At some point in all of our lives we deal with depression. Now I am not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I am just a guy. A guy more than half way through his life who believes this from his own experiences. I have been a child, a teen, a single young adult, college student, husband, father, leader, minion, employee, and the list goes on and on. I have never been homeless, hungry (and I mean truly hungry – not having eaten and not knowing where my next meal was coming from), suicidal, addicted, unloved, imprisoned, and this list also goes on and on. So, like all, I can only speak from my experiences and not for everyone.
“Monsters don’t sleep under your bed; monsters sleep inside your head.” -author unknown
On a macro scale, I believe human beings deal with two types of very separate yet intertwined forms of depression. The first is that deep-seated, unrelenting, crushing depression that locks people in their beds, their homes, their minds, and their own self-misery. I am going to refer to this as chronic depression. The second is what I call situational or acute depression. This depression is also painful, and sometimes feels without end, but is created by the influence of external forces on us.
This post is only going to touch briefly on the first type of depression, namely for two reasons; the first as I stated at the onset is that I am not in the mental health field and am in no way qualified to provide therapeutic assessment or advice. The second is that I have never suffered chronic depression myself and have no personal experiences to base any advice on.
For those who suffer from chronic depression, you have my deepest sympathy and regrets that I am not able to help you more. To feel powerless to help another is, in my opinion, an awful circumstance, but if you suffer chronic depression and get anything from my self-admittedly ignorant article, then I will find some joy in that. All the advice I can offer you is to know that people exist in your life who love you, who would do whatever is within their power to help you and to provide you support. I hope that you can find it within yourselves to seek the professional help that can guide you to getting whatever it takes to fight to move ahead and reach the place where you can find your peace and joy within.
Situational depression is something that most people are much more familiar with. This acute depression can happen to anyone and can be brought on by difficult or stressful events in our lives. Perhaps you feel trapped in a dead-end job, you recently lost a loved one, relocated, had a a child go away to college; many things can trigger one to feel this kind of depression. Finding a way to fight through this, however, is right there, within yourself.
Because situational depression can be tied back to specific “environmental” causes, the key to finding peace and joy within is to redirect our mindset. This is not going to necessarily erase the negative influence causing the depression, but it can act as a “pain-killer,” if you will, taking our mind off the pain, even if in the short term. So how do you do this?
What do you enjoy? What provides you satisfaction? Are you a reader? Find a great book and lose yourself in it. Sports fan? With cable and satellite television there is no lack of things to watch. Perhaps you might even start playing a sport that you previously used to only enjoy watching. Hobbies are a great long term help. Maybe you’re a woodworker or a gardener, or like me, you like to senselessly ramble on a blog. Who cares? If you enjoy it and it can occupy your mind, get to it!
As an Organizational Communication major in college, we learned a theory called the “Spiral of Silence.” For the sake of this article I’m going to “massage” this theory to work here, but essentially the “Spiral of Silence” states that if you remain silent and fail to address wants and needs, you will slowly spiral deeper down into a whirlpool and climbing out can become harder and harder. This is why the occupied mind will help you find that peace and joy within.
I touched on two types of depression: the chronic, or long-term depression, and the acute, or situational depression. I think most people agree that given their choice, situational depression is better to deal with, as relief can be found when the negative experience is remedied. A problem with situational depression, however, is that if you allow yourself to be pulled deeper and deeper into the spiral, it can eventually go from being acute depression to chronic depression. There is an old saying, “the idle mind is the devils playground.” The idle mind is the unoccupied mind. There lies no peace and joy in the mind that swirls, spins, and folds onto itself over and over again.
“I ride by night, and I travel in fear, that in this darkness, I will disappear.” -Bruce Springsteen, Stolen Car
Consider an episode of situational depression as an opportunity for self-discovery. Look inside yourself for that new hobby or renew an old one. As I said early on, I am not a therapist, but I have experienced situational depression. My youngest child recently left for college. My wife and I are “empty nesters.” The house is very quiet and at night feels very empty. As a parent you worry that your kids are doing alright, are happy, and are safe. These are things that created a “situation” that has lead to my own depression. Yet despite the sense of loss I feel for my kids being gone, I am enjoying new found time to spend exclusively with my wife. If we want to ride our bikes or go for a walk we can. If we want to just sit around and watch TV, that’s OK too. That is the redirection. “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
Look within. It lies with each and every one of us exclusively. No one can “undepress” us. We have to do that ourselves. It can be hard. It can be accomplished. I close with this suggestion: stand up, take a deep breath, look out the window at the sky, the trees, the grass, or children playing, smile, and say to yourself, “it’s a great day.” Then go live it.