Sometimes an illness can come out of the blue. It suddenly strikes with the force of a demolition ball. Cancer does this, one test and your life changes forever. Schizophrenia literally strikes in one’s mid 20s. One day a person is a successful college student, the next day he’s psychotic and delusional. A panic attack can first show up in the middle of the night. Depression has struck some people the same way as vertigo. They wake up one morning and it’s there full-force.
People don’t usually think taking responsibility has anything to do with cancer or schizophrenia and get angry when told they are responsible for anxiety and depression. They say such things, including depression and anxiety, are illnesses. Yet with the onset of any illness comes great responsibility. Facing it head-on rather than staying in denial is taking responsibility. Seeking professional care rather than making excuses or succumbing to fear is taking responsibility. Changing one’s lifestyle and diet, even if it means forcing oneself to walk around the block, taking a hard look at attitude and behaviors, and/or giving up coffee, tea, and alcohol is taking responsibility.
Think also about this. Most people that become clinically depressed, anxious, or obsessive-compulsive have traits and predispositions that need to be managed for the good, another way of taking responsibility. Depressives tend to have a realistic eye and can therefore offer more objective assessments of problems. The anxious tend to be thorough and can sniff out trouble better than most. Those with obsessive-compulsive traits do well in school; write books, and throw great parties. All that seems horrible and can become horrible can be used for the good if balance is attained through treatment and maintained through self-discipline. By the way, our spiritual traditions also teach us this, but that’s another post.
Let your understanding strengthen your patience. In serenity look forward to the joy that follows sadness. St. Peter Damien (1007-1072)