We've been wrong about depression
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
We can solve this problem but we have to think outside of the box
Depression has become so pervasive, I'm convinced that most of us have become at least somewhat familiar with it and I've encountered more than enough people that live in denial about it. I don't blame them for wanting to avoid the label, not in the slightest but there is value in looking at it honestly as a first step to resolving it. We don't do ourselves any favors by avoiding or living in denial of our mental health issues. It's a lot more effective to get know ourselves well and to know what makes us tick.
There are so many false and wrong ideas about what depression is, what causes it and what it is that needs to be done to solve it. While I've found that depression has become a fairly mundane topic, it doesn't have to be. I recently did a deep dive into depression and had some breakthroughs, all of which I'm happy to share but it's turned into quite the tumble down the rabbit hole. I can't possible capture the entirety of it here but it will hopefully be enough to start you on a different path. You can always make an appointment and I can help you walk down it as well.
I always want to make it known, very clearly that depression is not sadness. They are two entirely different things and yet the most common thing that I hear when I ask people to tell me what they believe about depression I almost exclusively hear people say "it's sadness." Probably 9 out of 10 times this is the response. "Sadness." Sadness is a healthy emotion and a primary emotion. I don't regard depression to be a primary emotion whatsoever. Denying ourselves the experience of sadness is unhealthy and destructive. Sadness has love and empathy behind it. This is one thing that I wish I could help everyone realize, that sadness is necessary and healthy even if it is uncomfortable and causes vulnerability.
I disagree that depression is chalked up to a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is a narrative that isn't supported by any research or concrete science and yet is widely adopted. I think it's nonsense. I don't support the idea that you, as an individual, are naturally flawed, faulty or defective. I think that's an ugly perspective and one that I refuse to support. Especially when there's no concrete research to support it. I call this the broken human fallacy. There are many broken things about our culture, our society and our way of life but we repeatedly fall back onto blaming and shaming the individual.
I look at depression as a symptom rather than a mental illness itself. What is it a symptom of? My friends, so many things. A total disconnect, for starters, from things that are meaningful. I highly recommend a book called Lost Connections, by the way, it was one of the first things that shook up my perspective on depression and it has had an impact on me both as a person and as a practitioner. Perhaps depression is the result of meaningless work or a disconnection from a hopeful future, for example?
I also believe that depression is being stuck. Show me a person who is depressed and I'll show you a person that's stuck. Stuck in a job that's taking them nowhere or maybe even stuck in a career. Stuck in a relationship. Stuck in a set of beliefs or ideas that aren't working for them. Stuck in limiting beliefs. The list goes on and on. Depression is being in a rut with the inability to break out of it. We just aren't challenged to get outside of our comfort zones enough and can easily stay stuck exactly where we are in perpetuity. I have you ever gotten your legs in thick deep mud? This is kind of what I think of. People just get stuck and they adapt poorly.
The more I've explored it, the more I've become convinced that not only do people have some pretty darn good reasons to be depressed but that those reasons are a mile deep and a mile wide. Depression really is more complex than we usually recognize. We are depressed because we're stuck, because we aren't living true to ourselves, because we've been conditioned to focus on our flaws or because our way of life has become hollow and pointless. There are so many reasons that I sometimes feel like everything is working against us.
I believe depression can be solved. I believe that people can overcome it. I believe they can put it behind them. I believe this, in part, because I have this in my personal life. I've been able to put it largely behind me and as a person and a practitioner there's one thing that I want people to know about overcoming depression. We have to think outside of the box. Way outside of the box. If I were to give a letter grade to the mental health industry for how good of a job it does with treating an everyday issue like depression I'd give it a C minus. I wish I could say the mental health industry was better at it's job, it's just not that good at it, I'm sorry that's just the truth. It's always my goal to raise the bar but frankly, it's not that hard. Raising the bar is easy when you take an unconventional approach to treatment.
If you ask me, becoming less depressed doesn't require a few remedies, it requires change and sometimes it requires drastic changes. Living without depression really is about creating a lifestyle that doesn't give depression the time or space to settle in. It's kind of like walking through wet cement, if you don't keep moving, it's going to start to get anchor you down.
One of the most effective ways to address depression is to engage in things that give you a sense of purpose, meaning and real connection. Do things that you love and do them for the deliberate purpose of enjoying life but I realize that it's far more complex than this and humans need. I'm certain that we need to overhaul our values and work to get really in touch with what's really important. Awhile back I took a few minutes and made a list of what's important to me and what gives me reasons to get out of bed and I've found life to be much better as long as I've remained loyal to what's on that list.
I also appreciate that there are just so many people out there that have never really figured out what's important to them. They've chased empty values so long that they've lost themselves if they had ever found themselves in the first place but I see it as my goal and my purpose to help people sort all of this out. The road to being less depressed might be a long one but the journey truly is littered with rewards.
Hopefully this give you some different ideas or insights on depression. I know many people have become so well acquainted with depression that they are losing hope that they can ever solve it. I assure you that it can be helped and improved and I hope that you will give me an opportunity to help you take that journey.