Monday, April 20, 2009

Healing from Despair (Part 1)

Sometimes I pick up a book that provides exactly the information I need to read, and I am always so grateful. The day before my birthday, I found a book called, Healing from Despair: Choosing Wholeness in a Broken World by Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz, and it's been illuminating.

Independent of one's faith, Rabbi Spitz is one of the only writers I've ever read on this subject whose feelings truly resonate with mine. And perhaps the reason is because he has experienced such a deep case of depression (caused by meningitis and viral encephalitis when he was 27 and a practicing attorney) that when he returned to work he felt he "was no longer whole, that I was in some sense broken, that I was forever altered."
These are almost the exact words I used when I experienced my first depressive episode as an 18-year-old college freshman.
While Rabbi Spitz wasn't sure at the time why the illness caused his decline, he knew his ability to concentrate was impaired. "I found myself angry, filled with fear, and increasingly isolated."

Ultimately, he quit his job, sold his possessions, and fled to Tahiti. "Perhaps in choosing to travel so far to an unknown locale, I was trying to flee myself. I had no clue that within a year, I would have spiraled down into utter darkness, leading to a series of hospitalizations in mental hospitals."
In the same way, I finally quit college for a year and traveled for six months to Europe and Israel, and then worked for a political campaign before returning to school, but my feelings of despair were unrelenting.
Elsewhere in the book, Spitz writes, "For me, my spirit was weakened by meningitis and encephalitis, but I already carried burdens--how to realize my parent's dreams, how to make my life purposeful--that had compromised my strength before I became ill. Because I had not learned to understand those burdens, I found I could not bear the additional weight from the illness.

"When we experience loss, the injury may leave us more compromised than before. Life can weaken us, leaving us in pain, exhausted, and self-pitying, when we are carrying beyond our capacity. Our hurt becomes anger, and when bottled up inside, that anger may lead to destructive behavior. Our unaddressed resentment is expressed as hostility, violence, and isolation.

"The longer we carry the weight of unexamined losses, the heavier they become. Through the experience of processing, of coming to understand the sources and manifestations of our pain, we lighten our load and become stronger. We find our capacity for healing, for forgiving, and ultimately for understanding the blessings that come from despair."

(to be continued)

8 comments:

Gianna said...

"The longer we carry the weight of unexamined losses, the heavier they become. Through the experience of processing, of coming to understand the sources and manifestations of our pain, we lighten our load and become stronger. We find our capacity for healing, for forgiving, and ultimately for understanding the blessings that come from despair."amen! I'll be stealing that quote for a quote of the day on my blog!

thanks so much for a very inspiring post.

Wellness Writer said...

Yes, I think it is a great quote as well. And this book is a true gem!

Mariposa said...

I wish I can share with you your library! Honestly, I come here and my list of books to find increases...and this particular is something I want to find. Because like you, I believe I can meanings in my struggles...or at least understand them through somebody else's perspectives.

Love the quotes, I couldn't agree more...and I look forward to the next part of this post.

Wellness Writer said...

Mariposa,
Yes, I do read a lot of books. Many of them I get from the library, but finding this one was a special gift because I truly needed to read what this author has written!

For me, he discusses God and some of the lessons from the Bible in a way I can truly relate to.

Susan

Wendy Love said...

Susan,
You remind me of a librarian I once had as a child. She could take an book and make me want to read it! Maybe because I am a sucker for a good book! Anyways, this one sounds good, and I look forward to the next installment.
Wendy

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
Thanks for the compliment. There are a number of books where a portion of it is helpful, and once I've read it, that's it. But this one spoke to me on every single page.

So, while I've only shared a few passages, I plan to read it over and over again.

Susan

preciousrock said...

Sounds like a book I would like to read. I know what you mean about finding a book that says exactly what you need to hear at a given time in your life. Actually, I feel a bit like this when I am reading your blog. I am so glad to have found it.

I too spent many years running only to find out that I was running from myself and that with every new place or situation, I and my problems were right there with me. I have stopped running, but I still feel broken and not whole in many ways as the quote says. I expect I will feel that way for the rest of my life...

Wellness Writer said...

Dear preciousrock,
This is the best book I've ever read on the subject. While I usually wouldn't like the description of feeling broken, it works for me because he believes we can "heal the world."

And it means I no longer have to apologize for anything.

Anyway...I'm rushing off to my gardening class, but I'm glad you found my blog, and perhaps we can all stop running!

Susan