Tuesday, August 19, 2014
I admire the (temporary?) openness about depression that is being displayed in the media and online in the wake of Robin Williams’s suicide, and I want to add my two cents. My credentials are that I am a fellow sufferer, and have experienced depression (and its knife-wielding twin, anxiety) since I was an adolescent. I have been hospitalized for it, medicated for it (with both licit and illicit drugs), and I’ve had various therapies as well. Like cancer, depression kills a certain amount of its victims; like cancer, it’s an illness, not a weakness. Even so, I am ashamed to admit that I am a sufferer, which means I find it easy to internalize as well as somehow externalize – through my own silence – the attitude that depression is a failure of strength or character.
I am not an expert in the causes of depression, only an expert in the experience of it, and after four or so decades living with the illness, I know a few things about it:
There’s no cure, only remission. People who suffer from depression (not “normal unhappiness,” which was the goal of Freud’s talking cure), are never fully out of danger because it is depression’s nature to recur. Sufferers of depression have “episodes” the same way those who suffer from multiple sclerosis do. It comes, wipes the floor with you, and then somehow returns you to the world. But it comes back.
Depressives don’t make themselves sick. They don’t choose depression. They may have a cognitive leaning toward interpreting events and feelings in a certain way, but they don’t choose to get or stay depressed. The fact that it runs in families should indicate to fair-minded people that it has a genetic aspect as well. You may get your blue eyes from your father and your blue feelings from him as well. Recent research even suggests that ancestral trauma may be coded genetically, thereby passing a predisposition for mood disorders down through the generations.
Depression is a surfeit of empathy – a killing empathy – that makes depressives great friends to everyone but themselves. Having a self is a rough business and depressives can empathize with others who have to deal with it, but not with themselves. Fundamentally, people who suffer from this illness can give love, but when suffering from it, they can’t accept it. That doesn’t mean they don’t need it, only that they believe they don’t deserve it.
The only treatment is exercise and work. Many depressives become expert walkers. Solvitur ambulando – Latin for “it is solved by walking” – has profound application for depression. I think therapy would be more effective if the therapist and the patient had their sessions while walking, briskly, around a park. Work equates to purpose, something that depressives think they lack. Working gives lie to the feeling of purposelessness and combats it.
Suicidal thoughts become suicidal action when the thought of your loved ones arranged around your grave is no longer a deterrent. When a depressive who wants to die thinks of the suffering it will cause others, it’s a restraint, but it also feels like a trap. It’s the last barrier between them and eternity, which the depressed person longs for. Once the idea of others’ pain is trumped by their own, a peace descends and suicide is often inevitable. I’m not arguing for suicide, only acknowledging its draw. In a terrible way, self-murder is an act of self-love. It ends someone’s suffering.
The only thing you can do for someone who is depressed is to be around them and love them despite their illness. Living with a depressive is a bloody nightmare. They say things they don’t mean, about themselves and others. They cancel dinners. They won’t look you in the eye. They use the words “always” and “never” liberally. The symptoms of depression often seem like they’re directed at you. But it’s not personal. If you can accept this, you’ll be doing the most you can for the sufferer in your life. Be silent and useful and remember it’s not about you.
Touch helps. Get a massage. Give a massage. If you can, make love to a depressed person. Touch is primitive. Your reaction to it is in your reptile brain, but your thoughts are happening somewhere else. Touch creates some distance between the body and the self. Depressives are excellent in bed if you can convince them to take off their pyjamas.
The culprit is the mind. I think, therefore I am, said Descartes. Therein lies the problem. Some depressives conclude, as Robin Williams did this past week, that not thinking and not being is preferable to the alternative. I’m shattered that he lost his battle, but I’m also glad he’s free of his pain. If you have lost someone to depression, or another mood disorder, be aware that your lovewas enough. You couldn’t have prevented their death and there’s nothing you should have done differently. The suicide’s logic has nothing in common with yours. In the end, death makes mad, perfect sense to them.
Depression is a byproduct of consciousness, and addiction is a byproduct of depression. No one is depressed when they’re asleep, which is why being in bed is such a safe place if you’re really down. The reason so many intelligent and creative people suffer from depression is that when you take the risk of being fully conscious, you open Pandora’s box and you can’t close it again. Alcohol, drugs, and addictive behaviours are a bulwark against what’s in the box. They say people with addictions are escaping pain as if that’s a foolish or illogical reaction to pain. It isn’t. As the comedian Doug Stanhope said, “There’s no such thing as addiction, there’s only things that you enjoy doing more than life.” If you know depression, you know what he means.
To all my fellow sufferers, then, slainte. Your depression exists not because you did something wrong or because you’re a bad person, it exists because you’re you. Remember the last time you survived it and how it cleansed you, and hold on to that if you can. That is the gift of depression: When it leaves you, it leaves you flayed but vividly alive. Dante’s Inferno (an archetypal rendering of depression) ends with Virgil emerging from the seven circles of hell, reborn into life by a holy grace. The depressed person wants to live and wants to love and it is always a surprise to rediscover the pleasures of the world after despair. The final line of Dante’s poem is a talisman to be held dear by anyone who has experienced depression’s pervasive darkness: Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.
Michael Redhill is a poet, novelist and playwright. His most recent work, Saving Houdini, is a novel for young adults. This essay, at the request of The Globe and Mail, was adapted from a Facebook post.
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Last updated Friday, Aug. 15 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Journal Aug 12 2014,
Such sad news about Robin Williams! We have lost an amazing comedy genius, actor and person!
I only hope the media doesn’t go on about that it may have been a suicide, but will bring to light how many people whether rich and famous to the poor and unknown suffer from various forms of depression and mental illness so many people suffer in silent and seem to be treated or looked at differently by society!
