Wrestling the Python

Python at California Academy of Sciences, Author Wa17gs (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

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).



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

5 responses to “Wrestling the Python

  1. I agree Anna,having struggled with this Python myself for many years. The list of people you provided that struggle with depression would also include one referred to as a “man after God’s own heart”. We know him better as David,King of Israel. Many of David’s writings are filled with the anguish of despair and depression,all of which gives me cause to reflect upon God’s grace in seeing us through seemingly impossible situations. When David cried out “save me O God,for the waters are come unto my soul”,I sense a kindred despair,yet in all of our weaknesses He is made strong!

    • Thank you for adding David to the list, Ron. Like you, I always find great consolation in the Psalms when I wrestle with darkness. Part of what depression distorts is our perspective. We cannot imagine that the sun will actually rise again tomorrow or our circumstances change. Scripture shifts our focus from the self to God. We are reminded not just how powerful God is, but Who He is — God of the hopeless and forgotten, Redeemer of the lost and forsaken. That we are broken is no obstacle to Him at all. The weakness which the world ridicules elicits only mercy from God. As David said, He restores the soul.

  2. This is an incredibly apt analogy for depression. Brilliant.

    • Thank you for your compliment. I hope the analogy relieves sufferers of needless guilt over the tenacity of this illness. It is not a sign of weakness on our part, if depression persists or recurs. We would not view ourselves as having a character flaw fighting tuberculosis.

  3. Reblogged this on and commented:
    We all try to find a connection between our own experiences and the world around us.
    Sometimes we find it in nature and sometimes in static objects around us.
    I love the accuracy of this write-up. Please go have a look.

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