Now I’m no Star Wars expert, but I do know that Darth and Luke are father and son which makes me think that the line between darkness and light is pretty thin. Having said that, and having experienced the all-consuming power of “the force” myself, I’ve also come to the conclusion that there’s a very thin line between depression and hope as well.
A Hero’s Journey: Heroes, Villains, and the Ultimate Boon
I like formulas. There’s a real consistency to them that feels good. A Hero’s Journey has 12 steps and that’s easy to remember when we’re watching a movie, but not easy to remember when we’re actually in the movie. Depression is that tricky plot twist that looks unmanageable, but can be conquered. Now I will say that for some sufferers of depression there’s a real need for medication. But in most cases, depression is often a call to leave the ordinary world behind or assess where you are in the journey. Habits, old patterns, shadow sides of your personality, and lifestyle choices come up for review and force you to look at yourself and make changes. But when you learn to see your life as a journey, time becomes an opportunity to release and try again. A key insight for me was that while finding faith was my ultimate boon, it was also my greatest challenge. I struggled with it big time. But that struggle was something that only served to make me stronger in the end. Depression can be a long movie, but it’s a movie. Formulaic in nature, often repeatable, but something that can be defeated or understood better in time. It just takes time.
Turn, Turn, Turn
It’s hard to talk about death. It’s that topic most of us try to avoid because it often triggers sadness, fear, and uncertainty. Sadness, fear, and uncertainty are three words that we, especially in America, hate with a passion. So let’s talk about The Byrds instead. I like that song Turn, Turn, Turn. “To every thing there is a season,” meaning that for every spring and summer there’s a fall and winter. That’s one certainty we can depend on, which is good in a way, but sucky in a way too. I really got stuck on repetitiveness of it all when I was struggling with depression. I hated the cyclical nature of time because it all felt a little meaningless to me. But time is curious. We don’t actually know how it works in the grand scheme of things. Yes, life feels cyclical to us, but the flowing cycle of life, death, and rebirth might actually be more meaningful than we think.
Not to get all biblical on you, but if you check out Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (the source of The Byrds’ lyrics), the bottom line is that we don’t really know how our small actions impact the world. We don’t know how meaningful our lives are in the master plan. We might think our impact is meaningless, that our lives and actions are meaningless, that heroes don’t win in the end, and that history repeats itself, but if sci-fi has taught me anything it’s this: reality is an illusion. We don’t know how we’re impacting time, destiny, or the fate of the world. We don’t really know how time works at all. So maybe we’re actually right where we’re supposed to be. Maybe depression as a season serves a purpose. Thinking of life this way makes me feel better. Seeing depression as an opportunity to heal and maybe even help others in the future makes me think that there’s something to discover in the midst of it all.
The Desire to Die Disguises a Desire to Live
The day before I formally committed myself to faith, I seriously considered dying. I notice that a lot with depression, that the big breakthrough is often right after the big breakdown. I think the desire to die stems from the soul’s desire to live. And sometimes, in order for our souls to live, an old part of us (an aspect of our ego) has to die. The death of the ego is painful. It’s hard to let go of what we perceive to be our identity. But our identity is fluid and knowing our souls ache for growth makes it easier to process. It’s not us that wants to die. It’s our decaying ego that wants to stay living. So consider this when you feel the pressure of death: what aspect of yourself do you need to let go of? Where’s Darth Vader hiding? Let go. There is beauty in the breakdown.
Yes, I know, depression sucks. Winter sucks. And you’re probably thinking, DAMMIT MICHAEL SCOTT when will it end? But believe me, it does get better. It just takes time. There’s no rush to be happy even if others make you feel that way. Life isn’t a rush towards perfection. It’s a slow strut towards understanding what it means to be human.
I have a theory that we’ve all been each other at some point (this life or another). So if that’s the case, we should be rooting for our friends and our enemies. Who knows how your journey, your life, your work will impact someone else. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for movies. Either way, I like the idea that there’s a force and that we’re all in it together. Cue the lights!
If you’re looking for a great resource on tackling depression without medication, check out Unstuck by James Gordon, MD. It’s a good book that helped me and might help you too. 🙂
Oh and if you’re interested in watching the sermon that inspired this post, you can check that out here.