Speaking last September at the memorial service for Bangor physician John West, the Rev. Renee Garrett of All Souls Congregational Church shared these comments, which were written by the Rev. Carol Sherman, a licensed pastoral counselor in Bangor:
“Depression is an illness. Not a weakness or a character flaw — an illness. If cancer is a disease of wildly growing cells that starts in a particular organ and then spreads all over the body, depression is a disease of spreading darkness. It starts as a dark mood and dark thoughts and, like cancer, it can spread to infect the person’s entire way of seeing, thinking and feeling.
“At some point, if it’s not stopped, the darkness gets bigger than the sufferer and he or she is ‘in it’ — like being in a cave without light. That’s suicidal depression. In a cave, cut off from light, unable to even believe light still exists or, if it exists for others, unable to believe it will ever reach you again or that you will ever again emerge into light.
“When you lose all hope that the darkness will ever shrink back into something manageable and stop engulfing you, your despair is the only thing that’s real anymore. Darkness becomes your constant companion. In the cave, the love that other people have for you feels far away, unreachable. And in that cave, the love you feel for them seems insignificant in comparison to the power the darkness seems to have.
“People in that dark cave fall for the lie that loved ones will be better off without them. They fall for the lie that darkness is all there will ever be for them. They can’t see anything else but that desperate need for the despair to end. The interplay of biochemistry gone haywire and the dark, despairing thoughts that take hold of the sufferer seem like a trap they can’t escape.”