This I Believe

Ben - Brooklyn, New York
Entered on February 28, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe we all have the power to come to peace with our suffering. During my last year of high school I became deeply depressed. After months of failed attempts to treat my sickness I was finally hospitalized. I remember my father driving me to the facilities located in Westchester NY, where I would spend two weeks. The world outside the car window was serene and spring was beginning to push its nascent buds through the earth. The contrast between peaceful nature and my inner conflict seemed impossibly incongruous. Only a short time before I was a child looking forward to summer with eager anticipation.

It is hard for me, even now ten years after, to fully comprehend what caused me to lose control of my emotions: my parents’ divorce when I was five; the fear of my impending, uncertain adulthood; a chemical imbalance exacerbated by the hormonal shifts in adolescence. I imagine it was a combination of all these things, as well as other underlying causes of which I was, and am still, not fully consciously aware. As we have learned through modern psychology, our subconscious is a bubbling cauldron of memories, desires, fears, etc. Even when our lives seem to be moving on an even keel there can be something pernicious brewing deep within us. But what we also know is that human beings have an incredible ability to deal with difficult situations. It continues to amaze me, for example, how many Sudanese refugees have become productive citizens after their traumatic experiences. How can someone still have faith in humanity after witnessing such horrors?

I made a slow recovery after my hospitalization, and eventually things got better. I was able to function in the world. And after a while I realized I was happy. There was still sadness and anxiety but it was manageable and assuaged by the hope I had in the future. After college I went to work as a union organizer. It was the hardest challenge of my life, but I was already prepared for the struggle we go through as individuals and as members of a community to improve our world. I am still deeply involved in the fight for social justice and focus my time now primarily on reforming the media to become a true bastion of rational discourse and watchdog of those in power.

We all suffer. This we cannot change. What we can do, though, is learn how to deal with our suffering in healthy ways, and find happiness in the small joys of life. We must always be aware of our blessings: family, inner strength, physical health, humor, hope. We have, every one of us, the ability to cope with the vicissitudes of life. This I believe.