Meditation can help in the struggle against depression
It is rare that the death of an actor affects my feelings so much. But Williams’ lifelong ability to connect to us emotionally was so touching, so real and so deeply human. And it was so commonly human that he found himself suffering from depression near the end.
It’s not my place to ever say whether or not someone should ever take their own life, as sometimes the pain of living can be hard to bear. But I do know from personal and professional experience that depression is a very treatable disorder and there are life-embracing options possible.
It doesn’t seem like it, because depression is so darn tricky to deal with. It really is a menacing Trickster and it tries to fool us into a dark and gloomy lullaby. We have to wake ourselves up from its dreary dream.
As for me, I fell into a deep depression about 10 years ago after a divorce. I was mad at myself. I was critical of my life, and I had not come to terms with myself. I blamed myself for everything. I had a hard time seeing a hopeful future.
I felt sad and lonely, even though I had people in my life. Going to bed at night was the worst, and I lay there with only my own analytical mind for company — Le Trickster.
Ah, that darn siren of depression. It tells us to do the opposite of what will cure us — yet another irony in life.
What opened the door to my salvation was remembering. I remembered that I had not always been depressed, that there was a time of clarity and love and light. I just needed to find my way home. I had to believe.
And then I got angry. I got downright mad at my Trickster. I swore at it, and I swore at it, and I swore at it some more. Look where it had taken me!
I made my declaration: I will not listen to you Tiny Trickster. I will do the things I need to do. I will, as they say, fake it until I make it.
This I committed to, acting as if I was not depressed, while taking a hot bath. I began with a lions roar in my stomach, powerful and low. Louder I got. The Trickster was mad, but tinier he got.
“No, you must wear this sleep mask of gloom and doom,” he said. No, I refused. I wanted to snap out of it.
This was not easy. It took months of believing and having faith that I could clear my mind and chase the Trickster from my mind. I had to pull myself up by my bootstraps. But how?
I learned meditation. This simple lesson, one that most people will not want to learn, became my salvation. Our minds tell us meditation is boring or impossible or “no way.”
Well, for me, it was not boring or impossible. For me it was the way.
Our emotions follow from our thoughts. Our thoughts stem from our beliefs. We have to change our beliefs, our minds, our thoughts to change how we feel.
Zen masters know this intrinsically. They have been trying to teach us to meditate for centuries and centuries. But who wants to listen to a Zen master? I’m not climbing a mountain!
Well, if we don’t care to suffer, we do have to learn this lesson: We have to submit to a humility that our own tricky mind will not allow. Our mind is so darn busy solving our depression problem, having no time to meditate, while ironically not noticing it is the problem causing the depression in the first place. We just have to take a step into faith and learn to meditate.
No, meditation is not the answer for everyone, and there are other organic causes of depression for which medical treatment is sometimes necessary. I don’t discount that at all.
But meditation is part of a holistic healthy lifestyle that might also include diet, exercise, finding passion in life, sleeping well, spending time in nature, finding a spiritual path or path of higher consciousness, serving humanity, setting healthy boundaries to toxic people, nurturing plants and animals, and seeking professional help.
Meditation is a way to fine-tune our attention to ourselves and our world; it is self care, an act of love. It is a way for us to gain control of our mind instead of letting it control us.
At the same time, we can decide to be okay with our mind as it is right now while still learning to heal it. We open ourselves up to peace this very instant. After all, we don’t want to invite the Trickster back in and let it lull us back to sleep by engaging in self-criticism.
There is much more to depression, of course. But there is hope. Remember that: There is hope.
Depression is treatable. If you are struggling with depression, find help. Get treatment. Find hope.
Renee Baker is a licensed professional counselor intern and can be reached at Renee-Baker.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 15, 2014.