Depression is a Spiritual Issue
Frederick Zappone

For thirty years, I was plagued with chronic depression.  In a desperate attempt to cure myself, I read everything I could on the subject.  I took the psychological approach as well as the religious approach.  I experienced some relief using these methods, but eventually the feelings returned.  The stronger the depression, the more aggressive my search.  Self-help courses and recovery groups brought minimal relief but never a cure.  Each improvement was eventually followed a setback.  I began to believe that I was inherently flawed.  It was even suggested that I was possessed by an evil entity, a thought I rejected.  And yet, when the feelings were at there their strongest, I doubted myself, becoming more afraid.

One day, I realized just how terrified I was.  I felt like a house divided against itself.  Desperate feelings require desperate measures:  Voluntarily I went in for psychiatric evaluation.  I began weekly therapy and was prescribed Zoloft, which altered my mood almost immediately.  I gained many insights during therapy, but eventually Zoloft caused the side effects of hyper-activity, chills and headaches.  I felt as if the cure was worse than the depression, so I quit taking the drug.  I did continue therapy until it was mutually decided that I no longer needed it.

I thought therapy had solved my problem with depression until I had a extremely devastating setback and experienced the worst depression of my life.

Suicidal thoughts began into intrude my mind, yet no matter what, I would not surrender.  If depression was going to kill me, to squeeze the life out of me, it would do so without my help.

I struggled through my work day hiding my depression, but when I got home I would be exhausted.  I just wanted to lie on the couch and do nothing.  I felt hopeless.  And contrary to professional advice, I isolated myself, knowing when I was alone that my depression was at its strongest.  If it was going to defeat me I wanted to feel it absolutely.  I was tired of running from the monster within. 

One day I realized that I was at a standoff with my depression.  It wasn't getting any worse and it wasn't getting any better.  I realized that it wasn't going to kill me, and it wasn't going to let me enjoy life either.  Then I decided to start analyzing what was going on with me.  I knew I couldn't feel any worse, so I might as well treat my condition as a puzzle that needed solving.

First, I went back to the basics.  I looked up the word depression in Webster's dictionary; it is defined as a disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentrating, excessive sleep, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.  Yup, I agreed, the dictionary was intellectually correct, I experienced all of those things, but when I explored my feelings, I made some amazing discoveries.

One of my discoveries was that my depression was actually a variety of strong unexpressed feelings woven together.  This entanglement of unexpressed emotions left me feeling like a net had been dropped over my spirit and pulled tight.  The more I struggled, the more entangled in them I became. Instead of judging my feelings of depression I decided to observe them.  I noticed that I was afraid of my feelings.  I also observed that throughout my life whatever I feared eventually became my enemy.  How did I make my depressed feelings my enemy?  I did it by accepting someone else's belief that my depressed feelings were dangerous.  By accepting this unedited belief, I erroneously concluded that my feelings could lead me to killing myself.  In making my feelings the enemy I gave them power over me; the moment I did that, they dominated and controlled my life for over 30 years.

To make my feelings the enemy, I also had to convince myself that something outside of me was responsible for what I felt.  I accomplished this by blaming others for my feelings.  I blamed God, my parents, my teachers, my circumstances, my genes, my past, and my environment for my negative emotions.  Once I realized that I was doing it to myself, I simultaneously, experienced a sense of sadness and hope.  I felt sadness because I realized that I had been causing myself to suffer.  I felt hope because if I could cause my depression, I could cure it, and that excited me

The first step was to make depression my friend.  This was a scary process because I was very afraid of what I felt, to overcome the fear, I personalized my feelings.  I began talking to them, and writing to them.  I told my depressed feelings that I was afraid of them and that I was tired of being afraid.  I told them I wanted to make them my friends and see what they could teach me.  That was the beginning.  Today, my depressed feelings are my friends.  When I experience depression, I know that spirit--my inner guide--is using those feelings as a way to teach me something that I need to learn.

My inner guide uses these feelings to let me know when I'm off track in my thinking, trying too hard, headed in the wrong direction, or not taking proper care of myself.  I no longer struggle being depressed for long periods of time.  When it comes, I work at embracing it, so I can hear the spiritual message being directed to me.  When I hear the message accurately, the feelings leave me, and I am filled with an exuberance--a renewed passion for life.  If you are willing to let your feelings of depression become your friends--if you are willing to learn from them, embrace them--you too will once again be excited about living life generously and passionately.

* * * *

Originally published on Frederick's website (which is long gone), Spiritual Insights Into Happiness.  Reprinted with permission.


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