On Depression

Change is underway in the heavens as in the heart; summer hath terminado, fall’s begun. It’s great. I look forward to not knowing the future, with only the assurance that it will be as good as it is now. I trained my new staff on how to clean the shit out of toilets.
The only glitch in the system being that my ear is fucked up and I’ve somewhat lost my sense of balance as a result. Hopefully the inner ear will heal and I can get away with not going deaf.
When everything around you is beautiful, you’ve gotta climb to the top of the highest mountain so that you can see it right. Got to keep yourself in perspective. Stop and breathe and look down.
I’m getting older, I can feel it, and I love it. My life only gets better from where I’ve begun. I dragged myself through the mud to get to where I am, and I know what the sun is.

Which reminds me of a topic I wished to explore. I was thinking the other day of how depressed I was in my formative years, and of how I no longer ever feel that way any more, and I then thought of how there’s so much shit out there on the market about self-help and what not, such that it’s quite apparent that in a lot of people’s lives there is a lot of depression and anxiety, and I thought maybe if I figured out why I no longer get depressed, it might help other people.

I want to addendum that statement with the fact that I am not saying that I live like in some steady state of bliss or anything. I get very moody and I feel down and lonely some days, a lot of days. But it never gets in the way of my thoughts and my self-image the way it used to when I was depressed. Which may be the point to which I am leading: my own conceptions of what it is to be depressed have shifted, not necessarily the fact of “feeling down.”

First of all, let me tell you something: depression is NOT a disease. That’s some new age psychiatry bullshit. Depression is a state of mind by which you are letting yourself in on the fact that something ain’t right with your life, or your perception of life. Depression is you telling yourself you need a change in your situation, in your mentality. So even if you take some drugs that makes you feel happier, you’ve still got the root causes of depression laying all around you like snakes in the grass, just waiting to be stepped on. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take drugs to make you feel happier. Just to realize that drugs serve a certain function, but that they can’t make you change–they can help you change, but they are not the change.

To be always happy is unattainable, and in fact not even desirable. To go up and down like waves is the way of life. We pulsate. We learn, we move, the current flows. We see things from high and low. To be low is not unnatural. To keep yourself in that state of mind, however, certainly is.

When I was in junior high and high school I had a lot of problems with my self-image. I was shy and introverted and kind of awkward socially. It wasn’t enough to keep me from making friends or anything, but inside of me it affected me greatly. I was extremely self-conscious and didn’t really feel like I could express myself around most people. Which later in life I’ve come to realize is a form of vanity. But beyond my basic social anxieties and feeling of inadequacies around cute girls, there was something deeper that came in the form of constant depression. I had a feeling of hopelessness. Like it wasn’t just me, it was everyone, it was the whole world that wasn’t good enough. Like people were just kind of hopeless as a species. Like all of life was kind of hopeless in general. It was just ugly, bitter violence and stupidity.

I thought about suicide and all that kind of stuff. But never very seriously, because at some level I realized that people did love me and care about me and that it would be just vindictive selfishness to take my problems out on them like that. And believe me, I can tell you for certain that that is what it feels like when someone you know kills themselves. Go read what I went through and you’ll know. If you’ve ever thought about it, even for a second, listen to me: it’s fucking selfish and if you really are hurting so bad that you can’t see a way out of it, do this: sell everything you own and buy a plane ticket to South America. Go to the Amazon and immerse yourself in the deepest darkest jungle. Then think about it again and see how the idea appears to you at that time.

My first year of college, I was so unhappy after a break-up and being in a place that I hated, that I would just walk from my dorms to class with one sentence running through my mind: “i want to die.” It was kind of scary. I was nearly to the point of going to seek professional help or drugs, but I decided that at that point, having already been through a lot of depression, that it would be a cop-out to give in then. I felt like if I could just get through that darkest period of my life, then I could get past it.
And I did. That was the worst time in my depression, and it was like I let myself get so low that I finally saw the way out, and the only time I’ve ever felt like that again was when my friend Toby killed himself, and he brought back all of those feelings in me for a little while.

Look, those feelings will always be there in some part of you, and they will come out in times of pain, when someone you love dies or goes away, or when something inside of you changes. It’s impossible to smooth out a steady happiness and contentment without destroying some essential part of your mind or soul. Pain is how you adapt to change. To change is to grow. To grow is to expand your capacity for suffering–you channel out in so many ways that even if part of you is up in flame, another part is embedded in water.

So for me what has become key is never feeling like all of me is low. Part of me might be down, but part of me is already moving ahead. That in fact, to be “down” doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. That it is a part of my existence. If I am down all the time, then what it means is that I need to change something.

2 winters ago I was down for a while, and I could tell that it was starting to affect my mentality and the way I treated others. So I sat down and drew up a list with what was wrong with situation and then set a plan on how to go about changing it. Even just the simple act of making that list made me feel better. I had to shift my mentality. The low is to make you appreciate where you need to swing up to next to get to where you need to go.


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

10 thoughts on “On Depression”

  1. Just happened to come across your blog by accident. I agree that depression is not a disease. I’ve been though similar problems myself as you describe. I’m inclined to the idea that depression is a defence mechanism of some sort which causes people to focus on mistakes in their life. The overall effect is to convince everyone around them is that is the “real thing”, in other words, a means to enhance sincerity.

  2. I’m not quite clear on what you’re saying . . . I think you mean that there’s a kind of self-victimization in depressive mental states, which I would definitely agree with. Like a kind of dramatic self-pity. As if simply because the world doesn’t revolve around you, then you want to find anyway to retain that concept of self-importance, even if it means rejecting all the world (“noone cares, I’m all alone”)

  3. Well not self victimization exactly. Many people become depressed because they feel they have done something wrong in the world. This isn’t always true … for instance extreme age can produce depression but there is no “fault” here. Generally though many people get this way because they feel guilty about one thing or the other. I believe this isn’t always a bad thing. There is an argument going on amongst evolutionary biologists that depression is a mechanism to force contrition ie. an act which involves convincing people around you that your despair is genuine not just a act to gain an equally shallow sympathy.

  4. OK, I think I see what you are saying. But I’m wondering: why would depression serve as a mechanism to force contrition? What would be gained (biologically speaking or otherwise) by convincing other people that your despair is genuine?

  5. loved article. been depressed my whole life. therapy and medication didn’t help at all. depression means you need to change something in your life. until you change it you will continue to be depressed

  6. luv the way u put this all….. so true… especially the part about buyin a plane ticket to south america.. lol…

    i never wanted to die… ever… but yes… ive looked for happiness. .and guess what. … im in south america right now… im hatin every minute of it…lol.. but now.. my god.. life just doesnt seem so bad….

    Cant wait to get back to my homeland.. Canada… home sweet home..lol… funny how that worked eh?

  7. Bubbler,
    In a world where sham is a common feature it would not be advantageous from the viewpoint of survival to give too much help to people who are not likely to “return the favour”. This is the prisoners dilemma in its barest essentials. In short if you have been a jerk in the past you’ll have to work hard to prove to people around you that things have changed.

  8. Been a psychiatric nurse for 20 plus years in all sorts of settings. Loved the writing. I am horrified these days over how hospitals now allow consumers and big pharma to push the art. I would agree that depression, except in very very rare instances, is not a disease in the classic sense. And treating it as such is damaging to all the hoards who believe that the cure is arrived at passively via a tiny wonderfully colored psychoactive substance. As you say. It is the vehicle of mighty change if one will allow.

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