Noted psychiatrist Peter Kramer warns us about romanticizing depression in the same way that tuberculosis was once romanticized—and I wholeheartedly agree; however, as I attempt to climb out from the second most debilitating bout of depression and anxiety in my life, I can’t help but recognize the lessons, or should I even use the word gifts, that this illness brings.
I have been humbled by the acute anxiety and depression of the last year. Humbled enough to recognize what’s important and what’s not. My lofty career aspirations and personal goals have been replaced by the desire to sleep through the night and to live as many days as possible without pain. I don’t care about how many people read my blog or my books and I have little interest in building a name for myself. I want merely to enjoy as many precious moments as I can with my family and close friends, and if the opportunity comes, to help a person or two as I go along.
I have learned the importance of staying in the moment as much as is humanly possible. To concentrate on the dishes when I’m washing the dishes; to enjoy hot water when I’m taking a shower; to taste the flavors of a dish when I am eating; and to feel the tenderness of my daughter’s hand as I walk her across a busy street.
If you live with chronic pain of any kind, you really have no option but to embrace the present hour. Life is too overwhelming and, in my case, sleep disappears if you skip too far ahead. Peace is grasped in the now, like Thich Nhat Hanh writes in “The Sun My Heart”:
Peace can exist only in the present moment. It is ridiculous to say, “Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace.” What is “this”? A diploma, a job, a house, the payment of a debt? If you think that way, peace will never come. There is always another “this” that will follow the present one. If you are not living in peace at this moment, you will never be able to. If you truly want to be at peace, you must be at peace right now. Otherwise, there is only “the hope of peace some day.”
What are the lessons you learned this year?