• Anna-Zoë D Herr

A Letter to Someone in Despair

Recently, a friend in great despair reached out for help. His life seemed to be in utter darkness. I wrote him an email. After sharing the contents with two friends, they remarked on how it could help others in similar situations, as it had helped this friend. Its not a message with extraordinary eloquence or one soaked with quotes from the spiritual practices and theories I study on a daily basis, but rather an attempt to share from own experiences of learning to yield to the perfection of Life, which we can hardly comprehend, when it seems the hardest to do so. Thank you to my friend who gave me permission to share the letter.

Dear dear --,

First of all, I just want to reach out and give you a big big big hug. You have been braving a wilderness seemingly with nothing to lean on. I am not sure if anything I am about to write will give you hope--or even a spark of it--but even if it doesn't maybe it matters that you can know I am here for you and that I more than understand what you are saying, even though I may not be specifically familiar with your circumstances. I will do my best to walk beside you through this seemingly dark time until you find the light. Of course, I will also be there when the light dawns again. I hope you feel no shame or fear in sharing what you have with me, especially because I know how hard it is to share our deepest pain when we feel entangled and isolated. I know this because I was in dark depression for two years, from which I emerged a while ago with a deeply rooted sense of joy; It was a process of much prayer, of valleys where I would feel utterly helpless. Even though, people offered their presence and love, I didn't know how to accept it, because I felt so far removed and unworthy of love that I isolated myself more and more. My heart needed to re-awake and re-learn how to see goodness. It only knew how to see in darkness and despair.

Maybe, this is what your heart is going to be learning as well. It is not going to be easy, because you have adjusted to seeing the world a specific way and your conclusion has been that it is either your fault or the fault of life. But, what if there is no blame at all? What if there is shadow and light and once we walk into the light, and we get closer and closer to it, the shadows slowly disappear and we realize they never were? Relationships mend, broken hearts heal, community emerges, paths are cleared up, injuries bound up and wholeness restored. It is not just possible for you, but it is the necessary outcome of life, because light is what life is about.

The challenges and the circumstances you find yourself in are colored by your deepest held beliefs. When they originate in fear, that is what we experience, see, what shapes our decisions, what isolates us, what misinterprets situations, breaks apart connections. Fear upends and puts upside down what is good in our lives. But love does the opposite, it opens our hearts again, shifts the scene into light and heals, no matter what circumstances we are in.

When I was still entangled in a pernicious sense of depression, my family and friends felt far away from me. I felt unloved, unworthy and unseen and felt a constant struggle to prove my own worthiness. I sought to become someone others would see as worthy, someone that other people would love, so that I would not have to fear being abandoned. I never gave space to questioning that notion and thus I did not notice that what I was seeking was already there.

The healing that took place in my life came from a few things and I want to share two of those mental shifts with you. Firstly, I felt miserable because my life was not the way it was supposed to be, in other words, the way I thought it should be, the way I had hoped I would deserve it to be. Not only did three close people in my life (my dad, my CS teacher and a closer friend) die, but I felt misplaced in the country I was in, after some decisions I wondered had been mistakes. I did not see a future and felt utterly stuck. At night, I could often not help but cry until I would fall asleep exhausted and waking up with dread, all the while occasionally slipping into suicidal thoughts. I could not recognize or even remember who I was. Now, I am just giving some background on it to contextualize how significant it is when we truly turn to Love to guide and renovate our lives.

So, the first step for me was to stop wishing that life was different. I was where I was because in exactly this moment I was being given all the lessons I would need to get out. This was hard for me to see, and yet it is true. Our lives present us with endless opportunity to lay down self/ego in favor of accepting God's plan for us. But it starts by truly surrendering our outline about what should be. This becomes increasingly easier when we wake up to the fact that GOD LOVES US so very much. He wants you to have a smashingly, beautiful, rich, deep, connected, fulfilled life. But without God-Love, we cannot become who we are supposed to be or get the life we are able to live. God stays forever our highest possibility.

