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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Depression: A Reality of Samsara.

The last few days have been hard ones. I have chronic depression as some of you know from the bipolar end of my Schizoaffective disorder. When we are depressed and feeling defeated; it's all we can think about. In a sense, it's a denial that things are impermanent, and thus a denial that things will get better at some point. Thus, the depression becomes a downward spiral of self-fulling prophecy.

We aren't bad or to blame for this denial because we wouldn't do it if we honestly didn't believe the delusions the mind is projecting. This is especially true for those who experience biological, chemically induced depression. If the brain is missing a certain volume of chemical then it's bound to run low on batteries at some point. If your car breaks down despite doing your best to keep up with the maintenance; do you blame yourself for it? Of course not, you know that cars break down from time to time--it's the nature of life. Things break down, and at some point no longer work.

So, why can't we feel that way about depression? Well, I think because the habit-mind clings so tightly to this idea that it is permanent and special. So, when something comes along like depression that upsets that sense of comfort, and makes it feel endangered it wallows in misery that it isn't being "pleased." It doesn't feel special anymore and like a two-year old, it's pouting. It wants someone to blame for it's misfortune, and, so it turns on the personality-mind within itself that represents you to the world. The personality-mind is the outward expression of who you are--the collective karma that emanates as "you." It's a projection of our mind like a hologram that is quite sophisticated, and often is mistaken as a separate entity. However, I digress.

The mind gets stuck in a loop of blame because it can't accept the reality that things change. So, if you're going to be thinking anyway; why not contemplate on the depression itself rather than on the effects of the depression. This means first accepting that depression is simply a fact of human existence. It will never be different for the human form because it is at its core, flawed. This isn't our fault but rather just how things evolved. When we accept this truth then we can ease up on ourselves. So, when seen in that light, depression emerges from the behind the dark, menacing clouds of self-hatred and into the illuminating sunshine of awareness that such is the condition of being human.

This is contemplating on depression itself, as a concept that touches everyone. So, this helps me become better aware that we're not being singled out; as depression can often convince us into believing. It helps us step-back from it and see that the depression is a temporary storm but certainly not something that can't be survived. However, when we contemplate upon the of the effects of the depression, and, thus personalize it by thinking we're worthless and useless then we will never feel happy. In addition, the depression will go deeper and last longer--It's assured.

We need to embrace our depression to understand it because withing understanding it we won't be aware of where to make adjustments. It's easy to want to push it away and try to ignore it but that just makes the problems bigger. When a child is sad, do you turn them away or ignore them? Or course not--you cradle them, hold them and ask them to tell you all about it. The same is true of ourselves. We must be compassionate toward ourselves or else how can we be compassionate toward others? Seeing how all is interconnected you can't really have one without the other.

Contemplating upon depression as a symptom of life helps us dislodge that corrosive emotion that tells us we're not good enough. How can we ever be, "good enough" if we think that we suck and everyone else is perfect? Does that make sense? Of course not. So, when we contemplate upon depression itself we realize that rather than being the only person in the world who can't figure life out, we're just like everyone else!! And, just knowing that you're not alone, and that you're experiencing a natural, normal and very common emotion of the human condition helps you survive the dark hours of depression.

However, it's not always that easy to just flip the switch, and some days we just have to lick our wounds and do our best to be kind to ourselves until the storm passes. I know how hard it is to struggle with depression but it's ten times harder when you think you deserve to feel depressed. Or, that you deserve to live a life of unhappiness. We are all destined for liberation regardless of what obstacle is the biggest in on our path. Please, if you are struggling with depression and mental illness know that there are people out there who care and want to help. As for me, my light is always on and my door always open at:

~Peace to all beings~

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Mooseus said...

Great stuff, been also in a self defeatist state recently. Im attempting to become a professional dancer and so I'm always comparing myself to others, with me being far more worthless and useless. It's refreshing and heartening to hear that it's not just me who does this.


Terrie said...

Awesome article, James! Thanks for sharing. Only through sharing our own experiences with mental illness will we be able to help others afflicted with the same disease. You are wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I have been reading every post you write for a long time. Thank you for your wisdom and your searching. The more I learn about you the more I understand where you get your wisdom from.

I find great comfort and insight from your words.

Peace and gratitude.

Ted S.

Paul Garrigan said...

You make many great points in this post. I suffered with depression in the past, but luckily for me this was related to an alcohol addiction which is now over. I can still feel like a victim to my mind though on occasion - but as you say sometimes ' we just have to lick our wounds'. I once thought that following a spiritual path and ending addiction would mean I'd be free of most suffering, but what has really happened is that I just handle it a lot better now. Great post and thanks, I’m sure it will give comfort to people who are in a similar position.

Lawrence Grecco said...

Thank you for your honesty and openness around such a personal and difficult issue like depression. All of us have to go there once in a while and it sounds like you have to do more of that than most. May those difficult times be fewer and further between in your life.


Samuel said...

Salaam, friend.

kevin said...

My heart goes out to you. Depression is a difficult demon to shake.

You've definitely got the right attitude towards dealing with it, but I'm sure you know that just having the attitude isn't enough.

While I don't know the specifics of your situation, structured exercise really helps. I turned to Aikido and it helped with more than just the physical activity.

