What if I told you depression is not a chemical condition, it’s a spiritual one?
These sentiments, I’ve felt for some time, were shared by Marianne Williamson in last night’s talk, Tears to Triumph at the Marble Collegiate Church here in NYC. With a whole heck of a lot more street cred, I was thrilled to hear her say many of the things I’ve been thinking and sharing with only a small few for some time.
It took me years to own my psychic pain. Although I’ve never taken anti-depressants, I self medicated from the time I could get my hands on drugs and alcohol, nearly fifteen years worth.
It wasn’t until everything fell apart so poignantly, and yet perfectly, nine years ago now that I came to understand this was not something I could run from anymore.
As a western culture, we tend to try to escape from all forms of suffering, and yet, as Williamson reminded us last night, every single spiritual tradition has its roots in suffering. Buddha only reached enlightenment after recognizing and experiencing deep suffering. Jesus was resurrected only after suffering on the cross. Moses was blessed with the power to perform miracles only after facing extreme fear/doubt and suffering.
Regardless whether you’re a religious person or not, these spiritual texts/traditions, metaphors, have not only stood the test of time, they are deeply rooted in thousands of years of human experience.
Williamson joked, “Suffering ain’t new, people!”
Unfortunately, it’s more common to trust Big Pharma and its powerful marketing campaigns than it is to trust our own intuition, or spiritual practice.
She said: “Depression is a chemical imbalance? Who do you know that had their brain chemistry tested before their diagnosis? Also, clinical depression? What’s that? A diagnosis inside a clinic?”
It goes beyond saying that meditation alters your brain chemistry, as does sugar (and all foods that metabolize as sugar), sleep, stress, what kind of imbalance are we talking here?
There is a normal spectrum of human suffering that we tend not to acknowledge, from heartache to deep loss. Not to mention, the current state of the world. Williamson quipped, “If you’re NOT anxious, something’s wrong!”
I think it’s pretty obvious, given the span of only the last few weeks of current events, “humanity is not in it’s right mind,” as Gandhi put it.
“There is nothing holy about complacency,” she said, a state I often find myself in when I feel helpless.
We can all do our part, right down to cultivating our own happiness. “Depression is NOT the absence of happiness.” Happiness, instead, is a daily practice that requires deep work, as I can attest, going THROUGH the pain, not numbing it.
“You wouldn’t heal a broken bone with anesthesia. It must be reset. It must take time to heal,” she said.
And as for grief, Williamson reminded us that back in the day, a year was closer to the standard for a love lost. Now we think, “this has gone on too long.”
I agree with Williamson, the more we desensitize to our own suffering, as I did for many years, the more we desensitize to the suffering of others.
And yet there is a “malignant consciousness” around us, therefore we must “proactively be at the revolution of love, or unconsciously be at the revolution of fear.”
You can choose, as a Course in Miracles states, “a grievance or a miracle, you cannot have both.”
Overcoming my own dark night of the soul, I got still in my pain, in my suffering, in my deep desire to heal. I finally was brave enough to ask for a miracle.
In so doing, I had only bearable days and awful days, and, admittedly, happy days too. I rode the roller coaster, the highs and lows that are depression. And yet I had a deep knowing the lessons were coming. I tuned into the quiet inner voice that guided me to move slowly and purposefully and to take as much time as I needed.
In all transparency, it took me about a year and a half, a story I recounted in my book, I Think I’ll Make It. It took me taking ownership of my shit, “a fearless moral inventory” as Williamson puts it. I could no longer lie to myself, no longer accept the litany of excuses; I wanted more. I knew I deserved more, and not only that, that I had a job to do here! Over time, that became more clear.
“Call it enlightenment, or nirvana, or resurrection, or promise land, or peace in your heart, or happiness,” she reminds us we’re all after the same thing.
Now, it is my daily practice to cultivate happiness, which means I must be centered in my own intentions, otherwise I fall victim to my, often negative (online and off), surroundings.
Williamson left us with: “Fear will set in if you don’t live in love; neuroses will set in if you don’t live in faith.”
My favorite prayer/meditation: “Use me, God. However you see fit. I trust that you’ll give me the tools, the words, the relationships which will allow me to reach my potential and stand tall in your light. And so it is.”
I leave you with this: Instead of accepting a diagnosis, I hope you question it, question it along with all the thoughts, fears, doubts, and pain that accompanies it. Ask instead, what am I to learn here? What can I take from this? How can I serve?