Q: With my illness, the waxing and waning of symptoms, I am constantly fighting depression. It is hard for me to deal with, and it is hard for my loved ones. I have tried antidepressants and they interfere with my disease by creating side effects and other symptoms. I would like to take a more spiritual approach. Is there a spiritual way to fight depression?

Frannie Rose Frannie Rose: Chronic depression can be handled through medications most positively. There are new studies that state that if one is having difficulty dealing with side effects from one, a trial of another antidepressant might be more successful. Most people do find relief after trying several different antidepressant medications through trial and error with their doctors. That being said, If your depression is one that is reactive to your illness severity or the waxing and waning of symptoms and you are asking to try an alternative to medication, there are many. For me, the spiritual path has been a blessing.

With chronic illness, anxiety and fear can be our constant companions. Along with these we feel betrayed by our own bodies that we trusted and put our faith in. This anxiety, fear and hurt turns into anger that we find difficult to express. Depression is often anger turned inward. Anger toward our medical providers for not “curing” us, anger toward our loved ones for not nurturing us, and anger towards ourselves for not “coming through” and dealing with our situation by making it go away.

With the anxiety of chronic illness, we spend much time thinking ahead and wondering what the future will bring us. Our time is spent worrying about medical tests, their possible outcomes, fearing the pain associated with these tests, the waiting for results and the doctor appointments that inevitably follow. We wonder if we can be depended upon, will our children give up on us, our spouses leave us, our doctors give us what we need, and our finances dwindle down to nothing while we try to obtain good medical care.

Spiritually through this journey we really cannot focus on the future. If we do, we are spending our time in a land of make believe. The future has not formed yet, has not come to be, and is only a figment of our imagination. What a useless exercise, allowing our minds to go into the future and determine our course of action! Why? Do you feel it prepares you for a future event? How could you possibly know how to react to something that happens at a later point in time, with later variables that you know nothing of now? Nor do you have all the later answers at this very moment!

The past is no longer a comfortable place to focus on either. You no longer fit with your illness and your new limitations and inflexibility’s. The past can become depressing to one who yearns for it. And yearning for our past merely stunts our spiritual growth. It leaves us stuck in old patterns and an old time and place. It leaves our lessons from that time unlearned. For if we are to truly grow spiritually, we need to learn from new lessons and new situations, in a different time and place.

The only choice we have is to live in the present, the now. The past no longer fits us and the future has not yet happened. Anxiety comes from the gap between future and present. As Tolle says in his book The Power of Now, “Anxiety is too much future and not enough presence.” If you find yourself feeling anxious, let go of the future and focus on now.

Sadness and regrets come from focusing on the past. The past has already been lived, and is over- whether you are sick or well, dealing with a great loss or not. The past cannot be undone, or changed in any way. To move forward on our journeys, we can take the lessons from the past with us. But we cannot relive them. Instead there are many new lessons to learn now, in the present.

Become present. Focus on what you are doing and feeling right now. Abandon all “what if” questions. Their only real purpose is to create undue anxieties. Let go of the past, put it away on a shelf, and start by calling it “my old story”. Your new story begins now, this very second. Begin by seeing the flip- side of all your discomforts. Every situation has good and bad polarities. Focus on the good ones. Stop comparing then with now. Now is different in every single variable.

Look at how much more focused you have become. Look at the new things you are learning. Look at how you are able to feel so much more alive in the now! How can depression compete with finding the beauty in this moment?

(c) 2005 – Frannie Rose