Friday, March 13, 2020

Feel Better

"If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present."
-Lao Tzu

Like pretty much every other human being on the planet, I have had my moments of depression and  anxiety. Those emotions, those challenging and ugly feelings, are part of the human condition. 

I am fortunate that they play only a fleeting role in my life, and I rarely struggle with them.

But I know others - people close to me - who live with depression or anxiety as their close and constant companions. 

I understand that it is not my job to talk them out of those feelings. 

To those who suffer from depression and anxiety, those emotions cast a heavy and very real shadow over their lives.

They can't just 

cheer up,
look on the bright side,
think of happier thoughts,
talk about something else besides their pain,
snap out of it.

That's not how mental illness works.

A beautiful song, interlaced with spoken poetry, of brokenness and healing. 

Mental illness.

Some might push back against that phrase. It sounds all Shutter Island and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with psychiatric hospitals and stern nurses carrying cups of mysterious pills that must be swallowed and Hurley sitting around the day room with a guy in his bathrobe named Leonard who mutters 4 8 15 16 23 42 under his breath all day long. 

Mental illness sounds like a condition of brokenness that is heavy and horrible and hopeless.

But that's not true.

Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in our emotions, thoughts or behaviors.

Post modern life, in and of itself, is enough to trigger these changes.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has kicked us into a whole new level of change.

So this, I think, is a particularly good time to talk about depression and anxiety, and to show compassion to those who are struggling.

Besides listening without judgment, I've found that one of the most helpful things I can do for depressed and anxious friends is to normalize their pain.

The way I do that is by telling them, straight up and simple, "You are not alone."

And then I spam my hurting friends with a bunch of memes. 

I know. That's rather cruel of me, isn't it.

But memes demonstrate quickly and often cleverly that there are other people out there experiencing the same things: suffering the same pain, wondering what is wrong with them, feeling alone.

And what I've noticed is that for people in pain, realizing that they are not the only ones who feel that way, recognizing their connection to other humans, can often be enough to manage the hurt for one more day.

So I offer to you my collection of memes, posts, and a lovely, tender song of healing.

To be sure, these snippets (and the hundreds of other memes much like them) will not heal mental illness, cure depression, or cast away anxiety. But these kind words of compassion and understanding may just make someone you know feel just a little bit more known, understood, cared for.

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