Happy Thanksgiving

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I hope that all of my readers are having a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Lately I’ve been contending with another bout of depression, a state of mind that does not lend itself easily to gratitude. Still, I figure that a recognition that my life does contain matter worthy of gratitude could be therapeutic.

I am thankful that I recently discovered the truth of why I am vulnerable to depression and chronic pain. I’d guess that this a rare privilege. Most often the mystery of why depression and pain return time and again is fodder for more rumination, a journey of blame in darkness. I am this way because I am a victim of so-and-so or because I am weak. And then there a million details to be found in that darkness that seems to support such self- or other-blaming theories of suffering, and this very exercise feeds the depression and pain.

In my case, there is no ground at all for blaming myself or anyone else. Through a brain MRI and its review with my neurologist, I have learned that I have old lesions from a childhood head injury and that such lesions are strongly associated with a clinical picture of migraine and major depression. Though the scan itself cannot date said injury, there is a head injury in my past that is the likely culprit. I can remember that spring afternoon in 1982, when I hit a rock with my bicycle and flew over the handle bars and landed head first on the street. I can recall the sound of screen doors slamming as adults ran out of their houses to carry me home. Then I remember nothing else of that afternoon but darkness and sentence fragments.

So the matter is quite simple really. My pain and depression are artifacts of an accident. I can’t change the past, but I can alter how I react to my down times. When my depression flares up, it arises from a damaged part of my brain that can’t possibly speak the truth. Its voice is like static between radio stations. This damage also lends itself to pain that is out of proportion to its cause or reality. The less I reflect on the pain, the faster it goes away.

I am grateful to know this truth.

I am grateful for my family, my home, and my job. Lately I’ve considered too often how little security is certain in our times. On Thanksgiving, I reflect that what matters most is today. I can depend on myself and the company of those I love today. Tomorrow is not promised, and that is a basic reality of the human condition.