Thursday, May 08, 2008

Depression, its Causes and Cures (Per Uncle Remus)

After one particularly discouraging defeat by a fellow creature in the woods – no hare likes to be beat in a race by a tortoise – you can imagine how poor Brer Rabbit felt. In case you can’t, Uncle Remus describes it in the story recorded by Joel Chandler Harris as Brer Rabbit Visits de Witch:

Brer Rabbit got ter feelin’ sorter droopy. He worry an worry about how anyone can beat him, when he hisself is de fastest creetur on dis earf. He worry so much dat after a while, he feared he losin’ de use of his mind. He feared de other creeturs would take ter foolin’ him, an dat he ain’t smart enuff ter fool um back. Wurse dan dat, he feared dat de bigger creeturs soon would ketch him, an skin him, an nail his hide on de door.

“What in de name of goodness is de matter wid you?” ask Mrs. Rabbit one mawnin’ when Brer Rabbit won’t even get up outer bed.

Brer Rabbit don’t answer.

Mrs. Rabbit try ter roust him up, but he won't be rousted. He just pull de kivvers up round his ears, an lay der like he wuz dead. De chilluns, dey beg der Daddy ter play hoppum-skippum, an piggy-back, but he just say, “Shoo! … Go ‘way.” Brer Rabbit don’t want ter do nothin’. He mope.

Ever have one of those days? The first line of action was one that’s not uncommon today:

Mrs. Rabbit, she sit beside de bed. “You got de mopes,’ she say. “You got ter go ter de Rabbit-Doctor an get yourself a pill.”

Brer Rabbit don’t want ter go ter any Doctor, but he do ez Mrs. Rabbit say.

“What’s de trubble, Brer Rabbit?” ask de Rabbit-Doctor, when he see Brer Rabbit come shufflin’ ter his door. “You’re lookin’ kinder weak. Ain’t you feelin’ well?”

“I got de mopes,” say Brer Rabbit.

De Rabbit-Doctor, he take Brer Rabbit’s paw an he lissen ter de tick-a-tickin’ in his wrist. Den he make Brer Rabbit stick out his tongue, an he look way down inter his windpipe somewhers. “Hmmmmm hmmmmmmm!” he say, openin’ his eye up big. “De mopes! Dat’s exactly what it is.” Den he give Brer Rabbit a box of green pills.

Brer Rabbit grunt, an he take de box, but he ain’t de sort fer swallerin’ pills. On de way back home, he frow um ter de ducks, an he watch up grabble up every one.

Well suh, Brer Rabbit don’t get any better. He get wusser an wusser every day.

“You getting’ thin an puny!” cry Mrs. Rabbit, wipin’ a ear from her eye. “So thin an so puny, dat a teenchy little grasshopper could whack you down an carry you away!”

Well, that's the part I like - have you ever heard a better description of how depression works?

But you'll want to hear the rest of the story. Mrs. Rabbit didn’t give up. She sent him off to “ole Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money, de Witch-Rabbit, way, way off in de swamp.”

It wuz a long, long way ter de middle of de deep, black swamp where Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money lived. Dose dat wanted ter go der had ter jump some, hump some; hop some, flop some; ride some, slide some; creep some, leap some; foller some, holler some – an if dey wuren’t mighty keerful, dey didn’t get der den.
But Brer Rabbit, he got there, and poured out his woes to Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money.

“I’m losin’ de use of my mind, Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money! Der ain’t no smartness in me any more. I’m skeered de bigger creeturs goin’ ter nab me, an skin me, an nail up my hide on de door.”

The daughter of one of my friends had me read her this [very politically incorrect!] story, in its original dialect, last month. When I tried to track it down myself, I had no luck: some editions include the story or variations, but they sanitize it quite a bit and ruin the great language. Finally I had my friends scan it in and send it to me on email. (Though posting it here will probably bring some strange search-traffic to my site.)

What did the witch doctor do? Her prescription is ingenious. She sets Brer Rabbit to three tasks. First he has to fetch a squirrel down from a tree for her, then catch a snake lying in the grass, then bring back an elephant tusk. He manages all of this using his wits, of course. Which demonstrated that he had not lost his touch, after all.

“Here I am, Aunt Mammy-Bammy Big-Money!” he yell down inter de smoke. “I fetched de Elephent tusk like you told me! What do you want me ter do now next?”

Fer a minute, de Witch-Rabbit don’t answer. Den her voice come floatin’ up from way down yonder below. “I don’t want you ter do nothin’ at all. An don’t you worry no more about losin’ your smartness. If you wuz any smarter dan you is right now, you’d be de ruination of de whole wide wurld.”

Den Brer Rabbit feel mighty, might good. He drag de Elephent tusk home ter Mrs. Rabbit, an he tell her dat now, an forever more, he done got over de mopes.

Where Do You Go When You Have "De Mopes"?

I think I'll stay away from witch-doctors myself, thank you very much. I didn't post this because of the moral of the story.

No, it's just that I think we all have days when we get "de mopes." We think we're losing our minds and just want to pull the covers up over our ears, whether they are pointy, furry ears or not.

How I appreciate those who won't let us check out, those who see our problems more clearly than we do, and know what it will take to get us back on track.

Often my mopes are rooted in some false impression, some lie, about myself, someone else, or the world. I need some evidence that points in the other direction. It may be a matter of getting a sense of perspective: the 'will this still matter five years from now? Five days from now?' effect. The scriptures talk about lifting up your eyes (Psalm 121:1, Psalm 123:1, Isaiah 40:26, Isaiah 49:18, Isaiah 51:6, Isaiah 60:4).

The Isaiah 40 passage - which covers a whole range of emotion, masterfully - goes on to say:

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.


Paul Merrill said...

I came across this verse that encouraged me in the depression state: Psalm 31:23 from the Message:
"Be brave. Be strong. Don't give up. Expect God to get here soon."

Megan Noel said...

chocolate. what you want is chocolate. and i sometimes, in a rut, watch an episode of the family guy. perhaps that would not be your sitcom of choice, but anything funny that distracts you. it's not for clinic depression mind you, just for distracting from a rut. or i re-read one of my big foot books. the new one is : bigfoot: i not dead. sequel to big foot: me write book. you might find them offensive, but they are hysterically funny. even better if i can get janusz to read out loud to me.