Quicksand Depression

Vincent Van Gogh (1890)
Vincent Van Gogh (1890)


“Mire”, “Quicksand”, and “Slough”, “Prison”, “Trap”  are just a few of the well known tropes used to describe the experience of depression. This literary depiction of depression is most likely derivative from the imagery in Psalm 40:2;

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”

John Bunyan, in “The Pilgrim’s Progress” depicts it this way;

‘This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground” (1)

A powerful imagination is a terrible foe to someone suffering depression.  William Cowper (author of the hymn “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” ) described one of his many bouts with depression along the same lines of Bunyan’s “Slough” :

“Conviction of sin took place, especially of that just committed; the meanness of it, as well as its atrocity, were exhibited to me in colours so inconceivably strong that I despised myself, with a contempt not to be imagined or expressed … This sense of it secured me from the repetition of a crime which I could not now reflect on without abhorrence … A sense of God’s wrath, and a deep despair of escaping it, instantly succeeded” (2)

When depression comes, the desire to fight it is quite natural. Who would want to sink into the darkness and the gloom of themselves? However, the more depression is fought, the lower the descent. Work up enough energy to change to change the circumstances, and it will just backfire.

The speaker in Lamentations 3 certainly experienced it:

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
    he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
    he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
    he has made my paths crooked.” (v. 7-9) 



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