Life is hard work. It is really. I’m not even talking about paying your bills, staying debt free, saving for the rainy days, keeping healthy, planning your retirement or making relationships work. That’s nothing (just kidding). No doubt, these factors make our life challenging, and rewarding too, perhaps. I’m actually talking about something quite simple: being happy. With everything that we do, so hard and so sincerely, happiness continues to remain a fleeting feeling, an elusive emotion, like the lone cloud on a sunny day — only appears for a short time and keeps changing its form while it’s there.
For someone who hasn’t found his or her purpose in life, or for someone who is not passionate about what they do, living can be a mammoth task. Something like happiness should be natural to us because we are beings of joy, we are born out of love. Even the umbilical cord that nourishes us for nine months, the very thing that is our connection between us and our mother, is cut right at the birth to mark our freedom. As if to say that there are no strings attached. We are happiness, we are free. Or, are we? Happiness to us should be as natural as breeze in the mountains—gentle and frequent—but it almost seems we have to constantly work towards it.
Sadness is a sneaky emotion, you know. Just like it doesn’t matter how well you feed yourself, hunger starts tugging at your stomach within a few hours, it doesn’t matter how happy you are, sadness with or without its cousins (grief, anger, guilt, melancholy, resentment, fear, repentance etc.) sneaks up on you quietly. You feel elated when you get a promotion and the next moment the pressure at work starts. You feel euphoric when you buy a big house and then the stress of mortgage kicks in. What if tomorrow I don’t have a job, how will I support my family, how will I pay my bills? As if happiness was merely the messenger who came, gave the good news and departed. I thought happiness was my soul mate, but she turned out to be a courtesan instead.
This is an excerpt (from the 5th chapter) of my latest book, When All Is Not Well. The book is not about how to be happy though. Instead, it is about sadness, indeed intense sadness. Citing real-life case studies of people I’ve worked with, this book is about one of the most mysterious of all illnesses. No, I’m not referring to meditation, enlightenment or marriage (there is no permanent cure for these — just joking). I’m talking about an ailment that simultaneously attacks your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Rapidly and fiercely.
When All Is Not Well is a book on depression and sadness from a yogic perspective. And it shows how depression is not intense sadness. The latter could be a state of mind while the former is a disorder. I quote a beautiful poem by Rumi (cited in the book).
You sit here for days saying,
This is strange business.
You’re the strange business.
You have the energy of the sun in you,
but you keep knotting it up
at the base of your spine.
You’re some weird kind of gold
that wants to stay melted in the furnace,
so you won’t have to become coins.
This is how a patient of depression feels — molten gold that wants to stay in the furnace.
In my view, depression is one of the least understood and most crippling conditions of our times. It can affect anyone, anytime, at any stage of their life. Regardless of your lifestyle, your mental makeup or emotional setup, no one is permanently immune from this disorder. What is particularly disturbing about depression is that it distances you from everything and everyone you know. You feel like a stranger in your own body, in your own world. What’s worse, there is no definitive cure for depression. Anti-depressants work for a large number of patients whereas they make not an iota of difference to many others. Some people are helped by meditation and yoga while many others don’t derive any benefit from it. Cognitive behavioral therapy works for some patients whereas many find it a complete waste of time. Why?
The truth is that treatment of depression is entirely dependent on the nature of your depression. And, if you are suffering from depression, you alone are in the best position to ascertain the severity of your depression. No doubt that a specialist may help you in correct diagnosis but ultimately, you are the best judge of your own feelings. By using the word “feelings”, I’m not suggesting that depression is merely a mood disorder. Instead, it’s a very real condition and, like any other ailment, it can require medical attention and treatment.
Almost four years ago, I briefly wrote on depression and since then I’ve been asked innumerable times to write my views in detail on the subject. I went ahead and wrote When All Is Not Well and I’m pleased to announce that HarperCollins India have agreed to publish the book. In India, it will be coming out in paperback and e-book editions in February 2016. This is only for the readers in the Indian subcontinent though.
If you are currently experiencing deep sadness in your life, or battling depression or have ever suffered from it in the past, or you know anyone who does, then I do hope that you read this book. Not all is lost. There is hope. And, hope, I may add, is just about the only thing worth holding onto when it comes to depression. Because before anything else, the demon of depression sucks the hope out if its victim. It starts to feel that it will never leave you. But, there is hope. Really, there is. And, it is with the same hope that I’ve written this book.