I’m somewhat hesitant to share this publicly. It’s from a tough time in my life, an era that I rarely discuss anymore. But true to the theme of this blog, it shows some of the important ‘steps’ of my life journey. Perhaps it might resonate with some of you. It seems worth sharing if just for that reason.
Recently I’ve had three different friends mention their ongoing struggles with depression. Though I feel relatively undepressed right now, there are days that it still seems close. And I always feel afraid that it will return and I won’t be strong enough to fight it or get help. The odd thing for me about this period of my life, was that while I was depressed I found it impossible to see what help I needed, or I lacked the ability to get the help. Now that I am on the other end of it, it seems so clear to me what I should have done. Depression is just hard that way.
One of the things that was helpful to me in my struggle with depression was the archetypal story of the Sumerian goddess Inanna (you can read more about such goddess archetypes in the writings of Jungian analyst Jean Shinoda Bolen). A few years later, I wrote this poem about how her story paralleled mine. For those of you not familiar with the Inanna legend, she is a goddess who travels to to the underworld. In the process she is stripped of all of her royal trappings and nearly dies (or rather, she does die, but then she is resurrected by her friends who bring her the bread and water of life–there is much Christ-like symbolism in the Inanna myth, which might resonate with some of you). For me, this legend gave me hope. While I traveled in the shadow of depression, hope was so elusive. During that period of my life, food lost its savor. I stopped eating and weighted less than when I was in high school. I developed chronic bronchitis and other health issues. My favorite thing during that time: running the washing machine–its sounds soothed me. I often curled up next to it just to feel its vibrations move through my body. Such a scary, scary time.
There were other changes in my life that also helped, which aided my return. I returned to school part-time, we moved, John took a job where he could be home more frequently. Many good, healing changes.
I don’t know if this poem will hold any meaning for you. For me it is a bit scary, it makes me sad, but it also shows me how far I’ve come in the intervening years…
Most of the words in italics are from the Inanna legend except for the first stanza where they are bits of wording and my thoughts from the Mormon temple initiation rite. The middle section with the asterisk is from the Psalms–this section, IMO, shows that he knew depression. I have returned to these Biblical verses passage many times, finding comfort that someone else out there understood my pain…
I remove my shoes
Slip off my socks
Pull my gown over my head
Lift off my garments,
Signs and Tokens
a shield, a protection
the possibility of destruction
Lay my marriage rings on the shelf
From the Great Above she opened her ears to the Great Below.
From the Great Above the goddess opened her ears to the Great Below.
From the Great Above Inanna opened her ears to the Great Below.
My lady abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the Underworld.
Inanna abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the Underworld.
She abandoned her office of holy priestess to descend to the Underworld.
I run the washing machine on empty, watch the water fill the tub
Curl up by its side and fall asleep to the vibrations
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint:
my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd;
and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws;
and thou hast brought me into the dust of death
I may tell all my bones;
they look and stare upon me*
Sinew on bone, moving under skin.
The fat melting away leaving the outline of underneath
the thrum of hunger in my loins,
the cough and quiet wheeze of breath
Inanna goes naked, crawls on all fours
Then Erishkegal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guile and struck her.
Inanna was turned into a corpse, a piece of rotting meat,
and was hung from a hook
in the wall
In the hall
is where he lives.
I can see him there in the reflecting mirrors and I am afraid.
I have sores in my mouth
with ragged edges and I gnaw at the corners until blood comes.
And I flick the tip of my tongue there.
O, Oh my insides
O, Oh my outsides
O, Oh I’m dying inside
O, Oh I don’t want to be alone
For the corpse: Inanna
Bread of life, kurgarra,
Water of life, galatur
Awake and arise
And Dumuzi** shall go in your place
Crawling on his belly
Licking your heel.
*KJV Psalms 22:14-16
**Dumuzi is Inanna’s slacker husband. He ends up taking her place in the underworld and is turned into a snake. He’s a sort of Satan figure if you were to make comparisons to Christian cosmology.