Depression is a widely misunderstood condition. It has little to do with sadness and melancholy but apathy and shutting down. A couple of weeks ago when I was monitoring calls on the Suicide Crisis hotline I became aware how tremendously difficult it can be to penetrate that shield of apathy. I’ve certainly been there – we all have. My particular brand of apathy was accounted for by going straight to the wine bottle. Rough and stressful day? An emotional upset that I didn’t want to deal with? Negative consequence brought about by my own actions? No problem. You can throw anything at me and I won’t care because I have my friend vino to numb me out and help me to create the illusion that I didn’t care. Lying to ourselves never ends well. In the land where apathy reigns, everything is alright. The mind can play powerful tricks and this apathy is a huge illusion. Underneath all of the discomfort, we really do care. We just don’t want to deal so we shut off the switch. Like with anything else, continually running from something doesn’t necessarily make it go away.
As I have peeled back layer #1 of my illusion of apathy which was created by wine (1-2 bottles every night) there beneath lie some unpleasant things to deal with. How do I know? Because I see myself running from the discomfort in other ways. Pasting excessive caffeine over my ‘fatigue’ or very subtle malaise; getting sucked into the internet to totally shut down, numb out and go robotic. I don’t watch TV, but that does not in any way make me better than anyone who sits in front of a TV watching reality programs for 3 hours straight. We’re both doing the same things: running from discomfort and stuffing it down into our gut – unexpressed and promising to stick around until we face it.
The difficult choice is to walk straight into the discomfort and pain and ride the wave, un-numbed, without crutches and distractions. It is human nature to go towards pleasure and avoid pain, so when things come up in daily life that rankle or deeply unsettle us, our natural state is to run. Most of the time, this is not even done consciously. Maybe we just “really like coffee and drink it impulsively”, maybe we laugh off our TV addiction as something normal because “it’s our culture and everyone does it. ” If we were to discipline ourselves to take away all of our toys, distractions and band-aids it might be frightening and uncomfortable to face the pain that is there be they unresolved wounds or false beliefs; but it is the only way through the quagmire as I am discovering. Out of choice, I have set a high bar for myself in terms of what I will accept when it comes to my growth. I know that I could slide by in a lot of areas, but it is my desire to transcend and break through and ultimately inspire those around me to do something different and change the status quo.
The definition of inspire is:
1. to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence 2. to communicate or suggest by a divine or supernatural influence 3. to prompt or instigate (utterances, acts, etc.) by influence, without acknowledgement of responsibility.
Have you ever noticed that your actions (negative or positive) can bring someone up or down? If we take the difficult path it infuses those around us with energy, giving them hope that they may be able to break through a self-imposed ceiling of limitation too.
A few weeks back, my brother and I attempted and failed a no-caffeine challenge. This is a perfect example of how our actions affect others (proving our unity and that separation is an illusion.) The moment one of us balked about doing it or showed weakness, it practically gave the other one permission to do the same. By the same token, if one of us fought through headaches with certainty and confidence, it inspired the other he could do it too. This is a small example of the ripple effect but it is universal law on the macrocosmic stage as well.
Therefore, as I spent this past weekend relentlessly pushing down uncomfortable feelings by tripling my caffeine intake and using the internet to procrastinate or avoid dealing with something, I am not only stunting my growth and not overcoming anything by remaining unconscious, but I am bringing down the collective consciousness as well. I do care about the discomfort and pain I am running from that I wish to transform – the apathy is a lie and defense mechanism. Every time I choose to set the bar higher for myself with regard to awareness and evolution, it will speed up the process of those around me. It’s no different than a couple in survival mode, perhaps trapped in an avalanche or lost at sea. In those end-game hours, each person’s actions and attitude either infects the other person with hopelessness or hope.
As I go into the week increasing my awareness in areas I’m using to numb out and run from, I challenge you to do the same. By going through the pain unfettered, it leaves sooner and transforms into something beautiful thereby taking us to the next level of the video game. We keep pushing so we can spiritually evolve. Our evolution is the whole reason we’re here in the first place – whether we are aware of it or not. The ultimate goal being to live (and live fully) and grow, not just exist and continue running in place on our hamster wheel.