Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Meaning in the midst of suffering

I have been thinking of why some people who have depression decide they want to die and then take the drastic action to commit suicide. Others with depression - though suffering - choose to live, no matter how dark their life has become. What's the difference? How can we persuade those who want to die that life is worth living? How can we persuade them to choose life, not death? How can we help them find meaning in life?

In 1946, as a result of his experiences as an inmate in a concentration camp, Viktor Frankl wrote a book called Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl concludes from his experience that a prisoner's psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also from the freedom of choice he always has even in severe suffering. The inner hold a prisoner has on his spiritual self relies on having a faith in the future, and that once a prisoner loses that faith, he is doomed.

Frankl quotes Nietzsche: "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."

We who live with the highs and lows of bipolar disorder can learn from this. We know that we're going to hit depressions. Depression is for us unavoidable. What we need to do is to create a life for ourselves that is meaningful. During the times we're well we can build purpose into our lives, purpose that will be so important to us that we will hang on to the hope it gives, even during times of depression. We can choose to create a life for ourselves that will be so rewarding that we would not want to lose it, no matter how difficult the struggle becomes.

Personally, I have found meaning in facilitating Living Room, my faith-based support group for people with mood disorders. Now when I get depressed, I try to learn from what I'm going through so that I can share insights with members of the group. Even the bad stuff has value in it, though it may at the time be difficult to see. I know that this is God's work I'm doing and I have faith that he will help me do it, even when things get tough.

Everyone has gifts they can use to create a rich life for themselves, one they would never want to give up. But we have to work on building that kind of life while we are well.


Pistol Pete said...

Tremendous post. I plan to link to this in an upcoming "Manic Monday" on my site - where I highlight top posts related to Bipolar Disorder.

marja said...

Thanks, Pete - for visiting and for your encouraging comment. I'll be keeping track of your blog as well.

My Life with Bipolar Disorder said...

Marja, thank God for enabling you to find meaning in facilitating Living Room to support people with mood disorders. And to continue to do so even when you are going through depression. Thank God for enabling you to do so. Surely He will bless your faith in Him and labours for Him, and continue to use you to help others. May God bless and keep you. Take care. Praying for you and all you are helping, Nancie

marja said...

Thank you for your encouragement, Nancie, dear friend.

a voice in the matrix said...

i think u posed some really good questions about why certain people commit suicide.i wrestle with the same questions. currently i am writing a sci-fi novel as a way to work out my own philosophical questions about suffering and meaning.i am trusting that God will answer me through this creative process and i am hoping to be a source of hope and comfort to my readers.

but since i struggle with depression and procrastination i often feel like giving up my project even though at times i have felt called to write this book.but then i question if that is just wishful thinking.

as for victor frankl- his book on man's search for meaning struck me as the psychology of man- that trusts in his own will power and elaborate thought systems even though it was couched in alot of biblical terminology.

i question wether having the "why" answered is a hinderance to our faith journey or not.Job did not know why he was suffering yet he commited himself to God.i hesitate to say i've suffered and am suffering so God can use me to reach others through my writing.because doesn't meaning become my comfort then not God? i don't know, maybe i analyze too much.

p.s i just read your article on abandoment- i enjoyed it and thanx 4 the dedication

marja said...

To A Voice: I don't know if I'm totally understanding your line of thought. You suggest that meaning gives us comfort. I don't really look on it as comfort. I see it as something that makes us feel whole - something God is helping to do and to be and to contribute. Having meaning is to contribute something to society that would not exist if it weren't for you. We each have a unique gift - something that will make our lives worth living - not just for ourselves but for others.

I wish you well with your novel. Please don't give up. When you're down it will be something precious to beckon you back. Creative pursuits that we feel led to do are our treasures.

marja said...

PS: Our creative projects are our treasures because they are God-given and of great value. Don't let anyone - not even yourself - tell you otherwise.

Dream Writer said...

ONE of the areas that triggers suicide is alcohol and drug use. Not everyone who has bipolar or other mental illnesses take drugs or drink. However, some do.

Some committ suicide due to a lost loved one through death, and sometimes, even divorce can trigger a suicide attempt.

People who face abuse everyday may committ suicide. 37 percent of those who died by suicide have been in poor physical health.

There are a high suicide rates amongst psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, nurses, lawyers, farmers and unskilled laborers.

Also one suicide act can serve as a "Model" for another to do the same.

It also depends on one's personality, family background, social support system, mental illness, depression Those who belong in groups, family, and their community - have a lower risk of suicide.

Suicide can be genetic or biological. It can run in ones family.

In the Unites States, the group who are more likely to commit suicide are males over the age og 65.

Hope this helps:)

Merelyme said...

as always this is a great post marja and much food for thought. i have wondered myself...when i had felt so low as to want to cease existing...what made me want to keep going. mostly i suppose it was hope that...the suffering would end. and too...the knowledge of what that act would do to my loved ones.

anyways...wanted to thank you for all your supportive comments and care. you are very appreciated.

marja said...

Dream Writer: Thanks, Dream, for those interesting stats.

Merelyme: It's your love for others that makes you want to live, I think. I will write on that in my next post.