Friday, June 25, 2010
I'm struggling lately in my Dharma practice. I haven't meditated in months--not because I don't want to because I do, but I just can't get myself to do it. A large part of it is my mental illness that makes finding motivation extra challenging. Especially when the heavy medicating drugs I have to take to prevent mania and psychotic episodes zap me further of the will to do much of anything. It's difficult to fully convey how difficult it is to over-come.
Furthermore, I deal with a constant level of depression just beneath the surface of even my best days where I feel fairly decent. And please don't say, "Everyone gets depressed" because deep, clinical depression isn't like just having a bad day. Irregardless of that it's just an insensitive thing to say to someone who is living with clinical depression. It's chronic and biologically based on chemical imbalances in the brain.
And it's not as easy as just taking a pill because I already do, and still there is this underlying level of feeling like life isn't worth it. People think just because there are medications that they are cures--they help take the corners off the sharpest symptoms but they don't "cure" you in the sense that they don't bring you to the level of those who don't live with a severe mental illness.
Ironically, I was attracted in part to Buddhism because of it's psychological benefits, and I still believe it has immense help for those dealing with mental illness. However, Buddhism is difficult for anyone let alone for people with mental health challenges (unless you're enlightened, and how many can honestly claim that?). And it seems that the more I think I know about Buddhism the less I actually do. Everyone loves that "honeymoon phase" when you first taste the Dharma and it literally changes the way you see the world for the better but then the nitty-gritty, hard work begins and at times you stop and ask yourself, "Is this really worth it?"
It is. Buddhism can be a real bitch, and sometimes I wish I could just adhere to a religion where blind faith was about all I needed to do. However, I have felt those fleeting moments of enlightenment too profoundly to abandon the Dharma. I'm just discouraged about how poor my practice is right now, and has been for some time. An aspect of this discouragement stems from a lot of anger that I struggle with on a daily basis, which is, in part, again, rooted in the schizoaffective disorder.
I have Attention Deficit Disorder (or, A.D.D.) in conjunction with the affective side of things (affective simply means mood disorder, or bipolar. So, schizoaffective disorder is a combination of some schizophrenic symptoms and some bipolar symptoms). A.D.D. is a condition, which (in part) prevents the brain from being able to screen out stimuli that most people can relegate to the background.
So, while I am also hearing and listening to you talking to me, I can also hear at the same time: birds chirping outside, the kids screaming in their yard as they play, the traffic noise, the humming of the refrigerator and other appliances, the lawn mower going in the distance, etc. and I can't screen it out to focus simply on the conversation. All of this noise at once raises the stress in my mind and makes me impatient with the inability to focus on just one sound, which often makes me angry. In addition, I am hyper-aware of what is going on in the world and I get so angry because I just see humanity (and especially here in America) doing everything it can to destroy itself, its environment, its economy, its political system of democracy, its compassion for those who need assistance, its decency toward others in public places, its health care system, its acceptance of minorities and those of different sexual orientation, and on and on.
It makes me wonder what's the point of doing anything?!! Why participate in society and voting when it doesn't seem to make a difference or matter. What is the difference between letting karma do it's thing and predestination because some Buddhists seem to just shrug their shoulders in the face of struggles as if to say, "Eh, it's just karma doing its thing--what's the point?" And, yes, I know that suffering is inevitable and everywhere. I know that the world is not the place to look for stability. However, it seems that in response, many Buddhists take the default position to disconnect from society and disregard politics.
Yet, I struggle with this solution because it seems rather fatalistic, nihilistic and a form of avoidance. It seems to me that we owe it to ourselves to try and do our best to make it a better world--even if it can never be perfect. Aren't we making things worse if we just disconnect from society? Don't we have a duty to try our best to help build a better society? What if everyone just disregarded politics and civic responsibilities? Isn't it a bit selfish in a way? If no one tried to maintain some sort level of a stable world then it seems to me that some dictator would just take advantage of that and wipe out whole sections of the globe. Isn't that basically just letting suffering multiply? It's one thing to realize that suffering on some level is inevitable. However, to just disconnect seems to ironically cause more suffering from less and less good-hearted people participating to crafting how a country's general society behaves.
I'm certainly not giving up on Buddhism by any stretch but I'm discouraged today and it has been building. I guess my discouragement is with a lot of things but my Buddhist practice has me a bit frustrated, dispirited and depressed. I know it's not Buddhism that is the problem, and I know that I have a lot of work to do but please don't just post simplistic comments saying things like, "All you have to do is 'A' or 'B.'" Or, "You're problem is 'X.'"Everyone is full of advise but it's all easier said than done.
I'm not necessarily looking for answers, or advice--just some sympathy and assurance that I'm not the only one with these discouragements. I mean, intuitively I know that I'm not the only one but the things I hear sometimes from my fellow Buddhists makes me feel like I missed out on some meeting where everyone gained enlightenment. I'm not any kind of expert and I've got plenty of rust around the edges but I am always skeptical of people who seem to think they have it all figured out and that they're going to set everyone straight on how to be like them.