Early this year I had a short episode of almost-but-not-quite depression, and it arrived along with an image of what happens for me during the worst of those times, which hasn’t happened for almost 20 years: A giant boot descends and plants itself on my chest, and I’m unable to move or negotiate. It’s enormous, it’s simply there, and it’s heavy enough to crush even the cheeriest and most optimistic of mortals.
For me depression isn’t really about sadness. If sadness is warranted, I can sit with the sadness and even welcome it, but the boot is different. The boot can’t be sat with, snapped out of, or “moved through.” The boot stops life from being lived.
In May I painted the boot, and it turned out to be an image of my own ongoing change, learning, and redemption. I’m warding off the boot, and its color is way more joyous than I would’ve expected. The dark waves at the bottom look to me like water, and it occurs to me that if I’m in water, the boot can’t crush me; I can swim out from under it. And finally, music is coming out from under the boot, because there’s something I’ve figured out: Art eases suffering, and suffering can be metabolized into art.