reply to post by LiveForever8
I'm preparing for Sierra Leone at the moment, and your image is in line with my reaction to the OP. I'll try to be a bit more gentle, though
Several of you defy the response by LiveForever8, arguing that it disregards the genuine anguish experienced by the OP and other sufferers. The fact
of the matter is that many people indeed pull themselves out of deep depression by acknowledging precisely
that element of reality. It is
extraordinarily powerful, though direct involvement (rather than simply viewing images) is the true healer. Happiness depends more upon the way you
perceive your place in the world than anything else--beyond treatment you've received, trauma you've suffered and even living conditions. From my
encounters with people around the world, I cannot conclude anything else.
I work in the field of aid to the developing world; this carries me to rather heartening regions. The most striking detail, from my very first aid
trip to the most recent, is the upbeat resilience--I'll use that word, but it's more accurately an indescribable spirit--of people experiencing
truly atrocious conditions. It was baffling, just baffling to me when I first encountered it. I'm still stunned each time despite my anticipation of
I certainly see many trauma victims who are characteristically distant or fearful, though they attempt to be stoic. But mental anguish tends to be
expressed only in fleeting moments. The pain they feel is profound and damaging, but it's as though there is a consensus among the majority of, "I
will allow myself to acknowledge and experience the pain for only a few moments, but no longer." They grieve and struggle, but they continue on. It
is very rare for me to meet an aid recipient who expresses hopelessness or contemplation of suicide, despite the ample cause they have for such a
When I first traveled alone for an aid project, I was sixteen years old and in the midst of a years-long depression sparked by a childhood assault.
Medication, various therapies and extensive hospitalisation had not improved my feelings. I left for Africa in a soul-tumult, not knowing how to put
myself back together. I soon discovered the difficulty of sustaining depression when you're surrounded by victims of poverty, war and disease, all of
them expecting you--volunteer that you are, prepared for this or not--to help them, speak to them, just be
with them. I found my sadness and
anger moving from a "me" position to an outward direction. When I cried, screamed, or beat my fists to the dirt, I was not doing it for my own
personal suffering. It was an outwardly flowing expression of the pain that comes from compassion and concern for the suffering of other people. This
(shared) pain. Because it is outwardly directed, it compels action and effort rather than the isolation and immobility produced
by individualistic depression. We see this desire for "action and effort" manifest in both militias and beneficial community groups; we can choose
to seek violence or peace, but a choice must be made. Action
is a persistent urge.
It seems to me that this (introspection and isolation vs. community mindset and mental resilience) is the heart of the matter. The feeling among most
in developing regions is that your suffering is not yours alone; the community suffers a collective trauma
. The days must continue on in spite
of your own experiences; the animals must be tended to and the water gathered. Great pain is present and it can become overwhelming, but you try to
I worked with a woman in a refugee camp whose three children had been lost in war; she was herself recovering from the physical trauma inflicted by
several soldiers. During our conversation one day, she said to me, "If I stop to remember it for too long, I will drown." Her feelings are echoed by
women like her around the world. Isn't this the heartbeat of emotional pain? It washes over you like a wave, and many of us do drown. We have to try
to swim in spite of it all.
In the years since my first independent exposure to that facet of the world, I have never again experienced depression to any measureable degree. Am I
always upbeat? Certainly not, but my outlook is generally positive and I am careful to avoid self-pity ("I will feel this way for just a few moments,
but no longer.").
appreciate the agony one can feel in the throes of depression, the feeling of emotional death that seems to swallow you. I understand. But
the lifeblood of depression is the Western sense of hyper-individuality--"What you feel is yours alone. Think about it, analyse it, mull it over.
Don't lose sight of your pain!" That is to say, "Tempt it to drown you." Individuality is wonderful, of course! But it becomes pernicious,
harmful, if you do not know where to draw the line. You become lost within yourself, and the journey out is incredibly difficult--many do not survive.
My advice is to always keep an element of "community spirit" within your mind. Try to absorb the idea of the world in its enormity. Contemplate the
overwhelming number of creatures residing here, each having so many stories of his or her own--innumerable triumphs and tragedies. This is a wonderful
and terrible world that begs for exploration, and we cannot be free without leaving the small spaces we make for ourselves.