Buddhism – an anchor in the midst of depression.

 

Lo and behold, I found myself there again.

It was in between those drifting days in the space within Christmas and New Year, that bizarre time of the year when time slows down yet everything speeds up and the meaning to life is yet to be caught up with. Except my meaning, which had gone AWOL again, and had been in a place somewhere other than where it should have been for quite a few months.

It all started somewhere in between my car breaking down and a family member dying; I never had the strength to trace back and pin point exactly when. 2018 was hours away, a new year, new start! But my energies were lying in every single negative incident that made up 2017, every single one, which i’m sure there was something in the fine print that these major mess up moves were supposed to be spread out during the course of ones lifetime not in a single year, I wouldn’t have signed up for it otherwise, surely?

Anyway, the new year was set to be a write off. And then my mind made a flip move on to one that most people with bipolar or some other severe mental health issues do one in their lives; I started practicing Buddhism.

The past few months have been a blur, yet a positive enriched blur. I have followed closely the words of the Dharma, engaged in mindfulness and meditation, a whole lot of books, even more podcasts, taken up the precepts and signed up to my second Buddhist course of the year and attended classes where a lot of tears and a lot of hugs were exchanged (and only two months have passed). My perception on life as it was has pointed itself in the opposite direction. And what a life saver it has all been. I am 10 week medication free for the first time in four years (though I am not so immune and past it all to believe I won’t need them again somewhere down the line!).

To sum up the year so far, I am okay (even though I am still walking through a wreckage of a life that is not yet okay).

For anyone interested, I have listed below my recommendations for some beginners reading in to buddhism. Happy reading 🙂

 

Buddhist Bootcamp – Timber Hawkeye 

Buddhism for Busy people – David Michie

Teachings of the Buddha – Jack Kornfield

Buddhism for beginners – Jack Kornfield

When things fall apart – Pema Chödrön

   Buddhism is not what you think – Steve Hagen 

 

 

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“Sharing Stories” – Seeking Solace in Literature, by Lloyd Thomas.

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!

Or that the everlasting had not fix’d

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,

That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely. That it should come to this!

(Hamlet, Shakespeare)

 

“In a way, Hamlet saved my life. When I read Hamlet or see it performed, the extremes of anguish and despair seem to en-cloak my heart in empathy. If you suffer from depression and haven’t seen Hamlet performed on stage, I really can’t recommend it enough. I don’t know if Shakespeare was a depressive, but he was definitely a genius, and he seems to represent depression in words better than anyone else I’ve come across in literature or music. This is from around 413 years ago, and I still wish I could cry like a normal person when I read it. Why don’t people write tragedies any more? Life is so often tragic, the world is just as tragic now as it was then, so why does Hollywood demand optimism? Some European films have come close to tragedy, but nothing quite as sublime as Shakespeare, Marlowe or Webster (my personal favourites). If anyone can recommend me any truly tragic movies, please don’t hesitate.

Anyway, I was going to explain how Shakespeare, and particularly Hamlet saved, or at least changed my life. I’ve tried to write songs off and on for the whole of my depressed adult life. It is nothing other than torture though, when one has such desperation to find words to describe their mind’s life, and cannot gain any confidence in, or satisfaction from what is written. I picked up the Works of Shakespeare for some poetic inspiration. Boy was I inspired, I found impossible brilliance in the Sonnets, and just flicked back a few pages to feed a growing curiosity. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. ‘Oh, I’ve heard of Hamlet’, I thought, ‘I’ll just read the first act and see what it’s like’. I was hooked before Hamlet even appears, but more so after his first words of the play, an under the breath utterance of retort against Claudius’ patronising words: ‘A little more than kin, and less than kind’ (Act I Sc II). Not to mention the following speech to his Mother on his profound grief for his Father’s death. Hamlet’s Mother has the cheek to ask him of his grief ‘why seems it so particular with thee?’, his response is beautiful:

 

Seems, madam! nay, it is; I know not seems.

‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,

Nor customary suits of solemn black,

Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath,

No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,

Nor the dejected ‘haviour of the visage,

Together with all forms, moods, shows of grief,

That can denote me truly: these, indeed, seem;

For they are actions that a man might play:

But I have that within which passeth show;

These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

(Act I Scene II)

 

This brilliance is followed hard upon by the astounding soliloquy quoted briefly above to open this post. Look how I’m being pulled by different threads of thought and inspiration, and not getting to the point, blame the bard. The point is that by the time I had finished reading this sublime tragedy, I knew that I wanted to study English. Now that might not sound like a big deal to you, but to me, it was a new direction that wasn’t down, and if I hadn’t changed direction I’m not sure how much further I had to fall, so there’s how the play-write may have saved my life. My only disappointment with the English study so far: not enough tragedy. But then again, my mind is tragic enough as it is.”

-By Lloyd Thomas.

If you would like to read more of Lloyd’s writings on of a a variety of discussion topics including Mental health, Literature, and Current affairs. Follow his blog here at freewillisntfree.

 

Do you have an experience with Mental health you would like to share? Send your story, name and picture in to themanicyears@gmail.com and be featured in the Sharing stories series.