The second step, for me, was coming to a place to give up the self-inflicted pain from a constant sense of self-pity, the excessive sadness over one's life circumstances. I needed to get to place where I stopped thinking life was unfair, that people around would not care about me, that other people had easier lives or that everyone and everything around me needed to change for me to be okay.

There is a fundamental difference in between thinking spiritually and worldly. It is this: the worldly thinker thinks his problems are in the outside world and need to be fixed in the outside world; the spiritual thinker knows, problems in the outside world are reflections of his inside world and need to be fixed inside. Nothing can change in your experience if your thinking stays the same, because you live in a mental world. Your experience is the reflection of your thinking. This does not mean you are at fault of the terrible and difficult things you are going through, because the feelings and thoughts that isolate, pull you down are actually not really yours; you have just become so accustomed to believing that they are yours that their effects in your life seem awfully real.

I want to invite you to look away from the outside and really truly go inside. Take up what is going on in your heart and take nothing more seriously. Work on opening your heart. Start doubting the voice that tells you it's too hard, that your life is lost. God guides you unfailingly and this guidance becomes apparent when you are ready to let go of how you are seeing your life right now. I know how hard it can feel to let go, even if it is letting go of what hurts you the most.

It took me some time to believe that full transformation can happen. When we are in the middle of the dark it can seem like it will be our home forever, or that even when it gets lighter a sliver of dark will always remain as a memory or a possibility. But actually it is only dark until we turn to the light with a radicalness that comes from really wanting to be healed and knowing that it is possible.

God has held you in Her hands for all this time, all these years that you have felt yourself slipping more and more into disconnection, even during the lowest moments, She loved you with an "everlasting love". And look how She helped connect us, and now I am here writing you because I care so very much about you. I remember our conversations and how many people you made laugh, how many felt blessed by your presence, helped by your words, enriched by your depth. The darkness, the doubts, fear, despair is not the truth about you. You are not these thoughts. This mental darkness is trying to take away the beautiful light you are. But you belong here in the light! Reach out to, really stretch towards, the light! Your true home! Every day a little bit more.

Additionally, I have read a whole host of books that helped me in this transformation, but no books have equalled in transforming my life and renovating my heart than studying Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy and the Bible. Truly only when I took up the non-negotiable study of these, my life transformed more rapidly than I can explain. It just happens: when we get closer to Life, life gets closer to us.

You also spoke about having lost time. But it doesn't matter what you have done in the past, what choices or decisions you have made. You have lost nothing, because your life is not the victim of your past or a specific timeline. It will all turn out alright. Forgiveness, clarity and progress are a result of surrender. It is not possible to find lasting peace, solutions or love in people, circumstances, places or events. We can only find that in our intimate and close connection to God. Only then, people, circumstances, places and events grow to express that love that we already have within. When we think something is lacking, our focus is on the lack, and the lack is what we think we experience. But even that experience is just a mistaken sense of life, until we find out we have never been separated from the stream of goodness and love in our lives.

You have suffered for a long time under the circumstances of the past years that you have found yourself in: a picture of disconnection from friends and family, a struggle to find purpose, to really feel loved and seen, to be held in a community. Take a break from the outside circumstances, take a break from wondering how you could fix them, how to fix yourself or from what's not working, what is failing, and instead.... just go inside. Don't be afraid of what you will find. Be brave to have a conversation with God, to have a conversation with yourself and to ask what you can learn, where you can grow. Your heart really needs a friend, really needs a hug, and it needs you to be that friend. All of these situations will adjust, all of them will be healed and rejuvenated, when you align yourself with the light, with Love. I know and trust that God can do the impossible. I have seen it being done.

I am here for you! You are not alone. And again, thank you for entrusting me with your words and thoughts and your feelings. You are so brave and I know it must have taken courage to even write to me in the first place!