2014: Five Year Plan: 2. Working through depression

FIVE-YEAR PLAN
1. Repent for thinking it was all right to live the way we have been living. It wasn’t, and we should have known it.

2. Don’t look away from the hard reality because it is depressing. Whatever it takes, work though the depression.

Today I have to write about the need to work through depression. I started this post yesterday but was in no shape to write about depression. I was in perhaps the worst personal depression I have been in this year. I lay in bed most of the day, crying.

This happens to people who care about other people and get involved in the messy edges of life. And it always takes me by surprise. I am better today, so have this to offer on situations like I found myself in yesterday, as well as some suggestions for the larger question about depression resulting from a close look at our world.

Depression from hard personal relations:
1. Believe in yourself. Believe in your own goodness and good intentions.

2. Understand and acknowledge that you probably were wrong in saying what you said, writing what you wrote, or doing what you did.

3. Wait and listen for opportunities for reconciliation and renewed engagement in the messy, important issues of life. (This I am particularly bad at.)

But there are other larger issues of depression that I had in mind with my five-year plan

Depression from a pessimistic analysis of our world’s situation

I have heard it said “If you’re depressed, thank God, you’re normal. If you ‘re not depressed you’re not paying attention.”

I believe this. So the answer is not to look for the cause of depression. We know that – the world is going to hell, and at a pretty fast pace. The goal for us is to work through depression: to not let our beliefs about the world debilitate us, render us inactive, or affect our personal demeanor to such an extent that it affects how we treat those clo
sest to us.

Some helpful suggestions
1. Avoid linear thinking. Most projections of doom are expressed in linear thinking. Remember all of those charts in the Al Gore movie that suddenly shot up when projected into the future? Whether it be peak oil, population growth, glacier melting, or global warming, the usual way the material is presented is in the form of a graph of past trends followed by the projection into the future, using the assumption that conditions will remain unchanged.

People who counter predictions of doom with the promise of technological innovations use the same kind of linear thinking – if the problem is grave enough, the solution will attract enough attention that the solution will be found. So far, that has always happened.

Tom Wessel’s book “The Myth of Progrsss” was liberating for me. He talks about complex systems – formerly know as chaos theory. He talks about positive and negative feedback in dynamic systems that make it impossible to predict specific consequences from past patterns. But that is not to say that we can’t learn from the past. We do not know what the temperature will be the fist week of February of this year, but we have a pretty good idea that it will be colder than the fist week of July.

So we need to do our analysis and form our belief, but not look for fulfilment of our predictions to support the urgency of our actions

2. Find colleagues who will support you in your work.
3. Find the kind of activity that energizes you and feeds you. I hate standing on street corners holding signs that may or may not be understood by people passing by that I do not know. But I love to give popular education style workshops. In any organization I join, I always gravitate toward education.

In looking at my three year evaluation of my attempt to work through depression I can see that I have made some progress:
 In dealing with my “retirement” identity.
 I have resolved some of the issues of relating to my church community
 Although I do not have as many opportunities to lead popular education style workshops, I have done considerable writing: a collection of 29 stories from my life, two children’s stories, and now I have a blog where I can express my ideas, so personally I am in belter shape than three years ago: which gives me confidence in recommending my path to you.

So these are my thoughts about working through depression in order to keep doing what you know needs to be done.

And eat chocolate if it helps.

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About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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4 Responses to 2014: Five Year Plan: 2. Working through depression

  1. Elena says:

    Dearest Newell: Thank you for your courage! Thank you for sharing your journey! It so resonates with me. I’ve been dealing with an acute and severe case of sciatica. I was totally sidelined for most of December. Three lower vertebrae twisted with muscle mass in between severely pinching the sciatic nerve and causing relentless and excruciating pain throughout my left back, buttocks, hip, groin, thigh, knee and ankle. I did not sleep day or night for nine straight days. I’m under the care of a chiropractor and an acupuncturist and I’m slowly, so, so slowly making progress. It’s been 44 days…..Throughout this ordeal of dealing with pain I have been scared witless, depressed, and have despaired. I have begged God for mercy and prayed and meditated. And strangely, for most of it I have had this very strong sense that this situation of mine has been a huge blessings in disguise. I am learning ever so slowly to surrender this pain to God and to focus all of my love and life force on the pain itself so that I don’t fear it. The ordeal stripped my entire life to the very, very basics, which really came down to family, friends, and a simpler more direct relationship with God. So while my situation is by no means similar to yours, I do empathize with the depression, and in my case, misgivings, guilt, loneliness, lovelessness; and amidst it all, finding the Spirit to face and hopefully conquer these demons.

    I love you so much Newell. It is very difficult for me to express or describe what your testimony in how you’ve lived and continue to live your life means. It is a life so filled with purpose and intentionality and so many other inspiring qualities. I am with you in Spirit, my friend. Elena

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  2. Elena,

    I am so sorry to hear of your ordeals with sciatica. It sounds truly horrendous. But I am glad that you are finding ways to use the experience to deepen your spiritual connections and are now in some kind of process of healing. You, too, have been an inspiration to many of us.

    I think I’ll send you a copy of a children’s story I wrote for Anna’s daughter, Vita. I think you will appreciate both the fantasy and the reality of it. Much of the story derives from our work as organizers, and there is even some inspiration from “the people’s mic” at Occupy Boston.

    Stay in touch.

    Newell

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  3. Clara says:

    For myself I have found that feeling useless can be a source of major depression, and counter to that, feeling needed can be a fighting force against it. One morning when I was alone with Bridget for the day, I found myself wallowing in self-pity on the couch while she played on the floor. I sat up and thought to myself “Buck up, Hendricks. Have a fun day with your kid.” Sometimes it’s not as simple as that but in that moment that’s what it took.

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  4. Pingback: 2014: Five-Year Plan: 4. Live Simply | Newell Hendricks

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