Am I depressed? Many of us struggle with depression. I used to. But in recent years I’ve learned to hear depression as a shout from within myself saying, “pay attention to me!” Depression is not necessarily a bad thing, and it doesn’t have to be endured. If you listen and act appropriately, you can use your depression and make some course corrections in your life.
When I was in my teens and twenties—and sometimes in my thirties—I would depress myself for a few weeks at a time. Now, I have an agreement with my wife, Hannah. One day a month is my quota, maybe two. Seriously, one to two days a month. I don’t use my quota every month and unfortunately—or fortunately—it’s not like the rolling minutes cell phone plans where if you don’t use the minutes this month they roll over to be used next month. If I don’t use my day or two this month, I still only get a day or two next month.
Why Am I Depressed?
When I depress myself it’s because I’ve drifted off course. I’m no longer living according to my values. Or I’ve lost sight of how fortunate I am. Or there’s something I need to do but I’m not doing it. There are many reasons, but my point is that it’s just a sign that I’m not honoring myself. If I allow my depression to do what it’s intended to do, which is get me to slow down, conserve energy and pay attention to myself—I quickly move through and come out the other side with clarity. I’ve learned to use my depression to renew myself—to make myself anew.
There are many things we can do to release ourselves from the grips of depression. If you want to learn more about this, please fill in your name and emails address in the box below and we’ll send you the article, “Am I Depressed?” And in addition to reading the article, commit an act of generosity—do something kind for someone—and I promise you’ll feel better about yourself.
Jake, thanks for this sensible way to view depression (of the kind that most all of us experience and that hasn’t reached clinical proportions) but the normal “downs” of life. We always think that it is something to be avoided or to be escaped. I have come to see my periods of “darkness” as time that is necessary for me to quietly be alone, go within, and simply, patiently let whatever needs to happen happen. When I was younger, I would try to mask over these episodes, usually by drinking alcohol. I ultimately came to see them as my mind simply working to resolve some inner conflict, some imbalance, some cause of stress that I was unconsciously (or sometimes quite consciously) avoiding. Today, I see these periods coming on, and a quite willingly simply embrace them, experience what it is that I need to experience. Rarely do they linger for more than a day. I am also moved by your suggestion of seeing what there is for me to express gratitude for and what act of generosity or kindness might I be able to give to another. Great wisdom in that. I go to a little teeny Unitarian Universalist congregation on Laguna Beach on Sunday mornings for precisely these reasons. It gives me a chance to pause, be quiet and reflective, and sit among these dear people who all are dealing with what it is to be human and vulnerable. I find myself in the sweetest of emotional states almost every Sunday morning. This isn’t about religion at all; it is about sharing myself with others and allowing them to contribute to me in common fellowship. A time to express gratitude, a time to share someone else burden of frailty and pain, and joy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
On another note: I encourage all to do what you can right now to help relieve the enormous suffering and human tragedy now happening in Somalia. I am grateful that I can.