There is this religious long-time understanding of humanity as a broken and in need of being fixed by a savior. The idea that people are messed up and only a third party intervention by a deity is going to make them good and perfect again. In this understanding, people can try all they want to fix themselves, but in the end the only thing that is going to redeem them from their inherent awfulness, is a savior.
I used to think of any human attempt to get help as similar to slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound. They were trying to treat the symptoms, instead of dealing with the root problem and solving everything once and for all.
For example, in my mind at the time, taking an Advil for a headache was pointless, because it was just masking your symptoms instead of getting to the root of the problem by drinking some water, getting some rest, examining your diet and possibly changing it. Today I still think that one should try to discern what is impacting their health in negative ways and make changes. However, I am skeptical about “getting to the root of the problem” and I have come to question that basic premise of needing a savior. I reject the attitude which says fighting symptoms would demonstrate a lack of faith and I refuse to live in complete denial that the problems are even there.
When I wrote about my depression back in 2010 it was a huge breakthrough for me. I was acknowledging that my depression was there, and getting help for the first time. I also recognized for the first time that I might never find the magic cure-all. I had been completely devoted to my beliefs, I had tried denial, and done everything I could to “get to the root of the problem” which I believed was sin in my life and my need for a savior, and I was not cured. Acknowledging that this was not my fault, that it was not from lack of faith that I was not healed, and that it was OK to get help, was life-changing. Over the next year and a half after that I experienced the greatest climb out of depression I had ever had, and in the process, I think I forgot that I was no longer trying to find a cure-all. It was so exciting to feel as great as I did, that I started to wonder if I had left depression behind me for good. Perhaps I had found “the root of my problem” after all.
Enter reality. People who have had one major episode of depression are highly likely to have another. Depression has multiple causes and symptoms. In making huge strides towards wholeness and happiness, I had begun to fall back on my old magic cure-all mindset.
When we moved and began the process of coming out, I knew it was going to be hard. I literally could not imagine what kind of reactions we were going to get from some close relatives, others I could imagine very vividly, but I hoped I was wrong. I knew we were going to get hammered, and yet I felt so at peace that I was sure that it would all roll off my back and leave me unscathed. And at first I tried to pretend like it did. I clung to the idea that I had found the root of my problem of depression, and therefore it was never coming back.
The peace remained, but that didn’t stop the wave of sadness and pain that surfaced after the hurtful words and actions. I know that I feel safe and grounded in my marriage and my family, that I am succeeding in my job and building a new community. But that didn’t stop the hurt from the accusations of failure and the marginalizing of my spouse.
Depression. Again. And I was angry about it. How dare this resurface in my life just when I was taking such great strides? How could I still let the opinions of people who were never there for me affect me in this way? This time though, instead of hiding it, trying to have more faith, or beating myself up too badly, I remembered what I had discovered a couple years back, I don’t have to be afraid anymore. It’s OK to get help. And I have found what feels to be a major difference between my old approach to human frailty, and my approach today.
I no longer see getting help as an “easy fix” or wimping out. I don’t think needing help means I have failed. Since I am no longer thinking of myself as a flawed being in need of a magic-cure all (or savior figure) to fix me, I don’t have to sit around waiting and hoping to be redeemed. Instead I wake up each day and deal with the challenges of that day, and learn how to treat and manage my symptoms, whether that means medication, counseling, surrounding myself with people who love me and are there for me and limiting interaction with people who only drain me and cause me pain. I no longer see these things as an “easy fix” or the band-aid on a gaping wound. Instead it feels like being willing to make the whole meal from scratch with the help and support of those around me, instead of waiting helplessly at the front door for delivery from a supernatural being. It’s as if letting go with that idea of complete redemption from an outside source, has made me OK with being human.