Something I posted at on  9/16/99....

Hello out there,

    Any of you suffering from depression have my sincerest sympathy...and respect...and genuine admiration. My current feeling is that if everyone were as sensitive as you, we might live in a world which didn't make people like us depressed. I hope that you'll understand why I say those things once I'm done....

    I consider myself a very strong and capable person...I have achieved great success in life and have made it over many impressive hurdles on many levels (physical, mental, psychological, spiritual, career, etc.). But, the one toughest ANYTHING that I have EVER encountered in *ANY* facet of life has been depression...and, I still battle with it today.

    Although I never realized it, nor knew what it was, until a few years ago, I've suffered from chronic depression all my life. I remember having a gun up to my head when I was like 8 or something.  I am 34 now, and just this week went back on Wellbutrin, since I was heading down again, getting suicidal thoughts (mine, with the emotional background music of _complete_ apathy and DEmotivation, sound like: "...nothing really matters, anyway...there's *nothing* that I really care about, *nothing* that I want to do, no hope for this fucked up world and no matter what I do with my life I won't be able to heal it, nobody I care about, especially myself, and I'm completely alone in the world...even if I weren't physically alone, which I am, I'm so far from everyone right now...nobody understands nor wants to be burdened with me and my bad, what's the point? I hate life, I hate the world, I hate myself. I am miserable and I just want it all to end!! I can't even *imagine* myself ever happy again, so why go on even one minute more?!?")

    BUT, I've been through this so many times that I know that this is a *temporary* experience, that it will pass, and that even though I can't even in my wildest fantasies foresee even another happy nor enthusiastic _minute_ now, that there is a bliss and an zest and enthusiasm for life which exists on the outside of this dark emotional vortex, in which life is just too short to experience all the things I'd like to explore and in which I don't have one second to waste. I've even made it to that spiritual "place" in which I love myself, the world, and everyone in which I am at peace and feel my connection with all of existence. And, there, too, it seems like that state will never end--that I'm healed at last(!)

    Yet, to my surprise, here I am again, today, fighting my way back to giving a shit about basic stuff like getting out of bed, feeding myself and continuing with life.

    The dichotomy is very difficult to deal with. Which is the real reality? Which is the real me? Do my emotions lie to me? Yes, I've found meaning and growth in my pain and suffering...and, like Van Gogh and Hemingway and historical others who've suffered, I have channeled this intense negative energy to the creation of some wonderful things that would not exist today were I never depressed. Further, I have a genuine compassion and a "comfort" (non-fear) in the face of others' suffering that those who haven't suffered similarly usually don't have. As such, I can be there, "go down" with them and, at least, not let them suffer alone...and, usually, help them find their way back (if they so desire).

    Most people seem to react with fear or frustration to those who are suffering. My friends mysteriously disappear when I'm's not that they don't's just that they don't understand and feel scared and helpless in the face of my depression.  So, in a way, my suffering allows me to be there for those I care about in those dark times when they've retreated from the world and it has probably retreated from them. This is a rare and loving gift which I have to give as a result of my depression.

    So, should I endure it? Is it there for good reason? Is "depressed" meant to be a part of who I am? Or, should I just stay on medication and remain a person with the normal ups and downs for whom life usually feels like a good thing? Sometimes, like now, I have no choice, am too worn down or too bound by circumstance and disconnected from support that I just need the medication. But, I've noticed that these times have things in common: I feel alone and disconnected from a sense of "family" or "community", I am enmeshed in society and aware of what's going on in the world, and I am in the city and dealing with all the stuff of "civilization".

    If I spend time living in an ancient human way (as with a tribe of indians in the jungle, or with a properly-initiated community of real, genuine, caring, supportive people on a week or more backpacking trip, etc.), I find that I am not depressed WITH NO MEDICATION. Thus, I have reached the conclusion that society is really the sick entity here: The way our artificially-created value system causes us to judge and interact in cold, lonely, even violent competition for artificially-created material wealth...and all the stress, responsibility and hyper-paced busy-ness (business?) this requires...and, I'm even starting to think that the electromagnetic fields generated by all our motors, electronics, etc. are part of this "sickness" we have created which we call "modern society". (I can now "feel" the difference between places like Hong Kong or Silicon Valley, a quiet MidWestern suburb, a city park, and a true wilderness area or jungle.)

    So, my conclusion is that we who experience depression in today's world are healthy, but more sensitive than most. If I can be out in nature and have a sense of belonging/acceptance/value in a community/family atmosphere, then I don't need medication to have a "normal" emotional response to the world. Unfortunately, I can't always control those factors, nor can I spend my life in the wilderness running from the evils of society. So, even though I consider my depression to be a healthy response to a sick society, unfortunately, I am still the one to suffer. Moreover, most of those close to me suffer as well, since I am, at the least, "unavailable" to them...and, at the worst, hurtful to them.

    As such, I am trying to "reprogram" myself and my beliefs (falsely implanted by a sick and ignorantly fear-based family and society)...that I am not "wrong", "flawed", "fucked up", "less able to cope", "someone who should be denied health insurance", nor in any way anything negative or less than anyone else since I require medication to be "normal" in this sick society. In fact, I should be proud that I respond as I do to what our society has become, how we treat, judge, punish, and force our beliefs on each other...and the evil paradox we've created: There are more people on this planet than there's ever been; we are living closer together than we ever have. Yet, almost everyone feels lonely and isolated inside. Further, mere kindness is becoming "impractical." So, the "human" experience that each of us humans crave (which includes our connection to nature), is harder and harder to find in today's increasingly mechanized and artificial world.

