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Showing posts with label #hopelessness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #hopelessness. Show all posts

Monday, January 18, 2021

Contentment about the Future: We Are Free To Decide For It

Every four years we have an national election for President.  After one particular election, a coworker and I were having a very civil discussion on the election (and the inauguration) that had just past.  If I remember, her choice did not win.  I said, you know after every election, there is a large segment of the population that is not happy.  I said, no matter who wins or loses, we ultimately have go on with our everyday lives in much the same way.  Besides, in another four years, everyone will get a chance to be heard again.  She seemed to appreciate and accept that point.  This election (2020) and the last election (2016) were no different.  In each case, it seems like there is a sizeable segment of the population that feels hopeless, like it's the end of end of world and that life as we know it is over.  Perhaps at some point in the future, election results may signal the 'end of world', but I don't think we are at point yet.

As bad as some feel after a their side faces defeat in a hard fought election, I don't think it can compare to the end of the world hopelessness that many likely felt during WWII.  I expect that sense pervaded Europe in particular and the world in general at the time.  I can't even begin to fathom what prisoners in places like Auschwitz had to face.  Seeing and facing starvation, cruelty, torture and death all around them with seemingly no end in sight is something I think few can relate to  A friend recommend a book to me called Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  In that book the author chronicled his experiences as a concentration camp prisoner and how he identified a purpose in life to feel positive about and then immersed himself in imagining that outcome.  In other words, in a horrible and seemingly hopeless situation, he was able to find a purpose, meaning and hope.  He was saying that even in the worst situation, that we have a certain freedom to decide how we are going to view life. 

I'm not even going to imagine that I can relate to the search for hope, meaning and purpose in such a horrific circumstance.  Yes, I've faced some blows in this life, but nothing quite like that.  But, I have experienced enough to know that survival and even eventual thriving is possible during and after bad circumstances.  Finding Jewels in the Darkness tells my ability to find good at a bad time in my life.  I'd literally lost much of what was (or seemed) important to me--my brother, my house, my job, my marriage, much of the custody of my daughter--in the space of a year.  However, things started to settle down and I was able to find some special moments with my young daughter.  Moments that I would have not likely had or paused to appreciate otherwise.  I was able to strip down life to the basics and figure out what mattered.  Among the things I found was my writing voice, a greater self-respect and the understanding that I could survive serious blows in life.  In other words, I sort of found myself.   Eventually, my finances and job prospect and personal relationships looked up, but I couldn't have necessarily seen that during the height of the storm. 

I'm not going to be Pollyannaish and say everyone does survive life's seemingly harsh blows or that everything turns out fine.  But, to me life is like a journey where picking up "wins" along the way and avoiding "loses" is important, but not nearly as important as the good fight we fought along the way.  After all, what else do we really take with us besides the intangibles of a well fought life?  I believe there is a dignity of striving to be the best version of one's self even as days grow more cloudy, even as the journey works towards a close.  There are many things we can lose in our life with little or no control over the process.  We can lose our worldly possessions, we can lose others we love, we can lose our independence and in some cases, we can lose the battle with sickness and disease.  However, there are some thing we don't have to lose.  Among them our dignity, our spirit, and our freedom to decide how to see our lives.  Those things we have to be willing to part with.  I'm not saying holding on to those is always easy.  However, we can, if we choose, hold onto those things.  

I believe in the lives of many/most if  you dig deep, you will find a point in which they have felt hopeless.  The key for me and the key for many in that circumstance is to find something to hold onto to or for.  It could your faith.  It could be your family.  It could be your memories of surviving before.  It could be your vision of what could be.  It could be your knowledge that there is someone who championed us--and may have passed away--that we'd hate to disappoint.  It could be our pride.  It is important to be able to find this and when we do we have a choice at that point.  Do we give in to the brokenness or hopelessness OR do we decide that we want to find that which sustains us?  For some, it seems the brokenness is too great and they don't feel like they have a choice.  But, for those who are able to recognize it, we are free to decide to push forward and to decide to accept life on its terms or work to change it.

