"Hope is very often a refusal to know what is so,
and steadfastly it is a refusal to live as if the present moment
is good enough and all we really have."
~ Stephen Jenkinson
It's been a rough week. Sadness, lack of motivation, and the desire to retreat from the world have all been bubbling up to the surface. These down swings put me back in touch with the struggles of deep depression, and they inspire me to write to those who still find themselves stuck in the depths.
So you've been going through the hell of depression - I’m so sorry.
I don't know if anyone can really offer guidance or insight to an experience so difficult, so personal... but I do offer solidarity. It fucking sucks - no way around that. I don't know if I can tell you how to 'find the light' or even to trust that it's there - I know I went through points of not believing it would get better, and not really even caring if it did.
I will tell you that I don't actually think I did much of anything to climb out of depression. It's a tricky situation as a practitioner - it was like I had all of these tools, all of these things I could be using to "make myself feel better", but I wasn't able to, or I just didn't - and there's a huge amount of guilt associated with that. For me there was lots of feeling like a fraud - "who am I to try to help people when I can't even help myself?"
The support of friends, family, other practitioners was necessary to get me through... but I also realize that I went through a period of looking to everyone else to fix me, to give me the magical formula that would make things better - and the truth of the matter is that no one can do this for us.
I might have needed to hit rock bottom - to completely give up trying to "fix" myself, trying to be who I thought I needed to be. I had to watch netflix for 12 hours a day and hardly get out of bed for months on end. I had to reach the point where I was thoroughly disgusted with and hated myself...and then see that my partner and family and close friends still thought I was worthy of love. And finally, I had to try to accept myself in that pathetic, awful, and completely unlovable state.
I don't necessarily recommend this approach. It is time-consuming and very hard on the bank account. But I was lucky to have a family and partner that allowed me to just move through all this as slow and stubbornly as I seem to have needed to.
And then one day, it just shifted. I had been taking a Chinese Herbal formula for about a month, and the days were getting longer, and suddenly I didn't hate everything all the time. No real struggle, no gradual improvement, just a mysterious sudden shift and I felt like myself once again.
There's been lots of ups and downs since then - I feel great for a few weeks and push myself too much in the work and socializing departments, and then crash out for a day or more where I can't see anyone or leave the house. Self-care has become more important than ever. As has accepting my very real, very annoying limitations.
I regret that I can't actually guide anyone through this. The only advice I can even think to give is to say - fuck finding the light. Don't even worry about looking for it. Abandon hope! (That's a Pema Chodron line - she's a wonderful read during hopeless times, see below).
Abandon hope and attempt to get really really quiet. Get comfortable there, in the very depths of your discomfort. Listen long and hard... and try to connect to the tiny whispers that come from deep within. Try to hear something that arises from within you, that feels true and real, and then cling to that truth with all your desperate strength. I'll be waiting right here, sending mad love.
“As long as we’re addicted to hope, we feel that we can tone our experience down or liven it up or change it somehow, and we continue to suffer a lot. In a nontheistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put “Abandon Hope” on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations like “Everyday in everyway, I’m getting better and better.” We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation.” ~ Pema Chodron