Depression: Feeling Shattered and Reaching for Wholeness


We love to take things apart, to figure out how things work. Our curiosity prods us to dissect and tinker until we understand. Indulging curiosity is one of the chief pleasures of human life.

In our quest to take apart and understand, we easily forget that the answers to many of our questions – and solutions for countless problems – lie in wholeness. At the end of the day, we need to remind ourselves of this.

Our health, for instance, will always be the sum of our parts. We are alive because a bunch of funny looking slimy organs, held together by connective tissue and bone, work together cooperatively. Our physical, mental and emotional well-being depend on each cell, organ and system doing its job in a way that promotes the working of other cells, organs and systems.

Depression and Wholeness

When we have an illness such as major depressive disorder, it is our nature to look for answers – for relief – in specifics. Which cells, which organ, which person, which situation is causing our suffering? We look at neurotransmitters, toxins in our environment, family history, the bacteria in our gut, and stress in the workplace to find a solution to our distress. However, all of it matters.

Even as we address specific problems where we find them, it is important to continuously assess the balance of all the elements that inform our lives. It also helps to remind ourselves that no matter how piecemeal our life may appear or feel, it has a basic wholeness to it – or we would not be alive.

The Wholeness Within

Everyone who is depressed has his or her own journey through a maze of sadness, despair, fatigue and hopelessness. Yet we can learn from one another’s experience. Many individuals who have wrestled with depression have also discovered something strong and whole within themselves.

Here are some insights from Parker J. Palmer's A Hidden Wholeness, A Journey Toward an Undivided Life:

Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. I learned about these qualities during my bouts with depression. In the deadly darkness, the faculties I had always depended on collapsed. My intellect was useless; my emotions were dead; my will was impotent; my ego was shattered. But from time to time, deep in the thickets of my inner wilderness, I could sense the presence of something that knew how to stay alive even when the rest of me wanted to die. That something was my tough and tenacious soul.

As time goes on, we subject to powers of deformation, from within as well as without, that twist us into shapes alien to the shape of the soul. But the soul never loses its original form and never stops calling us back to our birthright integrity.


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