Lemonade From Lemons: The Story I Tell Myself About DepressionI think that one "cure" to depression is a lasting and robust belief that you are likable, lovable, and worthy. You can, it seems, change your brain chemistry with thoughts as well as with chemicals. It's a lot harder to do with thoughts, though. We can change brain chemistry because it is, to some degree, formed by how and what we think.
It works the other way, too. The chemicals can form our thoughts. The can change what it is possible for us to think.
Therapy helps us learn to think in ways that push us away from depression. There are all kinds of different versions of therapy -- CBT, ACT, DBT, and all kinds of others. There are therapies that believe if you can understand the roots of your thinking, you can learn to control it and send it in a positive way. There are therapies that don't care about understanding -- they just train you with techniques to manage your thinking and make your thoughts work in more positive directions. Whatever works for you, I say.
I'm not very knowledgeable about meds. I know that different ones work different ways and have different side effects. I know the primary reason why people stop taking a med is because of the side effects. I know that doctors have no idea how to predict which med will work for which patient, nor what side effects they will experience. I know that meds can work for a while and then stop working. Again, no one knows why.
I know that there is some interesting genetic research that make us ask the question of whether all mental illnesses are related genetically. If they are, what does that mean? I know that some practitioners believe that depression and bipolar disorder are the same thing; except unipolar people don't get the benefit of the mania. I know that people with bipolar disorder are said to be smarter and more creative than the average person.
Perhaps depressed people are a kind of emergency brain supply. When an emergency occurs, and we (humanity) need all hands on deck, depressed people might emerge to join the fray. Perhaps only very serious conditions motivate them.
When I was depressed, the only thing I could think of that would help me was love. Physical love and intimate love. I didn't feel worthy of it, and I believed that I would hurt anyone who was in my life, solely through their association with me. I was bad news. I was a virus. Catching. Lethal. I still wanted love.
Underneath the part of me that felt I was worthless was a part of me that though I should be lovable. The reason why I wasn't was because no one loved me. The problem was that I couldn't recognize love when I had it. I couldn't believe I had any worth.
See, that's one of the strangest things about this. Underneath all my horrible beliefs about myself, there was an essential me who believed I should be worthy. I was confused as to why people didn't say I was worthy. The depression made it impossible for me to see any appreciation for me, even if it did exist. I was writing and writing and putting stuff out there and I would get occasional emails from people thanking me for what I said, and it had little impact on me. I thought it was a fluke. There wasn't enough to mean anything.
I've never heard any other depressed person say this, so I don't know if I am the only one who does this. My experience tells me I'm not unique in anything, even though I feel so alone. The love I wanted? I wanted it for accomplishments. I wanted it from a lot of people. Thousands perhaps. Only then, would I believe I had anything to give.
When my wife loved me, it wasn't enough. When my kids loved me, it wasn't enough. When my friends loved me (assuming they did), it wasn't enough. When people applauded my trumpet playing, it wasn't enough. When people liked my dancing it wasn't enough. When people read what I wrote and thanked me, it wasn't enough. It was never enough to prove to me that I am worthy.
I needed to do more. I needed to do better. In fact, in my mind, I needed to save the world. I knew I couldn't save the world, so I knew I was a failure. I think that depression pushes us. If we can stand up to it, it forces us to do more and do better, all in hopes we can do well enough to allow people to love us. Depression is a huge troll blocking the pass to success -- success in our own eyes, not in anyone else's. Success makes us worthy. Worthy of love.
It's a horrible thing to be pushed this way. If we do not make it, we die. It pushes us and it pulls us at the same time. It is constantly telling us how worthless we are even as we try to be good enough to get away from it. Good enough to earn the love we want.
In order to get away from this monster, we have to know we can get away from it. The weird thing is that having it tells us we are capable of getting away from it. We are capable of greatness. We are.
We need help, though. Sometimes more than others are willing to give us. Often they get tired of it and think we are just playing helpless in order to suck them dry. Sometimes we can do it without help. We know that if we don't succeed, we will die. Of our own hands, most likely.