Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories. – Sun Tzu
Crushing your enemies and watching them scatter in the wind. Nothing is sweeter than the victory of finally winning that long and costly “war”. But what if that enemy is yourself? What if the enemy you wage a never-ending conflict with is deep within you? How then will you crush your enemy?
Self-destructive behavior, coupled with depression and anguish. The inner demons of our hearts and minds echo into our very being. Some of us find ourselves in a constant conflict with ourselves. A fight that leaves us with a broken spirit and crushed soul.
Read about any conflict throughout history and you can see the strife that war breeds. The pain, suffering, and destruction. The broken bodies and shattered lives left in its wake. Now imagine that conflict going on inside our mind or in our hearts. Imagine the toll it brings on the individual suffering in silence.
Sometimes the internal conflict is so great it consumes the person and takes their light away from us. There is no greater loss than that of a human life. Especially the loss of a life of someone we love. The only explanation that can be provided for such a loss is that they were a casualty of war. To me friends, that is an unacceptable answer and losing them is grave defeat. And anyone who knows me, knows that I do not like defeat. So, to stop these needless losses, we need to learn how to crush our enemy.
Declaration of War
Depression, anxiety, sadness, and mental illness are all a declaration of war. A declaration regardless of provocation or not, it is an attack on the mind, body, and spirit. There is no parlay or diplomacy with this enemy. There is no peace or armistice to end the conflict. The only measure is sustained, accurate, and swift action against the enemy.
The enemy will do everything in its power to snuff out your light in this world. The enemy is relentless, calculating, manipulating, and crudely effective. Externally, the enemy seeks to leave broken relationships in its wake. The enemy wants to destroy all that you love and hold dear. The enemy has but one goal and that is your complete and total annihilation.
The black flag of total war must be flown when facing this enemy. A relentless assault must be conducted to drive the enemy into retreat. For every victory the enemy gains, two more must be won. The land gained from the enemy must be salted so that its poison will never be allowed to take root again. Every time the enemy shows itself the same ferocity and merciless attitude must be displayed to drive it back from whence it came. Because the enemy has issued a declaration of war against you and your life. It is up to you to destroy it and drive it back to the pit of hell from where it belongs.
Methods of Execution
The methods in which we defeat the enemy are many and effective when properly executed. I presented my case to my better half about how “kindness” can be an effective method, but that it can only do so much in some circumstances. She has plenty to say on the subject. I maintained: “Unfortunately being kind to depression, anxiety, or mental illness is not a viable action in defeating the enemy. Being “kind” to yourself when the enemy is inside wreaking havoc on your mind, body, and spirit, only sets you up for complete failure. What this would translate to on the outside is we just avoid the problems or let it ravish our very lives, which we have worked so hard to build. We find escapes like drugs, alcohol, or other addictions to quiet down the enemy in their pursuit to destroy us. These vices only work to give our enemy the cover of darkness and the means to continue working on unravel us, unaffected by our self-medication.”
My wife argued: “I take issue on the use of the word “kindness” here. Kindness and compassion to ourselves especially when we are depressed or grieving or ill, are the best things we can do to help ourselves heal, recover and feel better. I think the thing to watch out for when we are being kind to ourselves is to not reach the point of overindulgence. That is when these vices you talk about come in. Self-compassion and self-love help keep up our positivity and resilience and allow us to stop being so hard on ourselves. To quote Whitney Houston, ‘Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all…’”
And so, first method of execution: Be kind to yourselves, folks.
What other methods of execution are there to defeat the enemy? How can we stand toe to toe with the adversary that seeks to destroy us?
Recognition is another strategy and one that is most difficult to execute. Recognition that the enemy is here and going to do everything in its power to destroy us. Seeing mental illness or depression destroy the lives of those we love is one of the most painful things we can experience. Imagine how it is for the individual who is afflicted with mental illness or depression. For a person to recognize they have a mental illness or a mental challenge of some sort is a profound step and one step toward victory. One of the most difficult things a person can do is admit to something that could be perceived as “bad” or as a “fault”. On the contrary, that depression, anxiety, self-loathing, whatever it may be is the enemy and is working tirelessly to destroy you.
