Don’t go into the Sea of Trees…
Jukai ni ikimasen…
I’m willing to bet you still have much to live for.
Religious and spiritual people do, I have to admit, have a built-in advantage here. They can rely on their God and / or spiritual beliefs to help ease their pain and hopelessness. Not so much for secular and rational Atheists or Agnostics. We Agnostics have no one to pray to, and no spiritual guidelines or holy scriptures to fall back upon in times of need.
And that is okay with most of us. We’ve learned how to live with it. Yet it does not make it any easier. How should a rational person approach depression?
Please check out the above video, from my Guru, Russell Brand (I love his work and he’s helped me out a lot, hence why I link to his video). It’s only 9 minutes. The facts it delivers, how great the increase in stress has been in our society, are alarming. He states that 32% of adults have felt suicidal as a result of their stressful feelings. I’ll wager that here in the USA, it’s probably more, while the true figure remains hidden out of fear by those affected.
Stress affects all of us. Whether you’re devout or not, a scientist or not… society has rapidly evolved into an escalating quest for personal profit and gain, even at the expense of others… especially at the expense of others.
We all need to turn away from this
We all need to stop fighting over small differences in our beliefs (#CancelCultureWars) and communicate and learn to help each other. The human race only survived in the past because of altruism: the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Indeed, science, for most of its existence before it was co-opted and seized by corporate interests, functioned as a collaborative enterprise. Our present day society, worshipping and encouraging materialism, has a vested interest in steering you away from altruism. Do not let it.
And while we are fixing our society (I am trying my very best, bear with me), we each have to also make sure to take time to focus on our own individual well-being. I know it is difficult, as I have my own struggles. Please believe me, it can be done.
If you are suicidal, or if you are nearing or at hopelessness, or if you are in various stages of depression, here are some things you can do:
- Make new goals, Make a choice to live: If I was to offer you, as a true Djinni of the Lamp (let us just pretend), 3 wishes with no strings attached (no BS or cheating)… would you take them? I’m willing to bet that you would. What would be your first wish? More money? Better life? A Ferrari? Herein lies a revelation. If you were really suicidal, if you really wanted to die, you wouldn’t have bothered taking the 3 wishes. You must just want things to change. And the wishes may represent that change, for the better. Well, I can’t grant those 3 wishes. What I can do, is tell you that if you: A) Recognize that your current life choices aren’t working (or else you wouldn’t be in this fix). B) resolve to change (perhaps following the 12 step program Russell Brand lays out at his site). And C) Recognize that: “The will to live is stronger than anything else.” (Kenshin Himura) and make a commitment to go on. You can achieve you goals even if it takes a mammoth struggle to survive.
- Call the Suicide Hotline: The link is at the end of this post. Please call them if you are so depressed that you are considering ending it all. They will help you. I promise you; they have very good people and can also connect you with local help.
- Follow The Eightfold Path: Although I maintain my current Agnostic status, I am also studying Buddha, and practicing a little of what I can. The Eightfold Path is not meant as a linear path, for you to follow the steps in order, but as aspects of life to be integrated into your daily existence. It is meant as a guideline, and to help alleviate suffering. The Eightfold Path is:
- Right Understanding – See the world as it is, not as we want or believe it to be, colored by our own religious or political biases.
- Right Thought – Practice thoughts of love, non-violence, and compassion.
- Right Speech – Try to abstain from lies, gossip, harsh judgement, and words spoken in anger.
- Right Action – Promoting moral, ethical, and peaceful conduct.
- Right Livelihood – I certainly enjoy a good vice or two (such as a delicious bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon) at times, but in general, try to steer clear of excessive drug abuse, crime, violence, and do not engage in something (conduct) which can bring harm to others.
- Right Effort – Cultivate an enthusiasm, a positive approach toward life… a way to prevent unwholesome states of mind from arising and to deal with them when they do.
- Right Mindfulness – Change your way of thinking! Be aware of your activities and sensations in every moment… meditate and breath… be able to focus on a task at hand or improve your mind’s way of handling your own unique journey at each step.
- Right Concentration – Select the best directions or paths for your mind to concentrate on, the most critical for you to embrace (that which is important in your life) while the others (regret, envy, negative influences) all melt away.
