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Friday, August 14, 2015

What Depression Teaches About Compassion


VULNERABLE and weak, without the energy to make what would normally be a normal effort, a person in their depression has little drive to help another person. But they do receive one thing as a product for their suffering; empathy for the mentally ill.
Depression, among all mental, emotional and spiritual illnesses, delivers a person to an acute understanding: compassion.
What is stored up during the time of depression is a dream; to make a difference. The depressed person hopes that one day they will be on the other side to help. They somehow know it’s better by far to help than be helped, but they know they cannot help as yet. The best help they can be presently is to simply get better, one day at a time.
Once they are better they carry about with them the wisdom that another depression could befall them. They are blessed with humility. They are blessed with a roundedness of character akin to brokenness. But enough of talking in the third person. Let’s go back to the second person.
We have suffered this scourge of the inner being, this gross challenge to our existence, this thing that asks the rudest questions of us; that gets us doubting to our core.
If we haven’t suffered (for I know I have!) perhaps it’s been a family member or a friend. We have watched them or ourselves fold into a ball on the floor and inconsolable — unreachable. We have seen it and we have experienced it. We don’t wish it on an enemy let alone usher it to come alongside. We have such fearful respect of it once we have recovered that we know it best not to be too prideful anymore. It may return. It’s not so much fear, but wisdom. We know how important it is now to maintain our mental, emotional and spiritual health, day by day. What we have learned most of all is an uncommon empathy for another person’s weakness.
***
Depression is a teacher. It teaches resilience, humility and wisdom. But most importantly it teaches compassion.
Anyone softened by the brutish lout that is depression is made malleable for others. Their softness combines with a cautious strength that advocates for the weak.
There is an objective in overcoming or managing depression: to have capacity to be strong enough for others. We cannot do it when we are in the midst of the depression, but everyone can hope for managing it.
Managing our depression is reaching a calm place of acceptance where the simple joys can be celebrated and the harder times endured.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

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