Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chazek, Chazek!

When I first read the words below, I experienced some anger:

My friends, the basic rule is to be firm and strong. Use all your strength to remain persistent. Pay no attention at all to discouraging thoughts. Take it one day at a time, and just make it through _this_ day. You can make through one day, right? I mean, there is food today and maybe enough money for today, you can have peace in your house for a day or handle that difficult job just for a day.

If you were to see the impact of the small effort you make here in this world, the light years in distance of that impact in the worlds above, it would make you very happy. And perhaps, by thinking about this, you can be happy. You should make a great effort to always be happy, because depression does tremendous damage. It is a very grave sin to be depressed. Depression comes from the other side and Hashem hates it. IT IS A SIGN OF TOTAL DISBELIEF IN HASHEM!

Reb Nati's words about depression are the ones I was angry at. For years, I've suffered from clinical depression and had to take medication. It got me through the day to day things but I didn't like taking the medicine. There were two things that kept me from taking my life during those long and dark years: My son would be an orphan and HaShem gave me this precious life!

Those two things kept me alive. Remarkably, since I began listening to my neshama and understanding the path HaShem wants me to follow, I haven't had to use any medication in over 2 1/2 years. The depression seems to have lifted. I disagree with Reb Nati that depression is a sign of total disbelief in HaShem. Through those darkest days when the thoughts running through my head were ones of how to most efficiently end my life, HaShem guided me to His many wonders. My son's face, hugs, a stranger's smile, the ocean, a bird flying through the air: All told me life was worth living and so He gave me chazek.

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Reb Nati is very correct in one thing, by striving to be happy, the brain's balance can be restored. It is the simple things which bring joy. It is a continuing wonder at HaShem's creation which lifted and sheltered me. Depression can make one feel a sense of isolation which seems impenetrable. It is a vast, grey wall and it can be broken down with each face of a loved one, each shared joke, each hug, and each new sight of wonder. It can be broken down by listening, really listening to what HaShem is telling you.

Maybe for some depression is a sign of disbelief in HaShem. For me, it was a sign I was approaching Him in the wrong way.


Soccer Dad said...

I don't think he's referring to clinical depression.

shira0607 said...

Probably not but he did say depression was a disbelief in HaShem.

Soccer Dad said...

I could be wrong but I think he was using "depression" in place of "despair."

shira0607 said...

That would make more sense.

Soccer Dad said...

FWIW, the Gemora says about one who breaks something in anger that it's as if he has no God. (I believe that's the terminology. I might be a little off, but that the gist.)

shira0607 said...

Is it just the breaking of something in anger or anger itself? At times, anger can be a good motivator to change things. My anger gave me strength to leave an abusive husband. There's good and bad in anger.

Soccer Dad said...

IIRC, it is breaking something in anger.

It's a discussion in the Gemora of Shabbos. What if someone rips something destructively, is that a Torah prohibition? The Gemora then suggests that if makes someone feel better it is productive and the could be a desecration of Shabbos. The Gemora then answers that tearing something in anger is a bad thing to do.

I think that's the way the reasoning went, but it's been awhile.

shira0607 said...

I'll have to look it up and read about it. It's very interesting and makes me wonder if this applies to the parsha when Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it.

Soccer Dad said...

Parshablog has been writing about striking the rock a lot.

One of the commentators (I forget which) identifies Moshe's sin as saying "Listen rebellious ones," - i.e. losing his temper. So there is certainly a basis for what you're saying.

Akiva said...

SD - Not breaks, when he loses his temper. If you've every lost your temper, or more valuablely watched someone else do it, you see that all other thoughts leave and you're focused only on your anger and the issue that brought it.

Things of value no longer matter, no matter how important they were, they can be broken without regard. Damage to relationships no longer matter. What matters is GETTING IT OUT.

At that moment, when nothing exists for a person but their own anger, then they have pushed G-d out of their life (along with practically everyone else).

Shira - everyone gets depressed, just as everyone gets super-happy (manic). It's getting stuck there that we call clinical depression nowadays.

Depression is the right word, for you would probably understand better than most that when one is depressed, in some ways similar to losing your temper, you are so busy wallowing in your blackness and despair that there is no room even to think about and cry to G-d.

We are obligated to force ourselves towards the positive actions, even if we don't feel it, to not allow ourselves to stay depressed _IF WE ARE ABLE TO_.

You yourself wrote that by listening to (for?) Hashem, you were able to break down the depression.

Still, we're referring to the average person of average abilities & situation. Any average person can wallow in their depression and look only at the bad parts of their situation.That indicates a spiritual problem.

There is no doubt clinical depression is real, a clearly defined medical condition. But, the brain is not just a chemical factory. Thoughts can affect it, chemically and electrically, and can even create physical measurable changes over time. (Scientific medical studies have shown this.) The chemical and physiological story is bi-directional.

shira0607 said...


Thank you for responding. If I had read the rest of your post without the veil of anger, I would have seen that we were basically saying the same thing. And for me, it was both listening to and for HaShem. Those years were very difficult. It was a vast sea of darkness with just the barest glimmer of hope that kept me going. A spark on the distant shore if you will.