If you follow the Eightfold Path, I cannot guarantee your life will immediately improve. Yet over time, you may be able to deal with your difficulties better and eventually alleviate your suffering and trials.
- Follow Tom Coughlin’s Super Bowl Winning Advice: When I was at a very low point in my life, almost my worst (I almost died, things were so bad, and at one point I was just shy of being homeless)… I followed Tom Coughlin’s advice. In case you are not a football (American) fan, or do not follow the New York Giants, he coached said Giants to two Super Bowl Victories (along with QB Eli Manning). Both of the victories were very inspirational, especially the first, beating the previously undefeated (even in regular season) New England Patriots. That season, remarkably, the Giants lost their first two games. And quite badly, I may add. Coach Coughlin then held a meeting with his players (where he apparently took them bowling) and told them how he recognized he was part of the problem and that he did not want to be the problem! The team turned it around immediately and won the Super Bowl in epic fashion. Coach Coughlin built his game strategy around this: Keep going, keep fighting, keep doing things the right way and trust that things will work out in the end. I used the same strategy to lift myself out… every day do something, even a small thing like sending an email to someone who can help you, and keep doing these things every day. Plan at night. Do as many things as you can tomorrow. And then come back and take more positive actions to set yourself up the next day. Some actions may be short term. Others (such as applying for a job or to a university) may be long term. Keep stacking these things up day after day and, like Coach Coughlin said, trust that it will all work out in the end. Two Super Bowls can’t lie!
- Develop a new hobby / interest / obsession: Learn to play a new musical instrument, perhaps one you’ve always wanted to try. Try indoor rock climbing. Play Magic: The Gathering at a game store near you. Learn to cook from Gordan Ramsay’s YouTube videos (I have and it’s great!). Get a small telescope (or binoculars) and learn / practice astronomy (I’ve also done this myself, and I can tell you it’s a fun, absorbing, and fascinating new hobby to engage in). You don’t have to limit yourself to one thing. All these things and more are what make life worth living. The thing about depression is, when you are depressed, you make less and less time for the things that really make life worth living. Join a gaming club (like D&D) and try to help others win a fabled quest. Buy a tent and go camping at a National Park. Learn more about birds and take some first rate pictures of wild and evocative ones… beautiful digital pictures that you can process (with a little effort and the right free downloadable software) and post on the net. There are endless possibilities here. Getting involved in something new to focus your energies on, and perhaps meet and engage with new people, is a good way to keep going and improve your life. It will be difficult at first, and you will not feel like doing it. That’s okay, please tell that voice in your head saying ‘nay’ to shut up and then go ahead and do the things you are most interested in.
- Connect with nature: I sort of mentioned this in the last item. It can be very inexpensive to buy a small tent or camper and go to any number of state and national parks across the US. There are also breathtaking sites in Canada (or Europe). Colorado alone has many beautiful camping spots (I have camped there myself) that provide serene views of the mountains, calming sounds of rushing streams and rivers, and beautiful views of other gorgeous scenery, lush forests, and the night sky. As John Muir, celebrated conservationist, once said: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” — Our National Parks, 1901, page 56.
- Get a new degree: There is no question that the education system in USA is faulty and broken. University costs are out of control, and I believe in a tuition-free model. All of this needs to be addressed. Let us not focus on that for just a moment. If there is some subject you may be interested in… psychology, physics, engineering, biology, ancient history… why don’t you consider going back to school and getting a degree in it? It may help your job prospects. In 2007, I enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in physics with a minor in astronomy. It was one of the best things I ever did. I found several friends in my physics classes and we formed a group. I met every week with that group of good friends, and we played games, talked, watched movies together, solved homework problems, bonded in general. It was a great experience. Universities will help you with financial aid (they did for me) and there may even be grants you can get (that you don’t have to pay back). Going back to school and getting a degree is a good choice to make in that it will give you increased knowledge and a great experience, along with (hopefully) better job prospects. I know the student loan issue is critical and needs to be solved. I’m just saying that you may want to consider this avenue. It worked wonders for me and now makes it possible for me to research astrophysics and stellar evolution (something I’ve always been passionate about).
I hope this article, and some of my suggestions at least, may help you. Remember, you’re not in this fight alone. We are a group. And we are able to help one another.