lot of power right now. It has power you gave it. It will lie to you to gain more power from you until you are nothing but a dead, dry husk of a person, and when you can no longer give it power, it will leave.  It does not care that you will die if it leaves, since it can easily go to another host. That is why you have to defeat it now, before it gets any stronger.

I bet this guy is some sort of pedophile, just wants to use me for sex.  Why would he care how I feel, he just wants to lower my defenses so he can make an attack!

Its tactic is to take normal, everyday situations, and blow them out of proportion. You get upset, but instead of using the energy from being upset to stop being upset, or to fix the problem, it uses the energy for itself.  Right now, it is very mad that you are listening to me, and will do anything it can to prevent you from listening further, but it lies to you. It has been feeding off this power for decades, and will do anything to keep its food source.  Focus, I say, focus on what I am saying to you!

I bet that guy drugged my tea.  I can't even think... why is the whole world so sluggish?  I just want to go to sleep, but then this bastard will have me like a sex toy... I must concentrate...

In return for taking your energy, it makes you feel comfortable. Yet you are still miserable, since you aren't actually making yourself feel any better. Depression is like a large, heavy, soft warm blanket when you are upset. It makes you feel better while it is smothering you. And that makes you upset, feeding more power to the Demon, and the cycle continues. The Demon gets stronger with each cycle. But it can be defeated, but only if you truly want to.

It's not that this guy is so bad, but he's older, doesn't understand the problems that young kids have, plus he's nuts.

The first step is to recognize the depression as an external force that has a part of you. You have to admit you are sick, and need to get better. Right now, the demon is whispering that I am well meaning, but nuts, since I don't understand YOU and YOUR problems, which are supposedly far greater than I must realize. Also, while you are not listening, it's tell you that you are not worth saving, since you suck anyway. You must say that this old man is on the OTHER SIDE yelling at you to get that demon off your shoulder, but the demon is not going to release its food source so easily. You CAN defeat the Demon, and you ARE WORTH SAVING.

No I'm not... am I?

So once you realize the Demon is there, and is a sickness, how do you get better? It's not easy. It will be hard. Hard as hell. If someone was removing your food source, wouldn't you fight? If you say "yes", then the fight will be easier. If you say, "No, I'd just curl up in a ball and hope I die," your fight will be harder. That last phrase will mean the demon is feeding off your WILL TO LIVE, one of the most strongest forces you have.  Now you must recognize its feeding pattern:

EXAGGERATION: Using your energies to blow an event out of proportion. You go to the kitchen to turn on the stove, and pilot light is out. Then, you can't find the matches. So you decide to eat cold cuts, but the bread is stale. Leftovers? Someone already ate them. So you decide to get a glass of milk, but you drop the glass and it shatters on the floor. You start to clean it up and the phone rings. You answer it, already mad, and the person over-reacts and thinks that you are mad at THEM, and an argument ensues. You hang up. Phone falls off the wall. Roommate comes in, gets a glass splinter in foot, gets mad, and wonders why the phone is on the floor. You explode in rage, say some things you don't mean, and then sulk. The "SULK" part is where the demon feeds like a leech on your jugular. The demon is what blew out the pilot light, confused your head so you couldn't find the matches, and relied on your self-hatred it has been cultivating to generate the rest of the events.

SELF-HATRED: You are too fat/thin/tall/short/ugly/deformed/not-prefect/[fill in the blank]. Sorry, but perfection is an asymtopic curve that will never quite reach perfection. Perfection is a path, not a goal. No one ever attains it in any field. So you have two choices if you are not happy with yourself: CHANGE IT or ACCEPT IT. Some things you cannot change. If you are born blind, accept it and use your ears. If you are in an accident and lose a leg, accept it, and get an artificial limb, or learn to hop gracefully.  But YOU CAN CHANGE MOST OF YOURSELF. Start with the inside and let it work its way outwards. It will on its own. By the time the demon realizes this, it will be too late to save itself. That's why people who get all kinds of nose jobs and tummy-tucks are never happy. If they were happy with themselves, they would have cared less about their nose and stomach, and save all kind of money to buy things like kites, and other toys that you have always wanted to have, but foolish pride prevented you from having.

NOSTALGIA: There are two kinds, "Things aren't the way they used to be," and "Things suck because of the past." Things change. This is a good thing, especially if your past sucked. But the demon will constantly remind you of your past mistakes, comparing them to your present, and make you feel futile.  Or, how mach harder things are now, and how far behind you are. You sulk, and it feeds.

Oh great, then I'm really screwed!  Depression has consumed my soul and there's nothing I can do about it!

...but there are some good ways to defeat these...:

Are there...?

EXAGGERATION: Get a sense of humor. Force it, if you have to. Blame your problems on the demon, not yourself. Believe you are not the victim, but a fighter! Become a warrior, and battle the demon. Don't use it as a crutch or a scapegoat ("Sorry, I can't do that, I'm suffering from depression..." is soooo lame and will one feed the demon more), but a thing to conquer and destroy, YEAH! When something goes wrong, don't take it personally. But if it makes you angry, take it out on a non-personal object. Don't take it out on a person, and especially YOURSELF!

