Mental illness is transformation. It is a call to revisit everything ever thought, felt, believed, experienced and sensed. You can follow that call, consider it a twisted, painful yet rewarding process of unfolding into a new you.
Mania is inspiring. Psychosis is wild, frightening at times but at least somewhat interesting.
Depression on the other hand sucks right? Hanging around in a dark room eating fried foods and chocolate while watching every DVD in your possession for 3 months. How can that possible be an instrument of personal, let alone spiritual development.
As I said in Part I, I had about 20 depressive episodes, so I have lots of data. And I really looked at this annoying, insufferable, agonizing and deadly mind-fucking, emotion-drenching, body-wretching depression over and over again until I figured out why I did it.
Depression has been a relentless but retrospectively fabulous teacher to me.
Generally speaking, the two most important questions you have to ask yourselves with respect to any type of mental condition are
- What is its function? Mental, emotional, physical, social, job-related etc. My depression always “saved” me from situations that were unbearable to me, though I did never realize this consciously. So each of my episodes served as a course correction (I reverted to the old course soon enough). Think about that.
- Why am I manifesting these symptoms? Yes, you are doing it to yourself! It’s the hardest thing to realize but think about what that means. Your state of victimhood ends. No more serotonine and dopamine responsible. You! Great benefit of the thought: that means YOU can change it.
Even if the biochemical hypothesis (the evidence to promote it to the status of a theory is too scarce) is correct. The imbalance started somehow, so logically it can be ended somehow.
Enter depression again. How could that experience possibly have been inspiring? Believe it our not, you learn a lot. You face all the negativity within you. Your negative emotions: shame, guilt, fear, rage are front and center. Your negative thoughts: I am worthless, I am small, I am powerless, I deserve to die, I have disappointed everyone, I am a failure, no one loves me. Your body aches to. Hot and cold. Tingling sensations. Pain. Stomach aches. headaches. Every system: mental, emotional, physical serves it’s worst for days and weeks and months. Your ability to function diminishes, sometimes down to complete stupor. Pain might give over to a deep feeling of hollowness and emptiness. The world becomes grey, dull, harder and harder to grasp. Loveless. Hopeless. And worst of all, all memory of good times fade, become inaccessible so that depression as an experience seems to have lasted forever and will last forever. Hell on earth. Sheer despair. No energy.
Don’t run away from this. Turn into this. Seek the eye of the storm. Examine your feelings, your thoughts. Why are they there? Why do you have this particular thought pattern? Is it depression talking or a deeply-buried belief you have held – subconsciously – your entire life. Depression is a dynamic process, not a fixed state. Embrace the dynamics of it. Ride the wave of your emotions and thoughts instead of trying to stem the tide. Go deep into your pain. Breathe your despair. Explore every thought, how forbidden it might be, dive into every emotion. Look for somebody to help you through this.
Over the years, I learned to strip away negative emotions and thought patterns from the core sensation of emptiness. In doing that I realized that this emptiness wasn’t all that bad, wasn’t out to threaten me but was actually a place within me that provided a stillpoint. Experiencing this stillness was profound. Much stronger than anything I found during meditation (until 3 weeks ago).
Having written that: depression ain’t hell. It’s purgatory.
What you burn away from you and what you take to the other side is your choice.
Make it a deliberate one.