We can talk about the various other diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke and all the other big diseases out there where they pour millions of dollars into research to pay the big pharmaceutical companies, but when it comes to depression and other mental illnesses society looks at you like you’re all fucked up in the head! So a vast majority of people don’t get the proper help they need and suffer in silent and use other methods to cope with life, like drugs and/or alcohol or any other addiction one may develop!
When I hear this kind of sad news it touches my heart! I know now with my own personal life struggles when I tried to talk about my problems growing up and how I can reflect as I like to call it through my help with Neil, group and AA, for whom I don’t know where I would be.
Mr. Williams made so many of us laugh or sometimes cry and only to be struggling with his own troubles or demons of depression, I guess he had many masks to hide behind, like so many of us have.
Rest in peace, there will be a great void without you in the human world but I’m sure you’ll make the spirit world laugh.
I know you sure as hell made me laugh a lot through some of my rough times and still will.
God bless and thank you.
A devoted fan,
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Fearfulness is An Idea
In perception, everything you experience is an idea. As you begin to explore into your life, it is important to free yourself from the ideas that burden or inhibit. There is no right way to free yourself, but in every case the first step is to be willing to look clearly at your perception ... how you think things are.
When you can honestly see the effect of a habit, substance or concept, you can begin the process of eliminating it from your life. Some have used the words "addiction, obsession or compulsion" to describe something your ego believes it must have or do, in order to survive. This is a useful concept to understand. It applies not only to the physical substances but to behaviours, things, people and beliefs.
All addictions, obsessions or compulsions are imprisoning. It must be remembered that it is not the thing itself that binds you, but your belief in IT. Your ego believes that IT is necessary for you to have so you can continue on in life’s journey and that forms the prison walls.
When you attempt to overcome an addiction or obsession or compulsion through sacrifice, by only giving up the thing while retaining the belief that IT is a necessity for you to have faith in, you are not free.
Freedom is attained when you become willing to accept that the thing itself is not necessary, and your faith in IT is released. At the same time it is wise for you to become willing to search out a thing called spiritual and get involved.
If you are willing to be free, then the Pattern you are living, working in conjunction with a Higher Power, will reveal freedom to you. IT may come in strange ways from places you would least expect it, but it will be shown to you. IT will be yours to act on and you will know what to do and how to do IT, probably even where to do IT; when to do IT is always left up to you. You may not like what is revealed but there IT will be staring back at you waiting for you to do something with IT.
An imprisoning idea is any idea that inhibits your enjoyment of the abundance of life and the expression of your creativity.
Your abundance in life or the expression of your creativity may seem different, but the effect is the same.
Experience Has Taught Me That
Sooner or Later
I will have to deal with the concept that:
“IT Is Waiting For Me To Do Something With IT.”
Saturday, August 9, 2014
For George Bullied/and TVS
There was a place where people could come to discover themselves ... that place started many on journeys they never would have imagined for themselves if it were not there ... Twin Valleys School ... but before there was that place there was a man who had a dream about creating such a place ... he just passed ... this place called earth is a richer place for him having been here and him dreaming his dream ... he encouraged all who knew him to dream our dreams too and chase them down ... make them happen ... Thank God you were here George ... and God bless you as you leave this world a better place ... Neil
Friday, August 8, 2014
Freedom and Happiness
What most people call freedom is simply their willful ability to satisfy their desires. The call of I want more freedom, is the hue and cry of the false self’s need to fill an emptiness it senses within itself and has no idea how to fill.
What I have come to understand about the statement: I want more freedom is; I want to be able to have more of what I want, when I want it, and in the fashion that I believe I want to have it in.
From both my practice and my own practices I have to argue that the process of wanting what you want as often as you want … More … is not freedom, it is in fact a kind of compulsion that keeps one hooked into the delusion that more is better, or more is best, or more defines wellness; when in fact, more is truly the defining quality of our discomfort in the first place. The vary thing that more was supposed to remove is defined by the need for more.
Circuitous and puzzling all at the same time because the very thing that we are taught is the answer to the conundrum is in fact what is driving the conundrum to continue endlessly.
A Working Definition Of Freedom can be summed up as:
Being able to have or not have what you want, without being lost in the drama of what appears to be happening in the unfolding process of having or not having.
Thus not having to react to life and life’s situations and defending yourself from the experience you are trying to have.
Freedom seems to occur when:
· When one does not have to close down their heart or their mind or close off their life to the world around them just to survive the process of being here in the first place.
· It is the ability not to have to act compulsively on the thoughts in your mind.
· Rather it is a case of allowing the thoughts to pass through the mind, as they should, without you attempting to define yourself in the drama of the thought … the one you just imagined. Drama Queen 101.
· Thus, it is for the deeper self to attune itself into the process of unfolding within the mind and at the same time not get lost in the process of the unfolding of your thoughts.
Fiddler On The Roof’s Recipe for Life:
Play the Tune “with passion”,
“Always Walk on the Edge”,
“Don’t fall off the roof.”
Now, to live life to the fullest … repeat often.
Here is the secret to this whole process, the content of your mind and the content of my mind may be different, hopefully that is true, but the process by which we sort through things … I call this unfolding … is precisely the same.
It is the tuning into this unfolding process … The Way Of Things … and not getting lost … that is the trick.
There are three places to observe life from:
First, there is substance. (The Drama of Life)
Second, there is form, that which seems to hold the content. (How it is that I frame the Drama of Life)
Third, the point of view or how I choose to want to see things. (My position relative to how it is that I see both the drama and the frame work of my life)
To solve life’s conundrum you have to be able to choose the right place to apply the pressure of change. Where is it that it will be most effective … considering that it may have to be spread out over eternity and not just the next few minutes?
Now that is something to think about.