“Suffering from depression and emerging from its depths only from time to time to complain about how bad one feels, but not taking action to confront this devastating enemy through all the various means–such as counseling, rest, recreation, exercise, useful service–is to leave the enemy intact and the darkness and gloom in place” –Grant Scharr, The Art of Spiritual Warfare”
I think of myself as a survivor. Am I one? Most definitely! But we all share that in common to some degree. There is nothing unique about being a survivor. When I witnessed something horrible occur, the first question that came to me was whether I had any responsibility for what had just happened. I questioned my accountability. I wondered if I could have impacted the event if I had said or done something different. I sometimes even wished that what had happened would have happened to me.
I have had several close friends commit suicide. Four of rive years ago, I was contacted by a personal friend who was a CPA. He was having difficulties with his marriage. He had been clean and sober for nine years. He called me and I did not return the telephone call. I knew he had serious financial problems, and that some of it may have been from gambling–but I did not return his telephone call. I was tired of hearing the same “broken record.” They found him dead of a drug overdose in a cheesy hotel off the Stemmons Highway, allegedly with a prostitute. He had taken a “speedball,” a concoction of cocaine and heroin. His wife had demanded a court hearing for which he never showed up. I knew the daughter as well; she was a soccer star. My friend had been very active in the church and did a lot of missionary work. He was a very good person. I was taken aback when I saw how the story played out on the national news. I felt guilt too.
So many time, I was told not think about something, to stop obsessing, or to be strong–“It could have been worse” Anyone who sees someone die in front of their eyes has to impacted in some fashion. I have seen several people die violent deaths in car accidents. On highway #294 in Illinois, I saw vehicle run head-on into a tanker. I was traveling in the southbound lanes, and the roads were pretty slippery. I remember watching this unfold as I approached. I saw the truck jack-knife, and almost simultaneously, I saw the automobile tailgating it smash into the jack-knifed truck. It was a panoramic view of destruction. The tanker was full and it was an incredible, fiery explosion. Shrapnel flew out and upward from the point of contact. At first, I had feeling of amazement watching the mushroom cloud. I was overcome by curiosity. Everything stopped. I pulled over and started walking toward the destruction. In front of my eyes, I saw the carnage and breathing in the smell of oil and death. It was absolutely revolting. While others were in shock, crying, and throwing up, I went numb.
When this occurs, it seems as if something in you leaves with the people who die. It is hard to explain. You are lft in kind of a vacuum. Some people call this disassociation. For me, I call it just being numb, feeling unattached, being disconnected. I remember obsessing about this incident; I could not get my mind off it. I still dream about it. There is nothing more traumatic than being blind-sided by an immense explosion and burning bodies. No words that can express these types of events. I felt completely helpless, as anyone would. There was nothing I could have done, when these things happen, it is a challenge to get up and keep moving. I can recall it all in precise clarity as if it had happened yesterday. I still have the images in my mind of walking near the charred bodies. Yes, it was life altering.
Did these past events have an effect on my depression. Maybe! I still have the occasional hypnagogic dream about them, although they are not as frequent. Still, they are always unpleasant experiences. But whether it’s because I’m on medication, or time has passed, or have a different perspective on life, my dreams involving these events seem to have abated. I know that I probably will always be hypervigilant. I think I am more aware of my surrounding than the average person.
Carl Jung stated: “The wholeness of humans depends on the ability to take ownership of the dark side.” And Dr. Larry Dossey echoes this in his book, Be Careful What you Pray For…You Just Might Get it: “ Refusing to contemplate the negative side of life constitutes what depth psychologists call repressing the shadow–banishing our nasty undesirable qualities to the unconscious corners of the mind. To grow psychologically and spiritually, we must engage the dark side of the self. As. C.G. Jung put it, a whole person is one what has both walked with God and wrestled with the devil.
We have that dark side, and we need to own it. Life and death is a paradox. I’m a survivor–a survivor with some guilt. This is what the wake-up calls in my life have left me with Several friends suicides, a horrific head-on fiery crash –what if? What if I’d been there? What if I could have stopped it? What if I could control the dark side? What if I got a hold of myself? What if i did everything I could to overcome my feelings of depression — rest, exercise, recreation, service, counseling, sharing a meaningful relationship? Would I feel different?