A great book that offers practical advice that I found helpful is Zen Heart by Ezra Bayda. I can't say enough good things about this book.

Effort matters and makes a difference, so keep it up! You may be so deep in the hole to notice, but everyday it gets better.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday morning while cleaning a clients house, we talked of depression and the thoughts of suicide that follow strong feelings of depression. She said her medications help her a lot, and that she she quit taking them cold turkey and that was a big mistake, she headed right for a bout with intense depression and suicidal thoughts. She is back on her medications and feeling much better now.
Two years ago depression hit me all of a sudden. Out of of the blue it came on like a train wreck, and i began to have thoughts of committing suicide. I talked with friends and they suggested i see a doctor, so i did. For two years now i have been taking an anti-depressant and feel much better.
Thank you for sharing your experience with depression. After all we are just human not machines, and in the times we are living you would have to be a bit crazy to NOT be depressed. :)
All my best!

David "Shinzen" Nelson said...

Good post James. It is important to embrace all states of mind and mood. I tend to view them as scabs. Scabs, even though itchy, ugly and uncomfortable, are actually healing the deeper wound.

Depression, anxiety, etc, are also scabs healing a deeper wound. It is best not to pick the scab lest you infect the wound...and healing takes longer.

Best to let the scab itch and be ugly. It will fall off and the wound is healed. Same with the scab of depression. It is the healing. Allow it to do its work. (Sorry for the long comment)

L.B. said...

Is the mind so desperate to exist that it would do such harm to itself?
As usual, James, you provide a deeply insightful window on the darkness and the light of your life.
Peace upon your path.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your uplifting words. Im in a rough spot right now and this really puts my feelings into words and by doing so makes me be able to understand and cope with the feelings that emerge. Truely inspring blog and I admire your openess.

Best Regards Sweden

Ambud said...

Hey James, it's been a while. I'm always impressed by your humility and sharing.
Keep your chin up!

Btw, I had to relaunch as
I hope you will visit in the future, I intend to post some good stuff
Thanks again James for a great blog!

Jay said...

Great post. Back when I was in high school I started having stronger symptoms of depression (disthymia) that I now know I've always had. Since high school, having been on anti-depressants (and also making a greater effort to avoid negative thinking/thoughts) for a while, my depression has become less of a problem, though I still occasionally deal with it being more pronounced every once in a while. And I credit spirituality as having been a great help with it (I've sort of been exploring spirituality over the years, and have Buddhist leanings).

They call him James Ure said...

@Mooseus...You are never alone. A lot of us are out here but it so often seems like no one else understands. It's hard to battle it when we feel so alone.

I wish you well in your dancing. I would think that the Buddhist teaching of being in the present moment would be great training for dancing focus.

It would have greatly helped me I think when I was a theatre major in college. I hope your self-defeatism is abating, but please always know that I'm only an email away. I will listen and not judge in any way.

@Terrie...Thanks!! Yes, I agree about sharing. I'm not one to hide my feelings and I find it empowering to share what's going on inside. And, I want to be of help to others and let them know that they are not alone in this struggle. We are strongest in numbers!! :)

@Ted...Aww, you're too kind. Thank-you for being such a loyal reader. If I have any wisdom it is by the grace of karma; but mostly from great teachers who compassionately shared their words of wisdom. I have still much to learn and grow from but I look forward to it.

Bowing to the Buddha within you...

@Paul...You found a great key in understanding the suffering doesn't go away but we learn how to live with it. You're welcome for the post--thank-you for sharing your wisdom. It's comments like yours (and from other people too) that add so much to the blog.

@Lawrence...Thank-you for your understanding and kindness. It is so helpful to hear such positive reinforcement. I am doing somewhat better, thank-you. :)


They call him James Ure said...

@Kevin...It is a lifelong journey. Especially biological depression but we all have our heavy karmic rocks to haul around in our backpacks. I am so amazed and humbled by the kindness of my readers. You guys and gals are the best!! Thank-you for the understanding and compassion. It is exactly what was needed.

I'm not a martial arts kind of guy but I do find hiking to be a great way to physically release heavy emotion. The problem is finding the motivation to strap on the boots. The medications I take zap me of energy. Still, I do what I can.

@Anonymous...Yeah, depression is about of being human. Still, it takes courage to talk about it like you and I do. But the more I think we discuss psychological issues the greater society will understand. Thank-you for being able to relate to what I'm going through. I hope you are still doing well.

@David...Great, great comment. I love the scab analogy. Well, stated. You should make a post out it as being advice for understanding depression and harmful emotions.

@L.B....Thank-you friend. I do think the ego is that desperate for survival. Otherwise, (I think but I'm not an expert) it wouldn't be so difficult to over-come

Kyoun said...

A great post. I struggled with depression myself and managed to completely eradicate it through just sitting daily.

Depression and Anxiety said...

Great information there, I have always wondered the right way to go about this, thanks for sharing.

Ana Moraitis said...

Hi, ive got schitzoaffective disorder too... Im on paliperidone and mitrazapine. And I wonder if ile ever be able to laugh and joke on a consistent level, i do joke and have fun, but alot of the time i feel as if im trapped in my mind and body and cant express myself properly, and feel frustrated, is there anything you can advise for me about that, im thinking maybe meditation, and more exercise... Thanks, peace

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