Brighter Things is Steven Jackson, an Alabama-based songwriter making music and words fit together so life might make more sense.  Music released here, free, weekly-ish. Sign up to get notifications of new songs & videos.

'Til The Devil Up and Leaves

'Til The Devil Up and Leaves

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We All Get The Devil.

“If Daddy dies tonight, please know that I love you and I just wish I could be there to watch you grow up to be the amazing little man you’ve started to become.”

I must have twenty mini-dv tapes of when, in the clutches of sickness, anxiety and depression, I was positive I would not make it to 30. So I would leave sobbing love-letter-messages on video, audio and in journals stashed around the house. On the bright side, I got loads of practice articulating the important things most folks reserve for loved ones on their deathbed.

My metabolic rollercoaster causes depression and weakness, hypoglycemia, panic attacks, general anxiety, weight loss blah blah blah. Oh ... then there's job stress, kid stress ... you get the idea. I'm only saying this because I think most of us can relate "bigly" to this scenario – even though our particulars vary.

Think this is too depressing to put down on the page? To sing about? Won't it be embarrassing for me to have aired my dirty laundry next time we meet?

If those were your initial feelings, you are not alone. Since so few people fess up about their darkest struggles, we tend to ascribe “depression" and “anxiety" to someone else's personal weakness or their choice. “Just be strong. Choose to be happy. Live your bliss.” they say. 

Fuck. Me. As anyone who wrestles the devil can tell you, we are already some of the strongest humans you’ll ever know. And it’s usually the most deeply joyful souls whose chemistry situates them there, teetering, closest to the cliff’s edge where we face heavenly highs and earth shattering lows. We volunteer to climb the mountain, balance on the lip of a big, bright horizon and then our genes let some bastard push us from behind. The best we can do most times is try not to fall.

That’s where grace needs to be our lifeline. Not a biblicized “grace” that we fear we’re not equipped with. And not grace we ask for, or expect, from others. This GRACE just requires the intuitive decency we happily extend to others but withhold from ourselves because we can’t “see” our illness. Us super-feelers take on the emotional daily equivalent of a marathon we run alone, but we shame ourselves for lacking stamina to Martha-Stewart our 2nd grader’s lunch while we’re sweating it out. Note: I swear to everything holy, a square PBJ is just as nourishing as one shaped like a freakin' panda bear.

Depression is not weakness. It is a fight we didn’t pick but we still have to put up our dukes to protect the head. What about anxiety? Its chemical jolt revved the hearts of our primal ancestors so they wouldn’t be snacks for tigers. A million years later, that same panic pounces on us while we’re driving kids to the mall. I’ve heard it called a fault of incomplete evolution. I choose to think it’s a side-effect of being gloriously un-numb. 

So, no, I won’t be embarrassed when we meet. But I’d be super-psyched to share our secrets of sickness, suffering, depression, anxiety and joy, joy, joy together. Let’s do a better job of acknowledging that we all have non-twitter-grinning moments and that one of the best ways to heal is just by being there for each other.

We win with patience, practice, compassion and safety in numbers. Remember, we were wired to be part of the tribe so we won't be eaten alive.

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Drinking our way through the waves

Drinking our way through the waves

Wouldn't we have it made, babe?

Wouldn't we have it made, babe?

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