What I Learned From My Depression That Made My Life So Much Better!

1. I learned to be less attached to the way my brain attaches meaning to things. By this I mean that if I really like something, or really hate it, or have any strong reaction to something, my depression showed me that my reaction was how I attached meaning to what I was observing. The meaning was not attached to what I was observing. The meaning was coming from me, my brain. WHAT A WONDERFUL SENSE OF PEACE THAT HAS GIVEN ME, the knowledge that when I am really sad, really happy, really (you name it), it isn't that the situation is so strong, it is that I am attaching strength to it through the way my brain perceives it. So what, you might say. Well, that means I can also change how I experience the world by changing the attachments my brain has. And so now I practice the discipline of redirecting my thoughts when I feel my thoughts heading down the rabbit hole of depression.

Please note, I am lucky to have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and low testosterone, three years and five doctors after it hurt enough to ask for help. The sleep apnea had been interfering with my deep sleep patterns for many years until I was becoming psychotic. I was put on a CPAP machine for when I sleep (it forces air into my lungs when I stop breathing). THE RESULTS WERE MIRACULOUS! The first night I slept better than I had slept in years. By the end of the first couple months, I began to feel different. Symptoms seemed to be slowly disappearing in the reverse order I had experience them when they appeared. After a couple years, I was much better. I'm still taking an antidepressant, and still not feeling like I used to, but I would not say that I am depressed any more.

2. I am a much better listener than I have ever been. When I am depressed, I don't have any interest in talking about anything. After 50 years of being a gregarious, outgoing, ego-maniacal blabbermouth, I was silent. My friends would call me up, expecting me to go on and on about how exciting my life was. Instead, they got silence. Some of my old friends stopped calling, because neither of us would have much to say. EVERYBODY NOTICED HOW MUCH LESS I WAS TALKING, AND HOW MUCH MORE I WAS LISTENING. And because I wasn't attaching my own meaning to what they were saying (see gift "1" above), I actually HEARD what they were telling me. As my depressing deepened, so did the trust others had in me. I was even able to listen to my own children, whom I had spent my whole life "telling". WHAT A BLESSING, TO HEAR MY CHILDREN, TO LET MYSELF JUST BE A LISTENER, NOT A JUDGE, JURY, AND EXECUTIONER.

Note: As I have gotten better, my ability to listen has decrease significantly. I am heading back to always having something, my thing, to say about everything. But because of my experience during the depths of my depression, I know what it is to listen, so I practice calming my reaction to what people tell me so that I can hear what they are trying to say.

3. I learned that some of my depression is caused by my reaction to psychological trauma (the first time I was severely depressed and sat under the house curled up in a fetal ball was when I learned my wife was having an affair with my best friend). This was the kind of depression I would always "work my way out of" by getting busy or doing little things that made me feel successful. I learned that the really deep depression I had for many years was caused by a more chemical process (lack of sleep, low testosterone). I AM NO LONGER THE POMPOUS *** THAT TELLS DEPRESSED PEOPLE TO JUST THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS AND THEY WOULD BE CURED. Thank you, depression, for making me so much more compassionate to the plight of serious depression.

4. I am still learning from my depression, learning to be a better human being, a better being, better. And that brings up another lesson I learned. I AM A JUDGMENTAL *****! By this I mean that I can be self-righteous in my search for perfection, which means I can always find what's wrong, less than, not good enough in any situation. I pity my children, who suffered my constant criticism, to the point that I believe I hobbled their self-confidence, which has contributed to their low expectations and their own self-criticism. Thank you depression, for showing me how judgmental I am, and helping me see how damaging that can be, to me and those around me. I now bask in the peace of knowing I am good enough, that my children are good enough, that my wife is good enough, etc., on and on and on. Practicing the discipline of NOT being judgmental (because it DOES require me to put effort into it every single day, every time I open my mouth to say something), practicing not being judgmental brings tears of joy to my eyes as my relationships with those I love become loving relationships.

5., 6., 7., There are more, but I can't believe you've made it through so many words.

I hope every one of us finds the peace and joy that my depression has offered to me!
61-65, M
3 Responses Jan 19, 2013

I struggle with depression, and have as long as I can remember. I'd like to recommend a book called Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. It has really helped me stay out of the depression trap and move on with my life.

Yes, great book. Also helpful to me was the Buddhist concept that taking responsibility for things outside my control will only lead to suffering. Thank for mentioning Frankl's book.

Very good perspective, can I ask when you find yourself going down the rabbit hole and realize you need to change your thoughts, what do you think about? What is the process you have discovered that has worked for you?

For me, it's not about changing what I think about, it's about getting out of the rut of thinking about it! I go and do something physical, like digging in the garden or cleaning out my office. I experience depression like a decline in creativity, a decline in seeing the positive in everything. So I do something that cranks up my dopamine (I think that's what I'm doing) and tackle a simple, mindless, easy to be successful, physical activity. I've also had success with laughing. Turning a bad situation into something I can laugh about redirects the energy in my brain to a positive focus instead of feeding energy into a negative suck hole. Does this mean anything to you? Does it help?

Yes, your response do make perfect sense to me, you explained the what as well as the why and it clicks. You really have a knack for writing and explaining things in a logical order. Thank you.

Well put, Thank you for sharing.

Thank you.