SELF-HATRED: Ignore it. Make fun of it. Don't take it seriously. We're all born with some sort of non-average look. I am old and have arthritis, have glasses and have no athletic ability to speak of. But I have accepted that, and often make fun of it, not to abuse myself, but to make sure I give it no power. If I wanted to change that, I could take aspirin, walk more, wear contacts, but I am working on more stuff inside, so those don't bug me.

NOSTALGIA: Keep busy. Get out of the house, and change your patterns.  Spend time with friends, or make some if you don't have any, and consider from this point forward, your past has been wiped clean. Since you are new and reborn, what would you like to be?  Learn from the past, don't dwell on it or re-live it. It's over, and nobody's keeping score.

If all else fails, go get some medical help. See a therapist. Get some medication. Because the thing that makes this the hardest is that the end result is YOU have to battle the demon, no one can do it for you. You have to want to because I could scream at you until I am blue in the face, but if you don't do anything, you will die from it.

Actually those thoughts and suggestions make sense. The main problem with this particular demon is that it "is" part of us. And to its mind it is defending us against something far worse than being depressed. Perhaps if we can gain its cooperation instead of fighting it, we can work together toward a better solution.

No, this is an all-or-nothing battle. The Demon will only compromise if it can get something out of it, which is not in your self-interest. This is not a misunderstood orphan, or a thing with a poor upbringing, this is EVIL, pure and simple, and must be treated as such. And what can you compromise, "Oh, OK, I'll let you feed off my soul on alternate days?" Screw that. It has SCREWED over your life up till now. Did Conan compromise with the Snake God?  No, he killed it! I know you think in methods of diplomacy with everything, but this demon will rape, steal, and feed off your emotions, manipulate your vision, and it only thinks of itself.

I have found with depressed people, it is often better to externalize the problem, because I ran into "Oh, there's another way I am defective," kind of BS lies the demon feeds. These are the people who try to use it as a crutch ("Oh, I can't work a real job because I am depressed." Well then get a fake job! Any job. Sheesh!), or actually use it as sympathy, which is a self-recursive feeding mechanism for the demon. And the demon, even though it is a part of us, certainly does not look out for OUR self-interest! And often is is easier to fight a physical manifestation than an abstract one, even if the physical manifestation is still in your mind.

That's why it's easier to externalize it, because a lot of people will go into denial, "Oh, no part of me is like that," and in part, they are right.  That "part" of them was impregnated by an abusive environment, or a chemical imbalance. No baby is born depressed, that has to be learned, and someone has to teach it.

Show it no mercy. You only have one shot at this life, make it count. The fact that you cared enough about yourself to come in out of the rain is a damn good example, don't let the demon erase the good deeds your kindness has done.

Suddenly, the rain stopped, and I was on the edge of a cliff looking down.  There was no house, no old man, no rainstorm, no ranger... just me. The only thing separating me and a pile of smashed organs on the rocks below was 50 feet of empty air.

And I cared.  For the first time in my life, I truly cared.  I didn't really want to die, I wanted to escape all my problems.  If I say life is unfair, what am I comparing it to?  I was angry, and instead of using the anger as energy to fix my problem, I was using it to destroy myself.  And now the demon left me, even if only for a moment, because it didn't want to die with me. Truly facing death will give you an honest look at life.

I stood there, hovering between upright and falling body, feeling the exhilaration of being free, scared of falling over and getting crushed, or stepping back and facing my life again.

"It's not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop at the end..." said a voice in my own head.

I laughed, and laughed strong.  Soon, I was sitting down under a tree, looking at the moon, laughing so hard that I couldn't stop.  My sense of humor, which had left me because I mistook it for bitter sarcasm, came back and rocked me like a mother's arms in joy.  I understood what depression was now.  I understood why I gave into the lies, and while it would be a hard battle to face my old problems again, I would do it like I was reborn tonight.

Because I was.

Blessed be.

I fight this demon a lot.  I had a less-than-perfect past, spent the first 18 years of my life in hell, and then a lot of hard suffering after that.  Society tells me that they feel sorry for me, and that they would understand if I became a depressed alcoholic.  I wouldn't.  I have made people laugh, changed people's lives in a positive way, have a wonderful and supportive wife, a great child, and a lot of friends.  Sometimes, despite all my good things, that demon quietly alights on my shoulder when things get tough, and tries to keep me warm with that suffocating, yet comfortable blanket. The battle to fight depression; it is not easy.

 It is hard.  

But it is worth it. I remember a sign that was in my psychologist's office when I was a kid.  It said, "I am worth something because God doesn't make junk."  Whether you believe in God or not, this applies to everyone, including you.  You have a purpose.  And if you don't know what it is, you can make it up.  No one keeps score, there is no "faking it" unless you believe it is fake.  My purpose is to help and heal people through humor, good times, and support.  I made it up one day after a friend of mine was brutally murdered.  I took that anger and pain of her senseless death, and turned it into something positive.  No one had to give it to me, and you know... it's worked out pretty good.

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