I was on the receiving end of this glib cliche yesterday, and the first thing I felt was frustration. “Chin up? Seriously?” This person certainly meant well, but clearly had no idea of the complex and opaque intricacies of depression. If they had, they’d know that a cute idiom like “chin up” was about as good advice as telling a blind person to just look harder.
Or was it?
Ruminating on this gravely insulting edict, I eventually realized that the words may hold more wisdom than I gave them credit for. I’ve been having such wild, volatile mood swings lately. One minute feeling like I could take on the world; a few minutes later feeling totally unable to tear myself from my bed. Up, down, up, down.
The mood swings are bad, sure, and they’re not my fault. I can’t help the symptoms of my illness or the side effects of my medication. What I can help, though, is where I turn my gaze.
The times when I really get into trouble are the times when I’m down, and I keep looking down. I’m lying face-down in the mud, as it were, and my depressive trough fills my entire field of view. It’s all I see, all I feel.
But waaaay back in my mind — in the tiny logic center that has been so overpowered of late — I know that this is a mood swing. That this low will be followed by a high. And I also know that if I could only muster the wherewithal to roll over and look up, I’d see the crest of the hill, waiting for me.
When I’m feeling low, I just have to keep my chin up. I can’t keep my eyes on my shoes, feeling trapped in this valley when I know full well that there are perfectly scalable hill on either side.
So chin up! Those peaks and the stars make for much better scenery, anyway.