Depression is a tool for self-reflection and personal insight.*
Depression happens to all of us. It can take on many forms for many different people. It can destroy all motivation, all hope in a single moment. It can cause psychological and physical damage to the mind and the body. It can make you eat a tub of ice-cream as you watch re-runs of Friends, or make you not eat much for days on end.
Why does our body/mind come with this feeling of depression? And, although it’s fair to say we would love to avoid depression in its entirety, is that truly what is best for us?
Dr. David Buss has been quoted saying that depression is useful to disengage from a hopeless strategy – to motivate us to make or create new plans and paths. Looking back on my life, I’ve noticed a pattern in the times where I changed course or had a long moment of self reflection. Most of the times these events proceeded some form of depression. When I had just turn 21, I sank into a deep depression. I lost my girl friend, I was moving 1,200 miles away from home, I was drinking heavily. But at one moment (it felt like overnight) I snapped out of it, and that’s when it all slowly began to change. Moving 1,200 miles away from where I grew up in NJ turned out to be a blessing.
More recently, I was slightly unhappy overall and couldn’t exactly figure out why. Between having a painful cavity in my mouth, not working on my blog or other businesses, and being in a relationship that, despite my denial, was a major distraction to my work, I became depressed. So I did what I had to do, and learned from it. Although I would never blame anybody for my unhappiness, toxic habits and people can seep their way into your lives easier than you think.
When I left my two year career in finance, a certain form of depression came right before it. I call it a philosophical depression, where I realized I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live and I had basically become the exact thing I used to despise. (But for the record, working in finance taught me more about myself than anything else I’ve ever done, and I’ve made amazing connections through the work I did.)
Dr. David Buss also said it deflates our blind human optimism. We push forward thinking everything will work out and absolutely refuse to believe otherwise. This can seem good in the moment, even making us feel real warm and fuzzy inside, but if it ultimately doesn’t serve you in your progress than it needs to be reevaluated.
A lot of “self-help” floating around the internet these days keeps telling us to believe in our self, to trust the universe, to give our self “self-affirmations.” I warn all who I come across to be wary of these words. Although there is some truth, you should take them with a rock of salt (like one the size of your fist.) It’s easy to look at these words and believe your own bull-shit. Consider it verbal turd-polish at best.
Back to depression, Dr David Buss says that it also sends a signal to other people who are close to you, maybe not directly, but if you know someone who is depressed, I’m sure they didn’t have to tell you, you could probably just tell. Human instinct and all…
My ex knew I was depressed shortly before we ended the relationship. She could tell over text messages that I just wasn’t myself, it wasn’t even in person. She blamed herself for it, which I told her not to do. Empathy is a powerful trait, and is one of the fundamental building blocks to human relationships.
Next time you’re depressed, you’re feeling down like you want to throw in the towel, or just lay in bed all day, or down half a bottle of whiskey, just remember that the depression inside you is normal, and learn to harness it effectively. Look inside your heart and your mind, and look at the life around you, and see what it is that truly ails you. Many beautiful things have been incepted during times of deep depression. Just look at the works of musicians and poets, story tellers and painters. Our emotions are what make things beautiful, even if they are painful.