On conquering depression, or any other flaw which troubles the soul
My sister at Mishtown has been expanding into my philosophical turf for some time now, and with this quote by Andrew Solomon (whoever that is) has truly upstaged me:
“People around depressives expect them to get themselves together: our society has little room in it for moping. Spouses, parents, children, and friends are all subject to being brought down themselves, and they do not want to be close to measureless pain. No one can do anything but beg for help (if he can do even that) at the lowest depths of a major depression, but once the help is provided, it must also be accepted. We would all like Prozac to do it for us, but in my experience, Prozac doesn’t do it unless we help it along. Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don’t believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason. These fortune-cookie admonitions sound pat, but the surest way out of depression is to dislike it and not to let yourself grow accustomed to it. Block out the terrible thoughts that invade your mind.”
As one who has trodden through the bleak, black wasteland of depression, so much of this quote rings true for me! Conquering depression is an act of faith like no other. It requires one to assess their current state and ability to feel and think, which are most likely horrifically impaired, and then, in courageous defiance to say “I don’t care. I am going to choose to believe otherwise, and I am going to move forward, and in the end, I am going to win.” Is such courage easy or inexpensive? No, it requires one to step into the dark of uncertainty and away from what is already known and which may even be comfortable, in spite of the unhappiness it brings. Yes, I am suggesting that things which make us unhappy may, paradoxically, also be or become more familiar and comfortable to us than the prospect of fighting against them. Solomon seems to imply this when he says “the surest way out of depression is to dislike it and not let yourself grow accustomed to it.” Although mental illness is just one of a host of conditions which may ail the human soul, I do not think it is too much of a stretch to say that this principle can be applied to most if not all other things about our characters or circumstances about which we feel inadequacy, dissatisfaction, or unhappiness.
Life is about faith, and faith, I think, is about having the courage to believe on the words of others who have gone before and had authentic experiences with the divine or the formerly unknown, and then individually having the courage and resolve to do likewise, even when a thousand voices cry out that doubt is so much more reliable and safe. In time, we will find that the effort, quite possibly even herculean, to believe, to do, and to persevere pays off in ways which previously were unimaginable.
Mercifully, there is never a point at which it is too late to choose this path!