    I am glad that I am not so cold, closed or out of touch with myself and what's going on around me so as to be oblivious to it all and just go merrily on my way. Or, so unconsciously lost in patterns of addiction (to activity, drama, substances, love/sex, work, money/success, exercise, accumulation/consumption, adrenalin, thinking, etc) that I am not really here, tuned in, present with how it feels to live on this planet at this time.  I worry that those people who do live in that world of distraction and denial may be becoming almost artificial or machine-like in their insensitivity.  (Not that it's their fault. It's just another coping mechanism, like depression, neither of which seems to be consciously chosen.) But, given the choice, I think that I'd rather hang on to my "human-ness" and spend some time grieving once in awhile for what we and this planet have become...for, it is sad, and I don't want to just "forget" or "accept" that, as so many do. Because if I just "take it all in stride", with no emotional response, as things get worse and worse, I won't do anything in/with my life to help create a different, more loving/human world/reality.

Alberto Taxto is the famous Andean shaman and author who predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall 6 months before it happened.  (The Ecuadorian newspapers retracted their public ridicule of his prediction after the Wall fell.)  When asked what message he would have me bring back to the North American culture, he said, "Three things are most important to your people right now:  Feel more, Feel more, Feel more."  (translated from Spanish)

    On the other hand, when I'm depressed, I am pretty much incapacitated, numb, and don't care enough to do anything to be a force for a a more human existence for myself or others.  (Is it possible to "stay awake" and present and truly feel what's transpiring in this world, how we treat each other, ourselves and the planet...yet NOT either go insane, on an enraged killing spree, or become debilitatingly depressed...?  At this point in my life, after having searched for many years, I'm really not sure....)

    So, what am I left with? I'm left with the realization that as much as I know first hand the devastatingly dark power and agony of depression and hate to see anyone suffer, it is a wonderful thing that there are those of us left on the planet who are sensitive enough to what's going on to become depressed about it. I think that this sensitivity makes us special, and that this unique quality is severely needed in today's cold, insensitive, technology-possessed world (this is coming from someone with a degree in computer engineering). We are those who still hear and still feel what is going on...and can be the ears and eyes for the masses who have become deaf and blind to where we're headed as a planet. I think that we are in a unique position (we *feel* the pain of society's sickness) to step forward and lead, to educate and enlighten, to help get the train back on the right track. We are the canaries in the coal mine....

    BUT, we need to get to a healthy, functional place in order to make any good use out of the non-functional depressive times. Said in another way, depression is useless suffering unless one finds a way *out* of it. So, I support anyone who's doing anything (that doesn't negatively affect another person, of course :) to get out of that hole. Further, I support anyone who's doing anything to speak out about their depression and use it as a force to reverse it's cause (through enlightenment of others).  Because, again, I believe that depression is not some dysfunctional disease, it's a healthy human reaction to a sick environment. You are ok...more than ok, you're more sensitive and special than most...which is why you suffer more. Once the world (generally ignorant and fearful of any mental illness) figures this out (through your help?), maybe we (society) can shift some of our focus, values and resources toward healing society, rather than trying to "fix" or extricate those of us who are sensitive to the destructive and in-humane direction we're heading.

    Until then, I have to cope any way that I can. Right now, unfortunately, this means medication...and the whole thing has been a long, difficult, painful battle...because, in addition to the depression, I do not WANT to be dependent on this medication.  Additionally, being self employed, affordable medical insurance is unavailable until I've been off medication for 6 months. (I'm on the waiting list for the CA Major Risk Medical Insurance Program...the one you're sent to when everyone else rejects you...which is also prohibitively expensive.) But, I'm finding a balance now, and hopefully will do some good in the world for all my suffering. So, that's how I look at it today...and, of course, today is a pretty good day because I have hope. (If it weren't and I hadn't found some sort of hope again, I wouldn't be here typing. I'd be in bed under the covers, maybe moaning a little, but not doing much more communicating than that! ;-) Maybe my words and vision will give you a bit of hope or inspiration, too. If nothing else, know that you have my heartfelt empathy.

<< But, remember, these are not proven facts, nor medical advice, nor any kind of divine gospel, they're just my *current* feelings, opinions and experience with depression, which I hope you will find comforting, hopeful and maybe even enlightening and inspirational. >>

    In any case, as I said in the beginning, if you're feeling depressed, or have in the past, you have my sincere sympathy, respect, and genuine admiration for battling the most powerful negative force I've ever encountered.  Anything positive you can do with it, I think, is bonus (and huge).   At least know that there's at least one other person here around whom you don't have to feel bad about feeling bad....  And, tho we've never met, your sensitivity fuels my hope that maybe we can turn this whole thing around and create a more healthy, caring, accepting, kind, compassionate and less depressing society.  Perhaps it's why we're here....

Thanks for listening and giving me a place to express this: It was therapeutic for me; ie, I'm speaking to myself here as much as anyone!
Rich Raffals (34, Computer Engineer, Palo Alto, California, USA)

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