Photographer Richard Avedon in the 1980s took what became an iconic photo of the German actress and model, Nastassja Kinski, with a Burmese python.
Pythons are non-venomous, but lethal regardless. These powerful snakes initially use their teeth to grasp prey. Pythons then coil their long, muscular bodies around the victim and squeeze. This interferes with breathing, ultimately suffocating the prey. Once the victim’s heart has stopped beating, pythons will swallow the lifeless body beginning with the head. They will then digest the body, bones and all.
Depression is much the same. Those unfamiliar with the illness may be tempted to dismiss it as a “mere” mood disorder. But it can be deadly.
Depression can squeeze the joy from life, and the life from us. Once depression has gotten a hold on us, it can be difficult to dislodge. Thwarted, it can recur, despite our best efforts.
A life and death struggle follows, in which even the smallest tasks can seem overwhelming. Everything is colored a more somber hue. We give up on life, believing ourselves unworthy of love and acceptance. Ultimately, the darkness can consume us.
Our best defenses against depression are psychiatric treatment and/or psychological counseling, preferably early on in the illness. Anti-depressants are not, however, for everyone. No one anti-depressant fits all. And these drugs can have serious side effects.
Remaining in touch with friends and loved ones is vital. We need human contact and emotional support, whether we believe we “deserve” them or not.
The list of those who have led meaningful lives despite depression is a long one. It includes Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, John Keats, Edgar Degas, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Isaac Asimov, Bob Dylan, and many more.
With help, we can wrestle the python successfully.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God” (Ps. 42: 11).
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