I was on holiday this week and decided to go visit Birmingham Pride with my partner. For those that don't know, it's the UK's largest LGBT Pride event, with a parade through the City Centre and a designated area for partying and celebration over two days. It was a chance for me and my partner to be “out and proud” in public – our hometown isn't the most accepting of places and we often find ourselves having to restrict our behaviour for fear of reprisals. Now I'm not saying that I'm the kind of person to want to scream through the streets waving a rainbow flag every day, but this was a nice opportunity to not have to worry about how we would be treated in public.
Such opportunities for community spirit might be few and far between these days. I remember growing up in this town and not knowing anyone with a similar sexual orientation until I met my first partner aged 18. Even though I had many friends and was in a town with a hundred thousand other people around me, I still felt the acute loneliness of being “lost in a crowd”.
These feelings resurface from time to time and the highs from my holiday were met by the lows of returning to “normality”. It's difficult to understand the depths of despair until you have experienced them for yourself, but it's no understatement to say that in times of depression, everything seems dark. Even on a sunny day, there seems to be blackness all around and you feel totally disconnected from the rest of the world, unable even to cry out for help.
In these moments, it's difficult to be aware of a sense of community, of belonging to a group that appreciates and supports you, despite (or perhaps even because of) what you are going through. The Temple here is one such place though. We strive to ensure that this site is free from prejudice and our Clergy are dedicated to providing an understanding, compassionate ear in times of need. But even then, there are times when no-one is available online, so what can you do then?
Depression and other related conditions are readily described by a lot of medical professionals (and by society in general) as a “mental illness”. Technically speaking, this is the case. But that description hardly improves the mood of anyone suffering from such a state of mind! These are emotions and therefore fulfil the function of all emotions: to allow us to be aware of something that requires our attention.
Situations or events stimulate a wide variety of emotional responses and to limit these responses is to limit our own experience as living beings. As Jedi, we dedicate ourselves to understanding our emotions and why they occur, so that we can use those responses in an appropriate and useful way rather than be ruled by them. This is easier to do when we feel more balanced and centered and any solutions are readily considered when we are feeling in cheerier spirits but how about those times when we feel alone and despairing of any hope?
If you ever feel unable to reach out for help, please know that you are never alone. Even when you are disconnected from family, friends, or potential sources of comfort, the Force is always with you. Sometimes, the only solution is to do nothing, to weather the storm and place your faith in the Force to deliver you to a calmer state of mind, a safe haven from the turbulence of a troubled spirit.
In the spirit of mutual support, I would like you to visit the following link and to reflect on the meaning of the content. The song itself has particular relevance for many people – it was sung at the Concert of America on the 1st anniversary of 9/11 ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C44TbswC2io ), it is sung to remember those lost in the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcBRHYuOr-A ), it was sung for Robert Enke ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMxXB9TdNEM ), and it holds a place in the hearts of many more. If you ever feel yourself in a solitary and dark place, please remember this song and have the courage to reach out.
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
With hope in your hearts
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone
It is a good idea to research a list of various helplines in your area, in case a friend needs them. You also never know when you might need them yourself. The Clergy here at TOTJO are always willing to help where we can and those that are ordained (holding the positions of Deacon, Priest or Bishop) are also able to offer confidential advice in the form of a “confessional”.