Tying back to this election and prior elections, many have or had a deep sense of dread or hopelessness afterwards.  For many people, it feels/felt like 'the wrong person' won.  If feels/felt like our country is/was headed down a dark, unrecoverable path.  There is always a risk to what we perceive as poor leadership dragging down our country.  However, elections do not have to feel like an impending disaster.  This election for some, like past elections for others doesn't have to feel that way.  We have always had the choice, even when we aren't happy with the results, as to whether view ourselves as a victim of them OR to view ourselves as those who continue to fight for what we believe in or what is important to us.

Whether you are happy with this election, upset about it or ambivalent, how we choose to view it and our lives in general is ultimately up to us.  This is something I cannot stress enough.   So, let's decide to come together and set an example for our leadership on all sides of the aisle.

Just my 2 pennies worth,

As an aside, there was another time I was woefully underemployed in my field.   I had an undiagnosed severe anxiety condition.  It hindered me in getting my Bachelor's degree, but didn't stop me.  However, it made it almost impossible to interview effectively before and after I graduated.  Anyway, it was four years before I got a job in my field after graduating college.  I could have given up, but something inside kept me going forward.   Just like the struggle above in "Jewels", I fought depression and a feeling of hopelessness at times, but something inside me said, no, it's not time to give up.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Depression: It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over

Sorry folks, but it is time for a melancholy post.  Don't mean to be a killjoy, but I say what my head and sometimes my heart tell me to write and I feel this one in my bones, needing to get out.  It is my hope that my posts are read and shared.  I hope one day to have a wide distribution that people can either can relate, hear something that 'explains' what they've felt, or just give a different perspective to what they've thought on matters. Anyway, I am working on a more 'positive' one to balance out, but I digress.  Anyway, here I dive in.  

The holidays can be hard to face for those who have lost someone close and/or do not have a close knit family.  When you see the warmth and joy elsewhere around you, it is easy to reflect on what is missing.

I have circled this issue many times and in many forms, but I have never landed on it.  Like releasing an ordinance from a jet and hitting around a target, but never quite hitting the target.  Some of the forms I've touched upon are as follow:
  • Suicide
  • Feeling blue
  • Disconnected
  • Sadness
  • Walking wounded
  • Melancholy
So, here I speak on it finally: Depression.  As a Christian, we are taught not to worry and to have faith in God above.  We are taught to look at the big picture, that is the long view.  Struggle and suffering are a part of this life, but that ultimately in our Savior we will have victory when the struggles of this life have passed.  There are countless scriptures for encouragement and strengthening.  I won't enumerate them, but will point to Encouraging Scriptures.

I believe all these things and more.  However, I know that faith itself will not prevent us from struggles, faith itself will not prevent us from getting down at times.  Faith itself will not keep us from the trials and tribulations that are the byproduct of our fallen nature and an imperfection.   Faith itself will not always keep us from moments of feeling sad and hopeless.  The Bible itself has numerous examples of people feeling hopeless at times: Jonah, King David, Elijah, etc.  While the takeaway from the Bible is there is hope for those who call themselves Children of God, from what I see, the Bible recognizes feelings of discouragement, hopelessness and depression.  So, how can I square my faith with my feelings of discouragement at times?  How can I square my faith with my moments of depression and hopelessness?   How do I tell others to have faith, when I have my moments of hopelessness?  Eternal questions.  The short answer is that in following our faith, we are not promised a life of comfort, a life of ease, a life of carefree.  What we are promised is an absolution of our sin and ultimate victory over death.  I gave this as part of the eulogy for my brother Bill what we are promised...

