Apologies in advance for making this post so long, but this was an important part of my life that I did not just want to gloss over.
It looks to me like it has become a bigger issue over the past few years – there are TV campaigns asking depressed people to get help, psychiatrists around every corner, multi-billion dollar drug industries with hundreds of thousands of patients, etc. you know the story. Depression is not quite the same as “sadness” as sadness is a mood and depression is more of a prolonged state full of feelings of extreme sadness and hopelessness. A blogger by the name Violent Acres writes that most people are depressed because “their life sucks” – they want to get the meds, they want to be diagnosed because they just want to blame the physical function of their brain, but in reality their life is the problem. Well, while I understand that there are many people who have went through some traumatic experiences and are depressed as a result, I don’t believe it is very accurate to say that most people end up depressed because their life just “sucks”.
To tell you the truth, I’ve been there. I’ve been severely depressed for several very difficult months in my life – not enjoying a thing around me, not wanting to go on with life, even thinking of death. I came to a conclusion decided that I am depressed because my life just “sucks”. Nothing big happened, but everything was just… well bad – nothing was going for me in my life and I saw no way of fixing things.
So I stayed like that for a long time, eventually deciding that I probably have “clinical depression”, just as Violent Acres describes many people as falsely doing. Going through countless symptoms lists and online tests that told me to “GO SEE A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY!!!”. I came to a conclusion that it was not my fault I was feeling that way, that it was just a mental illness. I have tried to talk to some friends about it – some did not want to hear it, most did not care (thinking I was exaggerating), others just didn’t really know what to do with that. This of course made my feeling of hopelessness only worse, but really it is not so obvious as how to react to someone who comes up to you and tells you that they have no hope in life. I was feeling too hopeless to go see a doctor, I did not think a doctor would help – I was picturing just lying in some weird chair and talking to an old man who keeps nodding his head, goes over painful memories of the past and maybe even gives you pills (I don’t like pills). (Please not that I am not at all saying that you should not see a doctor if you are depressed, I am just saying how I felt at that time about doctors).
Well. I am here today and I am perfectly alright. I was wrong – my life did not suck after all. I have met many other people who also are talking about being depressed – and you know what? Their lives don’t suck either! And no, I don’t agree that it is fair to say that these handful of cases are mental illness either. A mental illness is a disorder, it is something you need to have treatment for. I don’t believe it was a disorder (though of course there truly are people out there with actual mental disorders that cause their depression, but out of the many depressed people I have yet to meet a single one).
The problem was that I decided to play victim. “Oh things are so bad to me. I am a good person, I don’t deserve this. There is no hope, no one can help me.” Every day you say that to yourself you believe it more and more, and you start looking for evidence to support your claims – oh there is plenty around, no one’s life is perfect, and every single day things happen to you that are negative – so you just learn to focus on the negative. You get solid proof of how your life just “sucks”. And you just grow to accept that.
I guess it is not so far fetched to compare this state I was in to a trance that I just had to snap out of – to start taking action in my life, to start doing things again, and looking for solutions to my problems (and I really did have problems) rather than wallowing in self-pity all day every day. It is one of those things that sounds so simple when you say it but much harder to actually do when you are there. What personally snapped me out of it was meditation – when you learn to do it properly (and it does take some practise). Part of meditation is stopping your thoughts, you end up going into a quiet peaceful state, and when you come back to the real world it is hard to start feeling bad again so fast – these moments after meditation made me realise that I could indeed feel good still! That there was still hope and happiness in my life! My life did not suck, it was my perception and passive defeatist attitude to it that sucked! (Meditation is just what helped me personally snap out of it – this is not meant to act as therapy advice here.)
I cannot say that I have completely revolutionalised my life, but the little changes can go a long way. I cannot say that I have completely eliminated all sadness from my life, that I nothing bad ever happens to me, and that I have no bad weeks where I just feel very down and hopeless. Like Violent Acres says – sadness is natural, it is a part of life, you are inhuman if you do not feel it. There is nothing wrong with you if something bad is happening and you feel like there is no way out. But I do not let these things overwhelm me for eternity, I manage to find this hope and I do not let sadness turn into self-pity.
Everything I say about myself seems to be repeated by every single “depressed” person I meet, and I was later very excited to hear a psychiatrist saying the exact same thing! So what I am saying is: Violent Acres is wrong, while some people have had their life ruined through nasty events and there are people who really do have mental disorders, most depressed people are depressed because they just gave up and turned themselves into victims, deciding to declare that their lives suck instead of working to fix their issues.