To write (fairly publicly) about depression is an act of courage in itself. So they tell me.
Courage? Was ever a more misunderstood word?
What is courage?
I would first of all discard the patriarchal and militaristic appropriation of the word "courage" for nefarious purposes. I think of all those millions of soldiers dying in wars not of their making. To my mind they weren’t full of courage. Fear and terror of their lives, certainly. Some of them were just barely out of diapers. Dying for some mythological cause created by monsters that were never near a battlefield. There’s never a justification for war. These poor young people are sold the hero myth and encouraged to give up their one and only precious lives for it. And take the lives of the most innocent of bystanders with them. War is all about killing children. Millions and millions of children. There is never a justification for that. And courage doesn't come into it.
We need some new definitions of courage.
Courage: ordinary people running into fires and diving into water to rescue others.
Courage: those tent cities, those smiling faces of Haitians rising up again after a devastation beyond our wildest imagination.
Courage: my friend Dan making sure he called me every day through this rough spot in spite of his own fearsome challenges and pain.
My mother showed the most remarkable courage in the face of a cancer that was vicious and unforgiving. She chose multiple amputations to halt its progress in the face of unbelievable pain rather than succumb (as she was advised) in a much shorter, morphine hazed alternative.
Courage is the face of the ordinary facing extraordinary challenges.
Life is fraught with landmines, often just those internal ones that we’ve negotiated from childhood. Sometimes, it's a conscious choice to embrace these landmines while taking the time to diffuse some of them and then moving on, knowing we will get the strength to face the next one in its time.
One of the best definitions of courage I have ever read is:
Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.": Dorothy Thompson
And sometimes courage is just about feeling the fear but doing it anyway. Starting by getting out of bed. And putting one foot in front of the other.