1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 54-56
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is
perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised
in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural
body, it is raised a spiritual body.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal
with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has
been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


As I wrote this for my brother Bill who took his life in July 2011.  The backstory I wrote in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.   He was a baptized believer, but he struggled mightily with hopelessness.  I hope and pray God understood his pain and took that into account.  Anyway, with him it was like as if you told him the weather was mostly sunny and he'd probably come back and effectively say, "I guess that means it is cloudy outside".  When you are in that place, it is hard to see the glass as half full, but instead it is easier to see the glass as half empty with the risk of the glass just being knocked over and all the hope drain out.  I know this because I have had points like that before.  Not quite to the extent that Bill had, but enough to know the personal hell he must have felt.  Divorce, death of close ones, loss of custody, bankruptcy, losing your house and losing most of your possession, & job loss all can weigh on you.  But, like Job, even when you think God has abandoned you, He is there.  But you have to look past the debris and look at The Promise (see above scripture).


What is depression?  According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of depression is as follow:

"a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies"

Those are fine words and that is a good clinical description, but let's take it down to the day-to-day level. What does it feel like?
  • It is a dreading of getting out of bed to face the day ahead.  It is a wanting to go to work early, to run errands early, to go to the gym to work out, but instead feeling like it is safest to just stay in bed as long as you can.
  • It is the sense that no matter how much you try things will inevitably not end well.  I sense of what's the point.  In other words, not getting too high when good things happen as it is just a cruel trick before the other shoe drops as it inevitably will.
  • It is a feeling of needing something to numb, block, drown or overcome the pain.  Something such as alcohol, drugs (prescribed or other), gambling, extensive TV watching, drowning in music, a tryst, you name it.  Just anything you can to take away the pain for as long as possible or to extend better feelings for just little longer.
  • It is a vacant or blank affect of, I don't care,  That is what does it matter anyway?
  • It is like the feeling of wanting to walk away and never look back.
  • It is the wondering if anyone would care if you just disappeared.  It is the sense that you don't matter too much if at all.
  • It is the sense of tiredness of fighting it all.  Wishing you could just have the pain taken away.
  • It is the sense of shrinking into yourself and not wanting anyone to notice or say anything.  But, instead to let you lick your wounds.

You get the picture.  Some of this I've felt at times, some of it I've observed in others and some of it is what I perceive that it would be like.   Anyway, if you observe this attitude or behavior in another, it's hard to know what to do.
  • Do you press your loved one for what's wrong and not take 'Nothing' or "I'm okay" for an answer?  Hard to know what to say.  
  • Do you 'stage an intervention' and risk them shutting you out or totally rejecting you, thereby destroying ability to influence them.  
  • Do you just constantly remind them in a friendly but not pushy way that you are there for them, hoping that they reveal enough or let you in enough to know when it is time to step in?  (In other words, come to you before they completely check out).
  • Do you 'ambush' them when they've dropped off the grid?  In other words, checking in on them, but not quite staging an intervention.
Obviously, with my brother, I had some, if not all, of these questions in my mind.  I'm sure for anyone who has dealt with depression or someone who has it, has additional pondering similar to those above.  

I'm not sure exactly what the takeaway from this post is, except for the following:
  1. Regardless of how deeply you choose to intervene, always remind your loved one that you care about them.  Even if you think, well, they won't care or notice my efforts, they will.
  2. Share your concerns with trusted others around you--including possibly a counselor or minister or his/her friends.  Many people have either faced or known someone who has faced similar struggles.  With a little bit of God's grace, you might find someone who can either share your burden or give you pointers on what to do.
  3. Pray.  It doesn't have to be a long prayer.  It doesn't actually have to be speaking aloud to God.  It could a simple thought to Him: "God, I don't know what to do, 'please advise me'." or "God, 'please let my loved one be open to Your help'"
  4. Remember ultimately, there is only so much you can do.  Just like much else in life, you have to do what your gut tells you and leave the results to your Higher Power.

I hope this post will hit a person or two along the way.  Thanks for being my audience.  It sounds funny with such a melancholy blog, but Cheers.  :)