I define Covid depression as everything from the grief of having lost things we enjoy doing to feeling cooped up, bored, lonely, and hopeless. As a psychotherapist with a practice that’s steadily been growing for ten years, this past year had a normal increase despite what the news was reporting. This past March and April, however, saw a jump in the normal increase. Covid depression and another lockdown are definitely major contributors to this, but in my opinion, for most people these have really just accentuated the underlying issues already people’s lives. The difference now, however, is we don’t have all the distractions we typically use to turn a blind eye to what’s really going on under the surface. Before Covid, Western culture’s pandemic was being busy. There was no time to think, which left many people and relationships with wounds they could ignore, but just because you don’t think about your injury, doesn’t mean it’s not there; just because you can function, doesn’t mean you’re fine. Like any physical injury, emotional needs tend to get worse if we don’t address them, and that’s what’s been quietly happening for many people. In this way, Covid is a gift for waking people up to their pain. Unfortunately, many people are waking up to wanting to stuff those pesky feelings back down again, so they’re turning to booze, pot, video games, and other unhealthy junk that helps them suppress their brokenness.
Covid depression is a lot like getting older and accomplishing all the major tasks in life like establishing a career and getting family in place because they can both leave people asking, “Now what?” There are some people who will never think about things like this because they’re either that easygoing and/or positive (or blind) and they just ride the wave of life without much thought. For sensitive over-thinkers like me, however, this kind of existential wonder has been around for awhile.
Growing up is a lot like climbing up an escarpment. To get to the top, some paths are easier than others and have beautiful views. Some paths can be a lot of fun depending on who you do it with or it can be awful if we make some bad choices along the way and/or have some bad luck. Some people give up the climb part way and never fully grow up as they mooch off their parents or some poor sucker who tells themselves it’s love until they burn out and get divorced. For those who make it up to the top, after all the years of dreaming and being filled with hope for what it’d be like after the climb, their accomplishment is rewarded with the reality of… that’s it? Life at the top is a lot like on the bottom, but now there isn’t the same hope and dreams to push you forward. People at the top can look back at the view and appreciate the memories and lessons they learned on their journey, but the rest of their days are spent without anything really amazing to look forward to compared to before when they could dream of what the top of the escarpment would be like. It’s like people who dream of what job they’ll have and what it’ll be like falling in love, and then they know and think, “That’s it? This is ‘happily’ ever after?” The dream is replaced by reality and now that the person who climbed the escarpment is older their bodies aren’t as youthful and pain free as before. With getting to the top of the escarpment and getting older – with the dreams and hopes gone – it’s normal to wonder what is the point of it all?
That being said, Covid depression and getting older are a gift because people are finally becoming aware of the reality that life is… meaningless. Do I sound gloomy? I might seem that way, but I’m not. I’m actually feeling really good while I write this…and not because I think it’s funny I could be upsetting people (I’m weird, but I’m not mean). I’m simply stating a fact that I’ve accepted and embrace – life is meaningless. We distract ourselves with kids, jobs, helping others, accomplishments, sports, and entertainment, but in the end, it’s all meaningless. When we die, that’s it. Even if we can do something that’s remembered like Albert Einstein; does he care that he’s in textbooks and known by billions of people? He’s dead, so no. Even simpler, what moment lasts more than a moment? What memory is ever as good as when we experienced it? If you win a championship, does that really matter ten years down the road? The past can be appreciated, but it’s what’s happening now that really matters to us… and then we die. (So far I think I might be adding to feelings of depression.) The truth is time is always hungry for more and what’s young will one day be old. What’s loved today will one day be forgotten. (I could definitely be adding to the depression).
I should be clear: Life is a gift, and we should enjoy it. It’s important to have goals and projects to work on as that gives us purpose. We need to be careful, however, because goals can become our idols, and ultimately, they’re just temporary. They can give us pleasure in the moment and a sense of pride afterwards, but everything will pass away. When you’re young, you have drive – or you should – because you have a lot of work to do in order to get your life in order, so you can better enjoy it, but at some point this drive needs to be balanced out with the reality that everything that’s normal today will be gone tomorrow.
In the Jewish philosophy book, Ecclesiastes, the theme is life is a gift and life is meaningless and that the best thing we can do is “eat, drink, and enjoy the fruits of [our] labor, for these are gifts of God.” (Ecc 3: 13) This is the ultimate reality, and this is the conclusion of wise people. It’s great because knowing life is meaningless can be very liberating; why worry so much? Why be offended or worried about people’s judgements and comments. We are free. Together, these two notions that life is a gift and life is meaningless can keep us healthy and happy: One gives us drive and the other helps us not get stressed. Together they make life more enjoyable.
Taking this one step further, some will say “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey,” but those people are “special”: “So I just work my whole life and that’s the good part? That sucks!” The truth is IT IS the destination. We should make the journey as healthy and enjoyable as possible, but ultimately, it’s all about the destination, and for me, that destination is heaven. This life is temporary; what we really need to care about is the next because it lasts a lot longer.
As a therapist, I work with people who don’t see the point of life and what makes me angry is we live in a culture where I can’t blatantly say the truth: “You’re depressed because you realize life is just a bunch of distractions from the fact that it’s all meaningless, and this life may be a gift, but what really matters is what comes next. You need God for that one.” Our culture is so anti religion, I have to tiptoe from the truth, and the problem is burying your head in the sand doesn’t change reality; it just makes you a target to get your butt kicked. The truth is we can’t fully eliminate depression until we realize the source of the problem –life is a gift, but it is also meaningless, so use it to prepare for the next one.
Years ago when they used urine as mouth wash (true fact), before there were dentists and chiropractors and all the wonderful things we take for granted for healing injuries, people were constantly in pain and they looked forward to the next life where there are no tears or suffering. We distract ourselves with so many meaningless things that are enjoyable, but they don’t lead to anything but emptiness. True meaning is found in connecting to what lasts forever; we need to connect with the Creator who loves us and wants us to care about Him in return. This won’t erase all of our problems, but it helps us keep perspective.
Bonus: Everything is about balance; even Christianity is as it preaches freedom and carrying your cross.
This week may you consider the question: what is the point of all of this? Maybe read my blog from Easter on Jesus for further consideration because if I’m right, these two posts are two of the most important blogs I’ve ever written – they’d be meaningless like all things on one hand, but they’d be valuable if they help people open their eyes to the Truth.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)