Dealing with depression and despair…

Being kind isn’t all that hard. Being jolly and upbeat all the time is – and is a denial of our emotions and bodily responses to certain situations.

I woke up yesterday in a bad mood – which has spilled over into today. The reasons for it are numerous: tiredness, frustration, a lack of compassion in the world amongst others. The Zen thing to do would be to be present in the moment, for in this moment there is all that we need. There is nothing but this moment. Feelings of despair arise when we separate ourselves from the moment, and think about the past or the future, dwelling on certain aspects and perhaps not seeing the bigger picture (or perhaps even seeing the bigger picture, which can cause us to despair even more).

Yes – I am quite comfortable in this present moment as I write this. I am not being shot at. I am not in fear for my life. My loved ones are safe. I have a cup of tea, and enough food to eat. My body is clean, my clothes warm. Compared to many, what on earth am I doing feeling despondent?

Humanity’s blessing, and curse, is the ability to see the bigger picture. This can lead to glorious ideas about the direction we should take; it can also lead to despair when we take into consideration the negative aspects of our lives on this planet. Focusing on just the positive isn’t balanced – neither is focusing on the negative. As a Druid, I am constantly seeking balance and harmony, to find my place in the world and to serve this world in the best capacity that I can, being true to my nature and honourable in my deeds.

I sometimes fail at this. I sometimes succeed. In this, there is balance. Of course, I aim to look at things from a balanced perspective, but on the whole we are conditioned throughout our lives to try and look at things positively. However, when looking at things negatively, we need to remember that negative does not equal apathy. If there is something we do not like, we can seek a way to change it. It’s in our hands.

This is not denying the negative. It is living a life with intention. Creating peace is damned hard work. It requires a person to see all sides of a story and work with the ideals of compassion and empathy. If we only acknowledged the positive things in our lives, our compassion and empathy would be seriously diminished.

I sometimes find myself thinking that Buddhist monks have got it pretty easy, secluded away in their monasteries, not engaging with the real world. Some do. However, I remind myself that other monks have engaged with the world in ways that I probably will never be able to – think Thich Nhat Hanh helping to rebuild villages during the Vietnam War, not taking sides with anyone and simply helping people as best he could. I’m sure at some points he too despaired, seeing children dying, homes destroyed and his country torn apart. My despair pales in comparison to this.

This is not to say that I should not acknowledge my own despair, however. If I did, if I pushed it to one side to focus on the positive, I’m sure that it would return to bite me on the ass at the most inopportune moment. We don’t have to give in to feelings of despair, but neither should we push them aside. We normally don’t push feelings of joy aside – we like to experience these. All feelings should be felt – and then we can move on.

So, tired after dance rehearsals and depressed by the amount of litter that I see along the roadsides that I will have to clear (again), apprehensive about coming engagements and a workload that was supposed to be lighter this year being heavier than ever, I am feeling my despair, my depression. I am allowing it to move through me, so that I can come out the other side having had the experience, which will hopefully transform into some sort of wisdom.

This despair will be self-contained – I will not be taking it out on others. I will try not to snap at people even though my emotions and reactions feel more “on edge” than normal. You can despair at the world and still be kind. You can reach out a hand to friends or family if you need to. You can write about it in a blog.

Above all, you are allowed to feel it, in your bones and in your soul.

14 thoughts on “Dealing with depression and despair…

  1. Comparisons, looking at things in a relative way is usually of no help to ourselves. Having said that it can help us not to become victims – why should this happen to me – I don’t deserve this – no one can feel as bad as I do etc. etc. So whilst knowing our place in the scale of suffering and deprivation our own despair is important to us. We can look at – examine it and learn from it.x

    • Indeed. When my aunt was dying of cancer, my Mom said “Why you?” and she simply replied “Why not me?” It doesn’t make our suffering less, but it does give us a better sense perspective and less victimhood, providing an experience for all invovled that may lead to better understanding… x

  2. You are correct here, it is one thing to experience our despair and depression and disillusionment and quite another to wallow in it. It is very hard sometimes to open the channel/s to let it flow through. There are times that if I do not then the Awen cannot flow in as our buffers/holding tanks/pathways are all flooded and clogged with gunge. Of course sometimes it is the movement of the Awen leading to doing something creative that is the trigger for release for me. There are times when it takes a while for the feelings and emotions to subside and to be able to release them, but not holding them is key — sooner or later.

  3. For me, exhaustion is a reliable depression trigger – I gather that’s not unusual, so making more time to rest your mind and body may help with this. It is tempting to try and blot despair out, but I find if I can sit with it and really find out where it’s coming from, I can get some sense of what to do. It can be an incredible spur to action, so long as you don’t get stuck in it. I think we need more people to open up to the grief and despair that should come from what we humans are doing in the world – it’s a painful process, but as you say, we can reach out hands to each other, and help each other stand up and make change. Where we are able to face the horror of our despair, we are also able to plant little seeds of hope. Hang on in there, the way forward will become more visible, at least sometimes.

  4. You should feel unhappy sometimes otherwise we cannot live in balance! You know that better than me a million times over. You’ve an amazing strength that is kept without being outwardly visible. But we all have to have a moment of weakness otherwise it would be hard to accept you as a person. Hey the river isn’t always smooth but we do have to get through the rapids which can be exciting as well as hurtful. But keep strong, you got lots of people around who care. Plus humanity took thousands of years just to get to the point where we started to become equal. So sooner or later humanity will evolve again and be even better.

    • It’s all about balance. You’ve got to see and acknowledge the negative as well as the positive. The negative – politicians are lying about climate change, and the public believe them. There is increasing litter by the youth in my area because they don’t care about the world they are going to inherit. Cameron is looking for fracking sites beneath our homes without our permission. The positive – 10,000,000 people in Africa (and counting) are alive today because of anti-viral drugs to combat AIDS from USA taxpayers money (though most Americans probably don’t know that). By 2080 scientists predict that the global ozone will be back to the size it was in the 1950’s. Salmon are returning to rivers in Canada where it was doubtful of their continuing existence.

  5. Thank you for this. It made me feel ‘not alone’. When I enter a ‘darker period’ I try to sit it out and take to reading books by my fellow druids (Joanna & Nimue) The books are a welcome companion and, with a cup of tea, the darker times become tolerable reading inspirational works.

  6. I too deal with depression on a regular basis – it started really coming up six years ago, assisted by a med I started having to be on at the time, though I’m fairly sure I already had it to some extent before that. Today was one of those days for me when I woke up – and I woke up. That was about it, until six this evening. I hate days like that when they happen, even knowing they aren’t a constant thing. Even though I know there’s no logical reason for them existing, because I’m reasonably healthy, have food, clothes and a home, and even occasionally a career of sorts. My husband notes that one of the reasons I might be having it so bad these days is that I only just started seeking help for it, and DEALING with it. My family was at best absent and at worst abusive, and we’re all really good at detaching, at avoiding things, at deflecting. You’re right, it bites you in the ass if you do that too much. I’m glad that you aren’t doing what I have reflexively done for so long!

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