If there is a struggle of any kind at this time that overwhelms you, ask yourself two things: what does it mean? and where is it leading me? Our minds are inclined to believe that it’s only through light and bliss that we’ll obtain freedom. But, by now we should know this is utter and complete bull****. We find the invaluable in the darkness, we obtain the diamond through clawing our way out of the dung hill. It’s the place that we often put off from approaching but it’s the only way towards realization and balance. Living a one sided life in which the primary focus is positive thinking is a denial and rupture of the human condition. The reality is life is brutal filled with battles for us to engage and conquer. Every one has a battle to overcome but you cannot overcome what you don’t know what you’re fighting. The denial of our wounds only makes them worse. It’s necessary to stare down those dark places in our lives, take a stand, and be willing to enter through the dark corridors of our being. This is how authentic character is built. Deciding to put fear aside and face reality, face our wounds, is the emancipating and heroic act of escaping the prison of stagnation. It’s marks the beginning of character. It’s the only way we come to realize how powerful we are.
Shuffling papers, meeting with clients, crisis interventions, meetings, family contacts, documentation…Getting busy, staying busy, feeling productive. And then a shadow emerges out of a corridor, a half-broken figure, contorted, confused and healing- to thank you but you can’t remember for what… a smile and then you remember you only placed your hand on his shoulder and uttered four words. The smile is reciprocated and you realize that this whole time you’ve been busy with nothing and the most productive thing you’ll ever do is tell someone “I’m here for you.”
We talk too much, often expressing what we think we desire rather than taking time to listen to ourselves… it’s no wonder we fluctuate between anxiety and depression. Our default focus tends to be on the anxiety producing concerns of what others are thinking or doing, on what should be or could be, and on what appears as the accepting consensus. All the while, the depressed soul withers from its unattended cries of purpose, identity, needs, and passions. It’s hard to explain this to the disquieted person. It seems it has become easier to increase dosages and wait in line for a prescription than to address the pressing matter of who we really are, what living is really about, and how to live according to our individual purpose. We live in a sedated society, medicated by detached practitioners who themselves, through ignorance, evade the real issues and causes of anxiety, depression, addiction, and other ailments.
The soul requires your attention. If it’s depression or anxiety we experience, before we seek to medicate, we need to ask ourselves how much time are we spending nourishing our souls. While we may spend time balancing the physical and social aspects of our lives, the soul may remain neglected signaling ‘hunger’ through the pangs of restlessness and melancholy. Often, someone who is experiencing a generalized form of anxiety or depression will discover that little time has been vested in soul-enriching activities that restore emotional and spiritual balance. So before a discussion on medications takes place, an exploration of wellness activities should be discovered. These may include:
Meditation has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety. In fact, there is research proving that meditation is just as effective as prescribed medications in managing anxiety.
Reading increases awareness and can help improve the ability to understand what is going on within you. It also helps with shifting focus away from what you are experiencing to being in tune with the plot and characters of the story.
Laughing or even the act of smiling releases pleasure creating chemicals in the brain, giving off a sense of well-being. Engaging in content or with people that make you laugh is a sure way to combat the imbalance of ‘feel good’ neutrotransmitters in the brain of those suffering with depression and/or anxiety.
Many times, our moods are worsened by overthinking or catastrophizing. A “keep it simple” approach in which we spend time devoted to the deeper part of ourselves is important as a starting point to manage our moods before reassessing and exploring further solutions.
I often emphasize the present moment as a way to get clients away from the worries of tomorrow and the misfortunes of yesterday. However, sometimes there’s too much pain in the present to tell anyone to be mindful of the “now.” Sometimes, there’s too much pain to paint anyone a pretty picture… it invalidates the experience and you render yourself useless no matter how good your intentions may be. Any variation of getting people to look on the bright side of their circumstances can broaden the gap of what stands between their surrounding darkness and hope.
A person who has lost the will to live cannot be coerced to reframe or alter the narrative of the crisis. The crisis, be it the loss of freedom, a child, an illness, or abuse, is remedied through a rigorous validation and honesty. Both the sufferer and helper must bring forth an honesty of the situation that conveys the present reality for what it is- painful and seemingly intolerable. Yet, the future must always be accounted for with just as much honesty and responsibility as the present. While the moment may prove harsh, the future provides an infinite amount of possibilities-hope reigns abundantly in the future- hope of less pain and more peace, hope of reconciling the worst acts, the healing of deep wounds, the regaining of freedom, and the refining of one’s character made possible by difficult times.
I remember as a child before going to sleep, I’d turn the lights off and dash straight for the bed. I’d strain my eyes open, desperately seeking light- that minute of waiting felt like an eternity. I’d initially feel a sense of dread staring into the nothingness of the air, nothing could be seen beyond the opaqueness of the night. In that minute I’d think, “there is nothing, I am nothing.” I was small, consumed by a great void. This terrorized me. But as the minute passed, the darkness faded. Small rays of light dispersed through the room and I’d begin to see. I could see myself. I was put together. I wasn’t so small after all. I could look at my surroundings…my hands, and smile. The wonderful realization about this process was coming to understand later that no matter how dark I had perceived my surroundings to be, the light was always there, waiting for me to grasp it. I just had to hold on and patiently trust it would show up.
On a psychological and emotional level, we lose precious souls because it becomes too dark within. A moment of despair can feel like an eternity where light never comes. We desperately look around. We become restless. We feel small. We say we’re nothing or nothing matters. But the night is only temporary, it was only a reaction to a sudden change we needed to adjust to. The light is coming. It has come. You are awake… you look at yourself. You’re not so small. As a matter of fact, you’re pretty f****** beautiful. You love yourself more, and best of all, you’ve learned to love the night.
If we reflect on our troubles, we will find the underlining theme of fear pervading throughout. Fear creates paralysis. The external obstacles we face are not necessarily the problem, the way we handle the associated fears of the challenge is the deciding factor of success. Fear is a natural response to events that we are not accustomed to. Unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate fear, but there is a way to change the way we handle it- we can learn to transcend fear into something that we can embrace and welcome.
I remember in college before the big game, we would often engage in chants and sorts of rituals to arouse a spirit of battle within us. Some of us would scream, jump, and down shove each other, and slap helmets and pads. Some would pace quietly while others sat with a deep long stare. Everyone had a ritual. I noticed this was more than a way to prepare for a fun game and obtain excitement. The preparation was a way bring the mind and body to a state of readiness to overcome apprehension, to surpass any likelihood of paralysis, and associate fear with excitement and victory. Preparation made fear an ally.
Fear is much a natural part of our lives just as any other emotion. The key is to adapt the proper mindset of its challenge and prepare effectively. A preparation that creates a response of excitement, confidence, and persistence is one that will always lead to success.