Today, this article will focus on something that we are all familiar with but are often largely blind to, despite the fact that it affects us all: hardship, depression, and grief. In this article I intend to share some beliefs, strategies, and stories that I believe may positively impact those who have, will, or are currently dealing with depression or hardship.
A short list of important resources are available at the bottom of this article if you are in crisis or are looking for help.
First of all, what is depression?
“The term depression embraces a variety of meanings. For some, it may be nothing more than a gentle sadness; for others, it is a profoundly painful gloom. It can last just a few days or weeks or many months or years. Some patients experience physical symptoms, such as crying, difficulty with sleep, changes in appetite and weight, even pain or weakness.James Morrison, M. D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University (A Short Course in Psychiatry, 2009)
In many regions around the world, there are many organisations and groups that offer professional counselling and advice. Unfortunately, since coming to terms with sudden trauma is difficult, a person’s mental state can easily become fragile and seeking the help they need is often much more difficult than it sounds.
Those who suffer from prolonged depression have the potential to lose a desire or ability to seek help from another person, and for those who cannot find help at critical moments of their suffering, suicide often seems like the best path.
Of course, every single one of us has had to face obstacles or hardship at certain points in our lives. The loss of a loved one, a serious sickness, infighting with family members, or failing to achieve goals or success.
In these situations, we find ourselves unable to convey our emotions of sorrow and helplessness. In some instances, our intense feelings lead us to question the purpose of life. Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? What’s the point of living if things like this are going to happen to me?
By asking these questions, we are making an assumption that life should consist of nothing but uninterrupted happiness, and that there’s no way that it will get better in the near future.
Hardship is a certainty in our lives. I believe it’s important to remember that everyone faces adversity, and that in most circumstances, it could have been much worse. In most instances, having patience and a belief in better times ahead, no matter how far ahead they may be, is something that can help you get through anything.
In the best and worst of times, we must accept life as it comes, and do our best to navigate and change it to as close to what we want as possible. Though nothing is ever perfect, with patience and strong-mindedness, we can work to bring back grace to parts of our lives where it had previously been lost.
A very prominent societal example of fighting this struggle is J.K. Rowling, the author of the well-known Harry Potter series. Just three years before her first book was released, she had been through a divorce, was on government aid, and was at risk of her child dying. Rowling’s situation would have been enough for many to give up on her other dreams, but she refused. Instead of accepting defeat from life, Rowling turned her hardship into a $15 Billion brand, and used inspiration from her hard times to manufacture a new form of personal success.
Happiness and sadness are merely two sides of the same coin. They are an inseparable combination in life. Although we struggle to accept hardship when it comes, we live our entire lives knowing that grief and death are always a short way away. While at the heights of our lives we may be at our prime, thriving, and happy, there is always a possibility that sickness, hardship, or bad times are right around the corner.
The companion and father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who many know as Abu Bakr, once stated that:
“What hit you could not have missed you, what missed you could not have hit you. Remember that victory comes with patience, relief comes with affliction and ease comes with hardship.”Abu Bakr, :40 Hadith Nawawi 19
Bakr’s quote teaches us that when we encounter adversities, we should not feel sorry for ourselves, because self-pity leads us nowhere. We should put our trust in our destiny, and have a conviction in heart and brain that can propel us towards reaching an end to our torment and enduring.
Affection and mercy will eventually grasp us.
It is important to remember, however, that conflating trust, happiness, and sadness with mental health and well-being can be very problematic. It is incorrect to claim that our mental health is solely affected by the strength of our trust and mind, because depression and mental illness can affect anyone.
For those struggling with a temporary period of intense despair, I encourage you to have strong, positive thoughts, and to trust in your own destiny that you have the potential to get through it.
If you are struggling with something more severe, there are resources available to you that you may find below. For those in the Greater Toronto Area, you can find a comprehensive list here. For young people in Canada, the Kids Help Phone service is always available. All people in Canada can find resources at the Canadian Mental Health Association website here.