Midweekend, when the revelry
of everyone I know would be at it’s height, barreling over with all the
excitement of a child’s birthday party. But rather than toasting the chill
bottle drips of summer beers or even laying listlessly in a park – an activity
I could have done alone, for free, at a moment’s notice, AND in my pajamas –
I’m at home in bed. I’m alone, again. I lay my head down on the cool pillow,
and empty room save for the crowd of thoughts and worries I’m creating. My
depression tells me to get comfortable, don’t fight it, we’ll be here together
If you are someone who has depression, you might be aware that it affects twice as many women as men (a devastating 2:1 ratio that won’t won’t analyze today.) You might also know that one in every 33 children, and one out of every eight teenagers, are affected by depression, again we won’t analyze the why’s of that conundrum.(via) And you might also be aware of depression’s negative affects on the rest of your health: sleep abnormalities, muscle tension, lack of energy…but if you have or know someone with depression, then you also know the cloud it builds around your ability to use these facts for treatment or prevention. Knowing it’s common, knowing it’s a chemical imbalance doesn’t make it any less emotionally painful. It’s just that powerful.
Depression is like a ghost:
an unseeable but clearly identifiable presence. The only problem is, it’s a
very clever ghost who loves to taunt you. Depression makes itself known and
will even let you know how to kill it, knowing full well you’ll have little to
no strength and willpower to do so.
I devote my life to writing self-help and personal development articles, and as such I’d undersand if you assumed that I’m never depressed. The opposite is true; I’ve fought depression on and off since cancer. I wasn’t surprised to find that 25% of cancer patients experience depression (via). Mine came after; the pressure to live fully after something so transformational was daunting. Not unlike people who’ve achieved success (Donald Miller discusses depression after publishing a New York Times bestselling book in The School of Greatness Podcast), I had trouble understanding why I’m still here and what to do with my life after the greatest achievement of my life. I know you’ve wondered the same, which is what the articles on this site aim to address in a variety of ways.
Despite that it’s my life’s
work, even I have trouble creating the kind of space around depression
necessary to keep from punishing myself for it.
The worst thing you can do
with depression is guilt yourself for having it. Depression feels awful enough;
don’t tell yourself your wrong or bad or unworthy just because you have it.
Acknowledgement is a strange
sensation with depression, because we want so badly to add a solution if we’re
going to acknowledge a problem. If we’re going to say ‘yes, I have depression’,
then we want to follow up with a ‘so I’m going to do ____ to help myself”. For
a moment, acknowledge that the first step isto acknowledge. The
first thing you can do in depression, and it takes a while, is to simply
realize and digest the fact you are in the throes of depression, and allow that
space to have a little breathing room before expecting it to go on a marathon
Working with depression
There is no depression
cupcake delivery service. It’s not easy to call in work depressed; bosses
rarely understand that. There is no all-knowing guru you can phone up to say
“hey, today’s a rough one, what do you have for me?”. Your friends probably
won’t understand why sometimes you can’t even take leaving the house even if it
is to see them, and that needing to be alone doesn’t diminish your love for
them. When the weight of it becomes so mighty that the present moment cements
me into a state of fear and the simplest, typically joyous acts become
unbearable (seeing friends, enjoying conversation, the ability to wander
through my own thoughts), there are a few things I rely on:
I can’t stop the ugly,
terrible thoughts that depression conjures up in my own mind. But I can tell
them to shut the hell up and to go sit in the corner. They aren’t any smarter
or more powerful than me, they are just louder and more rude.
Meditation offers me the strength to venture back into my own mind, and that’s
a vital step for me. In depression, the mind is the scariest place you can be,
because that’s where the ugly truths and feelings of
unworthiness are sprawling themselves like hungry lions, waiting patiently to
devour you should you have the guts to walk in. But you have to
walk in. And you have to tell those lions, those ugly thoughts, to sit the hell
down and shut the hell up. It takes practice, trust me, but gaining control of
the lions can have profound effects. Not only because being able to control and
silence your thoughts again gives you the power to reassess this moment,
placing fear back in it’s cage rather than allowing it to make decisions for
you, but because getting back to this very moment is the only way to tap you
back into joy, presence, and peace. Joy and peace are only in the here and now.
If you’re interested in meditation, there are some great guides in podcasts available right now. Deepak Chopra is great for presence, and there are also more spiritual guides out there. I’m also offering a super simple class if you’re interested, you can check it out here.
As simple or obscure as this might sound, sometimes I have to parent my
depression like a mother would a very stubborn child. I have to cry because I
wish it would behave for me. I have to feel it’s pain. I have to respect that
it does in fact exist, is in fact a part of my life. And then I have to keep it
from making decisions because it makes very bad, selfish decisions that ruin my
health. Depression making decisions is the equivalent of a child; it will always
want candy before dinner and will cry until it get’s it.
Depression doesn’t have the
ability to tell you what to do or how unless you offer it that power. The more
power you give it, the stronger it seems to become, but even that is often out
of our control. When I think of my depression like a child, I don’t hate it so
much. I can drag the little brat out of the house every once in a while. I may
not enjoy it, but at least I can get to a place where I forgive…forgive myself,
that is. Forgive myself for having depression. Forgive myself for any time I
allow it to overtake my power. Forgive myself for sometimes even needing just
to indulge in it, be alone in bed on a Saturday night with it, because I’m just
too tired to fight it. Just for a night.
Feeling Love and Joy in Depression
If you’ve visited this site before, you know that I believe, absolutely and
without a shred of doubt, that life is miraculous and beautiful and that we, as
humans, are full of the power and potential to be happy. But that doesn’t mean
we’re going to be happy all the time. I may write self-help and life
improvement tips, but it’s because I acknowledge that sometimes simply existing
is incredibly difficult and gut-wrenchingly painful. I think that’s what gives
me an advantage: I can’t solve all your problems (and let’s be honest, no one
can), but I can help you love life anyway. I can help you see beauty in all of
Now, over a decade since
cancer and having dealt with depression for longer than that, I realize that
depression and happiness aren’t even necessarily polar opposites. Depression is
simply a state my mind must cope with, a condition of genetics, that I don’t
have to judge and I don’t have to see as the robber of all my joy. And I can
still get moments of joy and happiness and I sure as hell have the ability to
be grateful despite depression.
Best of all, now I know that
I can still love even in depression. I can still care for others, even myself
and my own body, in depression. I can still see the wonder of life: the divine
and perfect design of nature, the comforting way that seasons change,
appreciate art and music, experience the incredible and overwhelming pleasure
of serving others…and I can do all that in depression. I may not be excited or
energetic or altogether very proud of myself in that moment. But I can still
feel gratitude for the profundity of life itself. Depression can’t take that
So if you are feeling
depressed today or going through a state of depression right now and wondering
what the hell you’re doing wrong, take a breath and know that you’ve done
nothing wrong. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are simply in a state in
which you must work a little harder to make it out of. And when you do, things
will be even more illuminated, because darkness only makes light shine
brighter. Because life is not full without the spectrum of all emotions.
Because you are patient, and resilient, and the fibers of your being are made
of a love energy that is strong enough and powerful enough to help you forgive
this state and forgive yourself when it’s over. Forgiveness isn’t always about
something being wrong and saying it’s ok. Sometimes, to forgive is just to give
forth love, surrender, peace, and put something to rest once it has died and
it’s time to move on. That time will come.
And lastly, know that you are not alone. Even the happiest, most
grateful people who are surprised and humbled to even breathe every day (me)
can and often are depressed. It doesn’t take away your power to love and be
loved. You and I will make it through.