I’ve been experiencing some conflicting emotions around the response to Robin Williams’ death this past week, including a great appreciation for the influx of support and desire to destigmatize mental illness. In volunteering with the Trevor Project, which is largely driven by my desire to return the help that I’ve received in the past, it’s something that is on my mind often.
I don’t have anything new to say, aside from sharing the two posts that resonated with me most over the past few days: one from an amazing coworker of mine and the other from a writer that I really admire and who often talks about living with a mental illness.
I’ve also been reading Faith, by Sharon Salzberg, a holdover from my now complete 200-hour yoga teacher training. (Pause for celebration!) As I was reading, this excerpt really struck me.
Are all those elements, singly or conjoined, necessarily enough to enable one to emerge from despair with faith? Not always. The path is not the same for everyone. I know that when many people “take apart the chord of their suffering,” they find a biochemical component as one of the notes. If depression is a real aspect of one’s experience, out of compassion it needs to be addressed as a medical issue. Part of the overall truth we might have to accept is that medication will be the way for the binding filaments of despair to begin to loosen. Perhaps only then will there be enough space for the glimmer of faith to emerge, With the awakening of just that little bit of faith, there can be sufficient energy to keep getting help, to accept support, to begin, or to begin again, walking the path toward liberation.
I know that sometimes things are so bad that no matter what practices we do or what medication we take, we can’t seem to generate even that small amount of faith we need for inspiration to keep going. Then, if we can stand inside our pain for a while and wait, over time we may come to also see it as a way into the deeper parts of ourselves and then back out into the world, a vehicle for new insight into who we are and how much we need to care for ourselves and one another. If there is nothing we can do right now but wait, then, as T.S. Eliot wrote, “the faith is in the waiting.” If we can but wait, we may yet emerge from despair with the same understanding that Zen master Suzuki Roshi expressed: “Sometimes, just to be alive is enough.
– from Faith, by Sharon Salzberg
Often, depression means feeling too worthless/empty/tired/futile to ask for help. We can help each other through that waiting period by familiarizing ourselves with the warning signs and reaching out. Sometimes, just witnessing someone’s pain and sitting with them when being “alive is enough” can make a huge difference.