Monday, December 18, 2006

Can Depression Be A Blessing In Disguise?

"In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day."
by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), U.S. author. repr. In The Crack-Up, ed. Edmund Wilson (1945). Handle With Care, second part of Crack-Up series, Esquire (March 1936).

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By Adolfo Quezada

How can the agony of depression be connected to a spiritual path?

The spirit, after all, is life-giving, while depression stifles and kills. But this is precisely how depression throws us into the depths of our spirituality. In the midst of the darkness, our eyes are opened to that which really matters, and calls us to a higher plane.

* The agony of depression. In depression we feel so worthless. We are self-accusatory and self-critical, and we assume everybody else feels the same way about us. We are left in a pit of anguish, devoid of our vitality. It is a sense of woundedness that only seems to get worse. We are left with no feeling, no faith, no love. We are in spiritual poverty.

* The roots of depression.

* It may be a result of chemical imbalance, which responds well to medication.

* Depression can be our way of avoiding the memories of traumatic events - as long as we stay depressed, we don't have to allow into our lives the thoughts and feelings that accompany certain events. Therapy must include the establishment of new and healthier lines of defense as we uncover the trauma.

* It may be that depression is signaling us that we are in an unworkable situation. This may be our marriage, our work, other relationships or circumstances. Depression allows us to withdraw for a period in order to rest.

* It may be the result of unresolved grief and we have not yet completed the grieving process. It may be from the loss of a loved one, a job, a retirement, a move, or the end of a relationship.

* The message of depression. We are forced to learn humility - to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, our assets and liabilities. In the midst of our depression we discover an endurance that we have not known before. When we are depressed we are allowing the dark negative parts of our life to manifest. The experience can be excruciating, but we can move through it and come out stronger, wiser, and more alive.

* The hope of depression. Gradually, we move toward hope, toward a belief against the evidence. Then we embrace a God who is bigger than the one we knew before. It is during depression that we allow ourselves to face the failures of our past and learn new ways to live in order that we don't repeat what has been harmful to us. It is a trial of the soul.

* The salve of love. You will leave me all alone, yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me (John 16:32). Love melts depression, because it was lack of love that wounded us in the first place. Sometimes all we need in our depression is a kind word, a healing touch, a gesture of concern, a moment of patience. If it lingers, it's important that the action of love be constant. The daily phone call or post card from a friend can make all the difference in the world to us when we are depressed. Love encourages us to risk life again, venture out of our protective cocoon, and begin to explore the offer of a new world. Such love is inspired by God.

Adolfo Quezada is a certified professional counselor in Tucson, Ariz. He holds master's degrees in journalism and counseling and is the author of several books on spirituality, including Loving Yourself for God's Sake. He is married and has four children and four grandchildren.

From Heart Peace by Adolfo Quezada, copyright (c) 1999.

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Sweet Darkness
by David Whyte

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn

anything or anyone that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

-- from the House of Belonging.

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