My heart goes out to Robin Williams and his family. My heart goes out to everyone suffering from depression. My heart goes out to anyone tempted to commit suicide. I can’t speak as an expert about either suicide or depression. But I can offer this adapted blog with two stories of hope, showing that sometimes celebrities and the rest of us can find full and final freedom from such ordeals – in life, not death.
Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s latest UK tour was a great success, earning him the now customary rave reviews.
His personable presence and his poetic and melodic songs continue to bring joy to an age-diverse audience around the world.
Yet along with his now iconic status as one of the great veterans of the live circuit he brings with him an open secret – for decades he suffered from “acute clinical depression”.
To alleviate the suffering Cohen took all kinds of prescription drugs but “none of them worked” and all “were disagreeable, in subtly different ways” he told journalist, Mireille Silcott.
“I was told they all give you a ‘bottom’, a floor beneath which you are not expected to plunge.”
“And?” – the reporter asked.
That failure of drugs to make a dent in the darkness turned the Canadian poet-troubadour in a deeper direction.
“What happened was that somewhere along the line I understood this question had to be addressed at the fundamental level of consciousness”, he told an LA broadcaster.
Finally, 14 years ago, his depression lifted for good in what he has described as a sweet moment of unfamiliar normality. Cohen doesn’t offer a definitive take on what finally brought about the change. But his words point in a direction many have found pivotal to both mental and physical healing – he broke free from self-preoccupation.
“When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you. It happened to me by imperceptible degrees”, he concluded.
Perhaps this is this one of the lessons that “the heart beneath is teaching to the broken heart above”, as Cohen poetically puts it in “Come Healing” on his most recent album Old Ideas.
In the song he describes the symptoms in need of healing as a “troubledness” that’s concealing an “undivided love”.
That beautifully articulates what a friend of mine experienced. Right where a deeply troubled thought seemed so all-encompassing he learned it was simply concealing the calm, loving nature that’s native to all as the children of divine love.
At the time my friend was suffering from a clinical depression that had endured with suicidal tendencies for eight years despite him having received top medical care and taking well over 9,000 drugs. When he felt he was at the end of his tether he was introduced to the spiritual healing approach of Christian Science by his dad, and after some months of engaging with its ideas a Bible passage triggered an unexpected recognition in him that he was divinely loved – completely and unconditionally cared for.
‘I heard these words of the Apostle Paul: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being,”’ my friend wrote of this moment. He continued: “That idea—that my life was wholly spiritual, and not at all material—just burst through the mental clouds. I had this glimpse—a revelation—of spiritual reality and the complete freedom it includes. It felt as though chains had fallen from me.”
That liberating insight was the beginning of the end of his “long and dark journey of trying to find a way out, to find health and some sort of normality”.
The conviction of being in an unbroken, and unbreakable, relationship with the Divine gained ground over several more months until first the drugs and then the depression itself gave place to a secure, spiritual sense of self-worth. That finally opened the way to a normal family life and a successful, globe-trotting career – things that had seemed completely out of reach.
Jesus once said that “the kingdom of God is within you”, an idea explained in Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as meaning just what my friend found, that harmony and health are “within reach of consciousness here”.
Such healing ideas point to the true source of our consciousness – the ever joy-filled divine Mind – which can pierce, and at times disperse, even the darkest of depressions.
This is Leonard Cohen’s beautiful song, graced by the angelic voices of The Webb Sisters, which includes the verse:
‘O, troubledness concealing
An undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching
To the broken heart above’
Below is a video of my friend telling of his experience of finding full freedom from depression.