I have been struggling with a feeling of ennui lately. I have asked myself, “Are you depressed?” and the answer keeps coming back, “I don’t think so.” I have been depressed before, both short term episodic depression and more long term clinical depression. I have used antidepressants, meditation, breathing exercises, exercise, and talk therapy to attempt to fend it off.
I have found that antidepressants don’t really help me. They help take the edge off of the depression but they don’t help me address the root cause of the problem. What I have discovered is how to deal with my depression without the use of medication. I have done so under the supervision of a mental health professional with the understanding that if he felt that I needed to reconsider taking medication I would.
What I have learned about depression is specific to my depression. It doesn’t necessarily apply to the way anyone else experiences their depression. That said, in a nutshell, I learned that I had to acknowledge my feelings about whatever was depressing me and then, decide to be happy. That was a real shock to me. I discovered that when I decided to be happy, my feelings soon caught up with my expectations and I was actually happy.
This isn’t a prescription for dealing with grief or sadness. When you feel these things you need to give yourself permission and time to feel them. But when you have felt them there will come a time when you think “Now what?” That’s the time when you decide. “I’m going to be happy.”
Another thing I’ve learned about being happy. It’s not about what you have or where you are. It’s about engaging with the people that are close to you; enjoying your time together. It can also be about doing things that you enjoy and setting and meeting goals.
When I start to feel depressed, I remind myself of these things. I do some deep breathing. I may talk with my psychologist. I almost always go for a walk, sometimes for a very long walk. And soon, I feel the black funk start to lift. It’s not gone forever. It may not even be totally gone. But I do feel better.
If you had told me when I was in my twenties that I would have embraced this Polyanna-ish philosophy I would have laughed in your face. But the next time you’re feeling blue, give it a try. All you’ve got to lose is your depression.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.