How do you identify your “passion”?

It’s no secret that I was, for a long time, feeling very lost in life. Unlike many people I know, I didn’t have an obvious passion or hobby, or something that’s enthralled me since childhood. This became a particularly huge source of distress during depressive episodes. If no one checked on me, I’d be confined to my bed for more than half the day, tormented by thoughts about being “useless”, “pathetic”, and “less than human” for not being driven.

Many people and many articles (like these) lead us to believe that our passion ought to be something in which we can lose ourselves, or something that allows us to forget everything else. And the appeal of distraction is particularly pertinent for those of us who are suffering. What helps me forget about my crippling insecurities? What helps me forget about all the craziness and pain in the world?

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But I don’t want that. And I don’t think anyone should. I am seeking something that, contrary to helping me forget the world, would help me understand my place in this world. Not something that blinds me to the suffering in this world, but something that allows me to understand suffering and play a part in healing it.

It becomes apparent that this becomes so much more than a search for a hobby. We are on a quest for Truth.

I don’t want to be protected from the anxiety of mortal existence, I want to understand and overcome it. I absolutely hate being told not to question things too much, not to think too much. Most people who say that are entirely well-meaning. They are worried that these thoughts would lead me down an abyss of hopelessness. But they’re assuming that these questions would lead me to a dark and terrifying place — perhaps the realization that everything is ultimately futile and meaningless.

But I believe that Truth is found where God is — and because the God I know is good, in Him I will find truths that are good and beautiful. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been grasping more and more of this in my journey of faith.

In some ways, I’m thankful for my depression. While it’s no fun being tormented by negative thoughts and emotions 24/7, being depressed forces me to beg for answers to questions that really matter. Why am I suffering? Why is there suffering? Is life even worth living? Why am I alive? What does this all mean? As J. David Franks puts it poetically (in the foreword to The Catholic Guide to Depression by Aaron Kheriaty and Fr. John Cihak): “…some are dragged entirely into the vortex of the world’s pain. To be depressed is to be a wound open to the stinging air of reality…The depressed stand on the marches of the world, where the waters of chaos threaten to overwhelm the bright little circle of life we enjoy.”

Unable to run away from pain, I had to (and am continuing to) seek to understand its meaning and purpose. And you don’t have to be depressed to seek as well.

Related post: Who do you live for?

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Conversations with a psychiatrist and a priest

Owing to my stubbornness as well as circumstances beyond my control, I didn’t get to speak with a psychiatrist till yesterday. We a had a long conversation about what I’ve been struggling with this year, and also the previous year. She was alarmed that each of these cycles seems to last approximately eight months, and concluded that my “major depressive disorder” seems to be “recurrent” and “severe”. Having heard the same thing from various sources (general physicians, psychotherapists, priests, etc.), and also being in a much clearer state of mind, I can safely say I accept the diagnosis. We both agreed that though I’ve been feeling remarkably better lately, it would be a good idea to stay on my medication, as well as start talking to a therapist regularly. I know I could definitely use extra help processing everything that’s happened internally, as well as learn how to cope better the next time round.

Today, I got to talk to a priest whom I very much trust and respect. He has seen me in various seasons — fresh in the throes of depression, in post-recovery ecstasy, in a jaded resignation to the seeming futility of life — and he remarked that this was the “best” he’s ever seen me! We talked about how this might be a cross I’ll have to carry for the rest of this lifetime. How do I feel about that? Frankly, I’m quite okay with it. Though I know it’s easy to say this when I’m no longer in the depths of depression (just a few weeks ago, I was wailing about how I did not choose this life and that it was unfair of God to create me when I didn’t want to be created). My prayer is that at some point, I’ll be able to carry this cross not kicking and screaming, but with the hope, humility, and love with which our Lord Jesus carried His. Lord, grant me the grace to keep walking with You.

Re: “I am pro-choice because all evidence shows that restricting abortion increases the rate of abortion.”

There are pro-choicers who don’t consider the unborn baby a human being. A fetus is not a human life, they say, so they have no rights. And then there are pro-choicers who do recognize the unborn’s personhood. They also acknowledge that it’s unfortunate that an innocent life is terminated during abortion, but consider it a necessary evil. Statistics show that lifting restrictions on access to abortion reduces its occurrence. Besides, would you rather abortions be performed by trained, certified physicians, or by shady back-alley providers?

The first justification calls for a discussion on whether personhood is inherent or earned. In this post I intend to specifically address the second.

It’s safe to infer that these individuals feel abortion is on some level immoral, though most prefer to call it “unfortunate” or sad.” At least, I assume so because they do want it to be rare. What I’m perplexed by is this “logic” of allowing something as a means of reducing its very occurrence. It reminds me of the movie The Purge: In a dystopian society, the government has instituted an annual 12-hour period called “The Purge,” where all criminal activity is permitted. The justification? Because of this, overall crime-rate is now at an all-time low.

Reactions to this analogy have been varied. I’ve heard “I don’t see how that’s ‘dystopian’ if it works!” (to which I have nothing to say), while others have taken great offense. The latter group is not wrong to point out that abortion is a real-life situation, not some fantasy, non-existent scenario. Regardless, it seems to me an analogy that successfully highlights, without any sugarcoating, the inherent moral contradiction in saying that you want restrictions lifted so as to reduce the incidence of that very act. Or is putting lives on the line supposed to be some sort of reverse psychology tactic? As Rush Limbaugh aptly put it, “The message that President Obama delivered…was: morality is immoral. . . . Why work to reduce the number of them occurring if there’s nothing wrong with it?”

I’m in no way denying facts and statistics. Call me an idealist, but there has got to be better ways of reducing the occurrence of abortion that don’t force us to deny our conscience as individuals and as a nation. Have we looked hard enough? Rather than let Planned Parenthood drive up demand for its own profit, have we even tried to reduce demand for abortion? How about pouring more resources into…

…quality sex education (granted, content is highly debatable) + access to birth control (since the non-religious are unlikely to opt for abstinence) + better maternal healthcare and work benefits + better physical, emotion, psychological support for crisis pregnancy moms + reducing stigma against pregnancy out of wedlock in and outside the church + applauding the courage of women carrying their unplanned pregnancy to full term + actually recommending adoption as an option + …

I don’t know, I’m no public policy expert, but there has got to be ways to reduce abortion that are less morally lazy than expanding access to it.