24 September 2008

The Difference

I spent several years being depressed.

I suppose this is not uncommon to say anymore, with the massive number of Americans who are on psychoactive drugs for anxiety and depression. I was on some, for a while, but I quit taking them because I said to myself one day "I will not cheat the pain away with pills." I was enamored, really, with my own feelings. I wanted to feel everything, experience everything that came my way--pleasure, pain, whatever. Chasing the experience was what I wanted.

I wrote bad poetry about the experiences; the sense of loss, of the pain of the soul being forced to live in a modern world, without touchstone or baseline or values. I idealized (and idolized) myth and symbol. I worshiped at the altar of my own clever, creative vanity. And the circumstances of my life were an unending source of misery to me.

When I ask myself if things have changed, I am presented with an interesting conflict of opinion. Certainly many, if not all, of the problems that I have in my life now are exactly like those I had before. My sins, the passions that beset me, they are largely the same. So, what is different? Why am I no longer a morose, depressed person who sees all leading to a hopeless end?

The only answer that presents itself is: the cross.

My shift of perspective, my willing submission to Christ, makes the difference. Sure, I am still a sinner. I am still a passionate man. But I no longer glory in sin, or boast of my passions; I am grieved of them in my meditation. I do not want them anymore--and what a difference that makes. When I stopped wishing that the God of the Ages would just countenance me, and let me be what I want, let me do what I want, that is when the depression went away.

I know, it seems counter intuitive to modern folks. Not getting your own way--or, rather, learning to not want your passions--is the way to overcome depression, anger, and anxiety. Learning to want the will of God, for us to live in chastity and holiness of life, that is how we overcome the hell of our feelings, emotions, and reasonings.

God help me, the Cross has made all the difference.

Pax vobiscum+


Karenee said...

I'm back! And what a lovely, lovely post to return to... (Yeah, I wasn't away for long. *shrug* Dave got tired of the no electricity thing.)

Anonymous said...

Justinian, thanks for posting this! I needed to hear it!


Seraphima said...

I've already commented on this! but here's another, with the link to my blog as requested. : )

Chocolatesa said...

(re-typed cause Blogger ate my comment, grrr)
Oh how I wish I could tell this to a friend of mine! Sometimes I come across things like this that make me sigh and pray for him. Any talk of religion to him on my part would most likely be met with disinterest if not worse. Thank you for this, at least it keeps me praying for him!

Justinian said...

chocolatesa: May your friend be brought to the Truth!

Chocolatesa said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I am now 42 years old, and I realized some time ago that I have been depressed my entire life. The truth is, I am so selfish and have been for so long, that I rarely know another way of being. In my Orthodox years, in my own pride, I reveled in my depression thinking that it was a "blessed" thing to be one of those who "mourn". Now, I have learned to ignore my own "depression". It sounds foolish to those who are especially involved in modern psychology, but truthfully, the holy fathers are right: ignore it and it will go away.

It still returns from time to time, but not with the vengence it used to.

I must say, that if I had known years ago, what you have written here, I would have saved myself a lot of sins. Okay, so I would have committed OTHER sins. Nonetheless, I think you're very, very wise.
God bless you...
Love always in Christ,

Justinian said...

I don't make any pretensions to wisdom--just the opposite, actually. The Romans had a proverb that said 'Experience is the best teacher of fools.' If I've learned anything, it's because I have been so very foolish and God has let me experience many disastrous misfortunes for my own salvation.

I know what it means to revel in your own feelings of isolation, loneliness, and disconnectedness; but, the big lie is that those things cannot be changed. Of course they can be--and once I stopped being so prideful that I thought I was 'above' everyone else, wonder of wonders--I stopped feeling alone and isolated.

My love goes out to you, Suzanne. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement!