Depression hurts too

March 5, 2015

There are times in my life where I could say I’ve been depressed. The clinical meaning of depression is: a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems (source: There is also an amount of time it must last in order to be categorized as clinical depression. I’ll admit it, even writing about depression is depressing. I automatically think of some faint image of a woman who can’t get out of bed or can’t get off the couch and do anything of meaning. The saddest thing in a sense is that people who are depressed today have so many means of simply tuning the world out. This may be a saving grace causing someone not to kill themselves but it may also be a disadvantage, some of the greatest paintings, poems, and merely thoughts can come from a depressive state. Most of all without gadgets or entertainment to be distracted by you’re forced to live with yourself and your thoughts -again a difficult task that may have horrid consequences but a task that can also lead to great insights. But let’s talk about depression itself.

There’s a thing some of us often say to ourselves whether with full meaning or thoughtlessness that deserves examination. There are times when we say things like, “I hate myself”, “I’m such a loser” “I’m such an idiot (or other insult)”, “I wish I would die”. Let’s for a moment look at one of these examples and implement what I came to realize was an immensely strange paradox, “I wish I would die”. Here’s a question I began to ask myself: who is the “I” that wishes I would die and who is the “I” that should die? I use this example because it’s the best one in that it literally uses “I” twice. Do you realize how bizarre this is? There is a splitting that is happening right before our eyes and if we pay attention we gain not only insight but also freedom.

Who is the “I” that wishes “I” should die? This “I” takes a stance whereby it declares itself worthy of death. But it is in fact not speaking to itself. There is a conversation happening between it and the other “I”. One is the persecutor and one the persecuted. It appears to be the same person; the I wants to swallow itself whole. But does that make sense? Is the persecuting “I” wishing death on itself? It would appear so. But I don’t actually think that’s what’s happening. The persecuting “I” is almost like an outsider of the self or maybe it is the self looking out either way it see’s a part of itself and mistakes it for the whole. Think of it this way, let’s say a person had a son who was killed and they want to avenge his death by killing the murderer. Let’s say the murderers’ name is Sam, so the mother says, “I want Sam to suffer and die” (sorry to be so grim). Does she want Sam to suffer and die? Or does she want the murderer of her son to suffer and die? But- you say, they are the same person! No they are not (they are, but bare with me). Does she want the father to two children to suffer and die? Does she want the loving husband to suffer and die? Does she want the caring teacher to suffer and die? No of course not -but, they are all the same person.

The same applies to the self. It is not that you want to die, if you forced yourself to pick yourself apart in to every aspect of yourself you’d realize that there are parts of you that you want to live and flourish but there are other parts of you that you do indeed wish to die. The overwhelming sadness, the inability to be productive, the loss of interest in life, you’d rather live without that but is that all there is to life? And to your life specifically? In our example of the murderer he may indeed deserve to die as a punishment for a crime he committed against another but not for who he is which is not all bad. The ability to see people as people and to see one’s self as a multitude of selves is a human battle but it is a worthy one.

Depressive people I believe and there is some evidence to back it up (see video above) see the world differently from other people. Depression for me is not just a period of time in one’s life but a slant towards the world that is a part of one’s personality (my current thoughts I could be wrong). People who remember the bad more than the good, people who recall what’s wrong more than others, people who feel more empathy and therefore more sadness for others than “normal”. For me, this is ok. There is nothing wrong with -like myself, being unable to watch the news because it hurts me to see people suffering and it feels wrong to numb the pain, it’s ok to realize the world is often a bleak place run by people without morality but with a lot of money, it’s ok to worry about the future of the world even past your life span. I think this way of being is not only ok but also useful. Yet it can be harmful when this is all you see. The full reality of the world is only known by God, we can only see what our eyes show us but when we only see sadness and that sadness wraps itself around us -instead of being an outlet for deep thought, creativity or productivity, this is when depression becomes an illness.

Much of our depression would be solved with a few things:

Having a purpose in life (God). People who don’t have a purpose in life die. 
Realizing that what you see in the world no matter how bad is a unique opportunity to give the world a much needed voice, a balance and an impetus for improving -but it is still the way you see things not the ultimate reality.

Stop being self-absorbed. My sheikh has said “people wrapped up in themselves make small parcels”, it’s also worth saying that someone with their hands over their face sees no light. Depression thrives off of our thoughts. If we live and absorb ourselves in our thoughts, they can kill us. Be willing to see someone else’s (many others) view on your life, on the world and take them as seriously as you take your own thoughts. Reflect and realize maybe you’re their insight is worth consideration, maybe things will get better -maybe you can make things better.

Go outside. In our modern times we spend a lot of time indoors. This means we spend a lot of time between four walls, under a ceiling, above a floor –in a box. The limitations this breeds in our spirit are frightening. The outside on the other hand is a vast place filled with the possibility of endlessness. There are no limitations, no four walls, no ceiling. Of course all of God’s creation has its limitations and its defects but it’s not so obvious in nature. I once went with my sister and my mom to a mountain top in New York (not sure exactly where) when we reached the top I had a small reflection about depression, “You can’t be depressed here”. Not only can you not be depressed you can’t be much of anything. I felt silenced and overjoyed. Looking down from the mountain and viewing the vast treetops I saw nothing but the perfection of God made manifest. Absolutely nothing seemed wrong. People wrapped up in themselves make small parcels, people wrapped up in mankind and manmade things are only a little better off. But freeing one’s self from the strains of modernity and connecting (and continuously reconnecting) with God you’ll forget about your sadness and you won’t even realize your forgetting you’ll just be in awe. God constantly tells us to look at his creation and reflect in the Quran; maybe escaping depression is a part of the secret. Though we can’t always go out to a mountaintop getting out of the house, walking with your own two feet and taking in the sky and the earth is also a step forward.

I realize the superficiality of this advice not because it isn’t useful but because if your depressed you can barely take this in. You can’t get out of bed and you can hardly dream of visiting some mountaintop. You just want the feeling to go away, you just want to be better. I know, I get it.

Previous Essays: The Moon | Debunking The Theory Of… | Finding God And A Spiritual Path


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