Sinking into a severe depression is absolutely brutal and absolutely terrifying. It is intense and it is crippling. The terror is thinking and believing that it may never end. You don’t know how to get out of it and nothing you try works. You think that the rest of your life will be filled with the agony of depression, void of all joy and pleasure. You feel like a veil of darkness covers every inch of your life experience. I know what this feels like. I’ve felt it many times. And when the depression lifted, I felt like it was gone and would never come back. And then it came back. Many times. It was the single greatest scar on my life experience, far worse than my alcohol and drug addiction.
Depression stings. It bites and stabs and burns. It rips you apart. It paralyzes you. It numbs you in every possible way. It somehow grabs hold of your mind and robs you of your will, let alone your mere ability to function. It convinces you that there is really no reason to live life this way.
For now, I won’t get into some of my tougher views on depression. I know how brutal it is and how difficult it is to get rid of. So let’s just focus on what can be done.
Many people will go straight for the meds. I shunned them. Maybe because I’m a stubborn, obstinate bastard. But I think it may have been something deeper. Somewhere in my maimed soul, I knew that pills were not the way out. I knew that even if they worked on the symptoms, they wouldn’t really cure what ails me. And I knew that when I stopped taking them, I’d be in the exact same predicament that I was to begin with: insane and untreated. So I personally wouldn’t opt for the meds… unless maybe you’re a schizophrenic psychopath.
Then there is the entire world of self-help, including books, natural medicine, diet, nature trips like Outward Bound and NOLS, and the list goes on…
Then there is the change of lifestyle method, which includes changing jobs, towns, states, friends, relationships, and on and on…
All of the above failed me 100%.
Then there is action. Action is the only thing in this world that pulled me out of my depressions. It is also the only thing that subsequently evened me out and strengthened me enough that I have never slipped back into one. I know what everybody says… that all the things listed above are actions. Let me clarify. The kind of action I’m referring to is of a different nature. The focus is different. Depression shouldn’t be avoided. We shouldn’t try to cure it or rid ourselves from it. It IS us. Therefore, I need to walk right into it. I need to confront it. I also should show some compassion to it along the way. Why not sit down beside these horrible, painful, brutal feelings and befriend them? Why not embrace them as part of me? As the Native American proverb goes, What you resist will persist. If I try to fight the depression and make war with it, it will only get stronger and more palpable.
Once I learn to befriend it, then I confront. Walk into the fear. All of those things that make you feel insecure and self-conscious: Do them! Over and over and over. Do the very things that your depression makes you want to avoid. And avoid the things that ease the depression. Sounds counter-intuive, right? Yeah, that’s because it is. Depression wants us to cower and avoid everything. It wants us to isolate and go further inward, becoming more numb and dysfunctional. So do the exact opposite.
The more I face depression, the more I can do the things that I least want to do… and soon the very things that I fear the most begin to lose power. Eventually, the depression will lift, but more importantly, I now have the inner strength and the centeredness to prevent it from taking me over again.
And that is the difference between taking pills and taking action.
God, give me the power to walk through my feelings, and teach me that feelings don’t have to stop me…