Traveling Through the Darkness

In his compelling memoire of his own battle with depression, William Styron – author of many well-known books, including Sophie’s Choice – writes, “The madness of depression is, generally speaking, the antithesis of violence. It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk. Soon evident are the slowed-down responses, near paralysis, psychic energy throttled back close to zero. Ultimately, the body is affected and feels sapped, drained.”

This video – “The Passenger, Traveling Through the Darkness” – serves as a public service announcement highlighting the experience of depression. A young startup non-profit dance company, MusEffect, captures the physical quality of the experience of this painful illness. The young man featured in the video, danced by company member Ian Chubb, captures the slowed-down, cut-off, sometimes distorted feeling that depression can cause. As he climbs onto the bus and begins moving down the center aisle, you immediately experience his sense of separation.

As the video continues you experience his mounting agony, confusion, longing and pain. You feel the push/pull if his inner turmoil, the desire to be touched versus the drag of withdrawal, the moments of feeling almost normal versus the distorted perceptions that grab hold of the psyche. The expressive dance pulls us into his suffering in a way that simple words can’t quite convey. The PSA ends with a softer note, one that offers an outreached hand, kindness, a gentle touch.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy also offers an outreached hand to those afflicted with depression. It is a proven and effective treatment for this disease. DBT offers a perspective that can help bridge the divide between the longing for connection and the urge to isolate, the lack of motivation to do anything and the inner knowing that action is necessary and perhaps even vital. It teaches patients specific skills to designed to give them the resources to manage their depression and ultimately take hold of their shifting moods and return to the driver’s seat of their own lives

In another quote from Darkness Visible, William Styron writes, “A phenomenon that a number of people have noted while in deep depression is the sense of being accompanied by a second self — a wraithlike observer who, not sharing the dementia of his double, is able to watch with dispassionate curiosity as his companion struggles against the oncoming disaster, or decides to embrace it.”

The dancers in “The Passenger” convey this experience as they move in and out of different forms, from “normal” to more dark and twisted, as the main character appears in moments to be viewing his own experience while at other times he is lost in it. This back and forth nature of the experience of depression can be extremely unsettling and, at times, excruciating. In DBT we refer to these seeming opposites as “dialectics” and we teach that learning to synthesize them, to find the middle ground so-to-speak, is vital to healing the divide.

Learning to approach life from a dialectical perspective is one of the keys in DBT. In the video, the feeling of going back and forth between extremes is palpable. DBT underscores and teaches ways to embrace the both/and of our human experience versus the either/or, how to expand our perspectives to include the pain and the surcease of pain, the sadness and the moments of joy, to acknowledge our dark thoughts and see that we have light ones too.

Another of the keys DBT teaches to unlock the chains of depression are skills to take hold of our own minds through very specific mindfulness practices. DBT also teaches skills to tolerate and to relieve the intensity of our emotional experience long enough for the worst of the painful moments to pass as well as skills to begin to change the painful emotions and to more effectively inter-relate with ourselves and with others in our lives.

Author William Styron survived his crippling depression and wrote Darkness Visible as a way to reach out hand to others who may have felt as alone in their depression as he felt in his. MusEffect created their video directly out of the personal experience of some of the members of the group. DBT is a map out of depression, a way to make the darkness visible to ourselves and to others in our lives in ways that then allows healing to occur. DBT offers a way to take the journey through the healing process together, a way to knit the torn parts of self back together, a vehicle back to wholeness.

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