First, I have to start this post by saying, I am living a blessed life. I have never truly wanted for anything. There has never been a night where I’ve gone hungry (being 40 pounds over weight proves that). I have always had a roof over my head. My mother was able to get me through college without me having to take out a single loan. I have a career, I own a house, I have a family that loves and supports me, and have a great group of friends that are always there when I need them. I. Am. Blessed. (I just wanted to reiterate that.)
So, who the hell am I to be depressed? I’ve spoken in many of my posts about my depression. I am on medication, yes. I do, from time to time, feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of my depression. But, what right do I have? I have everything I could possibly need. How do I allow depression to take such hold over me? As a teacher I have borne witness to the lives of my students. I have heard stories from them that have made me go home and cry. I have listened as they tell tales of suffering that no human should ever endure, sufferings that I could never come close to experiencing with the strength they have mustered. So, again I ask, what right do I have to allow my depression to hold me hostage?
Science tells me that it’s nothing I should be ashamed of; we cannot expect to conquer a chemical imbalance in our brains. So, I should be ok that I often feel lonely without a “partner” by my side. So lonely, that the empty feeling in my chest threatens to rip me open and reveal a heart unworthy of love. So, I should feel ok that some days I don’t feel fulfilled in my life. I worry about losing the people I love. This is selfish when people are losing their loved ones every day. Children lose their parents, husbands lose their wives, fathers and mothers lose their babies.
My thinking needs to reversed. Perhaps it is not chemical imbalance in my brain. Perhaps the imbalance comes from my way of thinking. One of the major tenants of Buddhism is that human beings suffer because they desire and grow attached. As I’ve learned and practiced my Buddhism more, I have struggled with how, as a human being, I can work, and make money, and own a house, and want a partner but do it all without desire and attachment. I have obviously not learned the lessons completely or I don’t believe I’d still suffer from the depression that often grips me. But, isn’t the first step recognizing the issue and working from there.
My desire to be loved causes me to suffer. Whereas the gratitude I should show for the people that truly love me already, we heal this suffering instantly. The desire for a new more lucrative and glamorous career mires me in pain that I would not need to endure if I could recognize and be grateful for the lives I shape every time I step into a classroom. The fact that Buddhism, as a faith, has been teaching the cessation of desire and attachment for the last 2500 years does speak to its staying power and validity. Now it is time for me to embrace these teachings further, to rid me of my scourge of suffering.
The compassion I feel for my students that are in pain makes me stronger and hopefully offers them some solace. The gratitude I feel for the friends and family that love me and whom I love fills those empty spaces in my chest. Going forward, every time I hear myself say, “I want…” I will change that to, “I already have…” and fill that in with someone or something I am grateful for. And when the loss I so desperately fear comes, I will be grateful for the love they gave and the love I will always feel. I will fight this chemical imbalance by putting my thinking and my compassionate love into balance.