Making alliances (friendships) is critical in our fight to defeat the enemy. Our family, friends, colleagues, teddy bear, dogs, cats, or books are our support structure and the allies that will come to our aid when the enemy begins overrunning our positions. Some of you may think you have no allies to call for aid or think that no one cares. But rest assured there is someone, somewhere that will heed your call for help. This could be our mother or the volunteer working at the suicide prevention hotline. However, sometimes we have to tell them we are at war, otherwise they will not know. There is no weakness in asking for assistance. Your fight is not yours alone to fight and if you do not think having a force multiplier will increase your chances to defeat the enemy, you are mistaken. The key is you have to speak up and make those alliances, seek out that help and find that person to talk to. As dismal and draining as the war against the enemy is, you have the ability to rout them and stand tall.
Using the tools effectively which are provided to us is imperative in the struggle. The enemy will use every tactic, tool, and weapon in its arsenal to destroy you. But if your allies provide you aid in your fight against the enemy, use it. But use it properly and effectively. This means going to counseling and seeing your doctors. They are there to help you in your fight, they want to see you win the day. Yes, I know we have strong opinions about medication and therapy. Some see them as weakness or are indifferent to them. Some think the medicines do more harm than good and, in some instances, that may be the case. But nothing about life is easy, and this is total war with a determined enemy. You must work with your doctor and therapists, tell them if you think the medicine or therapy is not working. This is your life and they are your allies in the fight, but you have to keep pushing even when discouraged, even when a medication ended up to be not a fit for you. Stopping your medicine cold turkey will not help you. There are so many factors where aid can turn into harm and thus give the enemy a foothold. You must work with your allies, speak up in the planning process, and be proactive in maintaining your own well-being. Tools are meant to be used for work and defeating the enemy is work. Finding that right combination of medication and therapy is one of the hardest things the mentally ill has to do. But it takes time to get there. So be patient.
Flexibility to adapt to the changing tactics of the enemy is also critical in this war. The enemy can strike at any time and any place. Your willingness to tell your doctor or therapist that you are not doing well on your current cycle of medication is part of being flexible. Trying different therapies to help alleviate stress or anxiety is flexibility. Finding that positive outlet that makes you smile and staves off the enemy’s attempts to overrun you is flexibility. Working with your doctor to work toward a better quality of life is flexibility. Adapt and overcome. Eventually, you will not even realize you are doing it.
Patience in understanding we are not going to defeat the enemy overnight is a critical strategy. Patience in ourselves and knowing we will be the victor and will take the day is key to victory. Patience in working with our allies in formulating a strategy to crush our enemy is a virtue and a necessity.
While there are many more effective strategies out there, to me personally, I believe the greatest is love. Love of ourselves enough to keep up the fight against the enemy and not be defeated. Love from others and knowing that we are worthy of their time and effort and consideration. The enemy will not defeat us, our fire will not be snuffed out, and our light will continue to shine over this beautiful planet. And love is the pathway to victory, because as they say, “love conquers all.”
Lull in the Fighting
After the enemy has been pushed back and victory has been claimed for the day, a sense of pride should wash over us. But we should remain ever vigilant and know in the back of our minds the enemy is watching and waiting for the right time to attack. Do not be deceived by the lull in the fight, savor it, but remain cognizant of your surroundings. Do not lose that hard-fought progress you have made.
Most will be fighting these battles against the enemy all of their life. There will be periods of joy and periods of sorrow. The main thing is that we keep fighting and never relent in that struggle against whatever affects us. I have seen people I love and care for lose that hard-fought battle. These heroes fought bravely, barely stopping, but in the end, they were overrun by the enemy and could not fight anymore. I lost the warmth of their flame and am just left with precious memories of their time with me here on earth. This writing is perhaps my darkest and most direct one to date. But I cannot stress how important you are and how much your life matters. You are the hero of the day and you are the one that will drive back the enemy. There are always allies waiting to help you in your fight. Have courage. Do not stand down. Never give up, never stop fighting, and always work toward crushing your enemies.
One final note, for those that feel so overwhelmed below are links with some tools to keep in the fight. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline has guardian angels ready 24/7 to help answer your call to arms. If you feel more at ease texting with someone then you have a crisis text line here to also answer your call to arms.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255. Available 24 hours every day. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for free 24/7 crisis support. https://www.crisistextline.org/