3 Things That Depression Has Taught Me That It Can Teach You Too
A number of years ago, a very wise person recommended to me that I see a therapist. I had shown enough signs of emotional distress that this person knew he needed to act. I thought it was a ridiculous idea. But since this person even provided me with a referral, coupled with a little pushing from my wife I grudgingly set an appointment to meet with him (actually, my wife set the appointment since I still felt it was unnecessary). I remember I had several meetings before the therapist mentioned the “D” word. It was a surprise to me and an embarrassment, though in hindsight it shouldn’t have been. Looking back, I can see the impact that depression has had on me from a very early age.
As a boy, I used to cry myself to sleep at night, though I was never sure why I did it. I didn’t have anything to be sad about. As I got older, my siblings took to calling me “moody blues” because I would sit alone in my room, playing guitar and sulking. Like me, they had no idea what was wrong either. After I got married, my long-suffering wife would patiently wait for me (sometimes for weeks) to come out of my depressive funks. During those times, I would seldom speak to her; when I did it was in short, choppy sentences usually replying to a question of hers. More often than not the answer to those questions was “I don’t know.” I could say so much more about my own battles but I’ll save that for another time. Suffice it to say, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the diagnosis and I certainly shouldn’t have been embarrassed by it. Knowing what it was has helped me cope with “down times” better. It’s also helped me connect with others in a much deeper way.
Tomorrow the sun will rise.
There’s a line toward the end of the movie Castaway where Tom Hanks’ character is explaining how he pressed through the years of loneliness and hardship while stuck on a remote island in the middle of the ocean. He said, “Tomorrow the sun will rise.” I’ve considered that line hundreds, perhaps even thousands of times since I first heard it. For those souls struggling with depression the takeaway is this: No matter how bad you feel, life will go on. Tomorrow, the sun will rise and you’ll have a new opportunity to write your day, your week and your life. It’s counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that it’s most important to remember that lesson when I’m not feeling depressed.
When I feel most alive, I continually tell myself that the next time I’m in the grips of depression, that it will end and the sun will shine on me once again. I do that because, as anybody who has struggled with depression knows, words like that can be meaningless when you’re down. It seems almost easier to stay depressed than it does to hope and expect that you’ll eventually feel better. So, when I feel good I gird myself for the next bout.
You have value, even when you don’t see it.
When I’m stuck in the iron grip of depression, often I’m overcome with a sense of worthlessness and pointlessness. I cannot see my purpose through the thick, dreary haze that it casts over my mind. But just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s just that the lights are turned off. If you struggle with depression I promise you that you do have a purpose.
One of the most beautiful and profound callings in my life is there, not in spite of my depression, but because of it. I can connect with others with similar struggles in a way that is helpful to them and to me. You can do the same. When you’re “up” you can support those who are “down” because you’ve felt some of the things that they’re feeling. One of the hallmarks of depression is a sense of isolation and loneliness. Because of your own experience, you have the ability to connect with people so that they know that they’re not alone in their struggle.
Everyone struggles with something in life.
There is a part of me that’s still embarrassed about my depression. Not because of the stigma attached to it but because it’s often regarded as a selfish, inward-looking struggle. Quite contrarily, depression has taught me that everyone struggles with something. My battle happens to be depression but everyone has something that challenges and sometimes even crushes them. It’s taught me to be more compassionate with others and appreciate that I’m not the only person in the world facing trials. Everyone has them. I’ve learned to show love and appreciation more willingly. Yes, I still get down. I sometimes hate myself. But I’m not the only one who struggles. This lesson takes us back to point #2 above. I can connect with people who are struggling regardless of the cause of the struggle. Depression has taught me to love indiscriminately.
Friends, you have value. You can connect with people. Tomorrow, the sun will rise. I encourage you to read this and other uplifting content when you’re feeling good. Gird up your loins for the inevitable down times and remember that you’re not alone. I could write so much more about this topic and I’m certain that I will in the future. Until then, if you know someone who could benefit from reading these brief words, please share.
About the Author
Sean K. Treasure writes and speaks on personal development, leadership, farm management and a variety of other topics. He’s the author of The Way of the Harvest: 15 Lessons on Reaping a Life of Abundance. Find more of his content at www.SeanTreasure.com.