In order to discuss depression, one needs to separate the mental illness from the emotion. Although the two are intertwined, there are differences. The mental illness is a disease of the brain, which is not producing enough of the chemicals needed for brain health. To help the brain function better, doctors prescribe various medications to replace the chemicals needed for mental balance.
Depression, the emotion, occurs when various negative emotions turn sour and then go underground. The result is a dull ache of the heart, and a feeling of despondency. Depression, as despair and loneliness, becomes the end point of the soured emotions, opening up the black abyss before us. We can be happily jumping rope one day, and then suddenly stop because the activity now seems meaningless to us. We question why we should continue to live since we were born to die. This is full blown depression which invites us to jump feet first into the oblivion.
In his presentation on depression, Ian Heath divides this emotion into three types. Each has a base emotion that has gone underground, and reappears as a different form. Depression, based on guilt, fixes the blame on the person themselves, who now feels guilty for existing. Depression, which is derived from envy, creates alienation from other people. The person becomes an injustice collector because they see themselves as a victim. Depression, based on sorrow, turns into self-pity with a feeling that much injustice permeates the world. The result of these varieties of depression is a sense of personal unworthiness. Combined with their bitterness and resentment, the person becomes overwhelmed by life. Depression, then, sets in prompting a feeling of nihilism and futility.
For me, depression is a deep sadness and grief that the world is not what it should be. This deep unrelenting grief has no place to go, and becomes the tomb we live in. The feelings of helplessness and hopelessness have come to dwell inside in our hearts.
However to come completely back from the brink meant that I needed to take baby steps. First was to reorder my chaotic mind. To that end, I established a program of mental hygiene. I would read and watch only things that would be helpful to me. I follow this program, even today, to fill my mind with happy and cheery things.
One of the first books that I read about depression was “The Secret Strength of Depression” by Frederic Flach. The author presented the concept that depression is a normal reaction to stress. Dr. Flasch emphasized that it is normal to feel grief and loss but not for long periods. Since I had a chaotic childhood, I mourned the loss of feeling safe. Being depressed had became a habit of thought as familiar to me as breathing. Dr. Flach discussed how to leave the squirrel cage of depressed thinking and reconstruct “normal” thoughts.
The next book I read was “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. In this book, he related his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. As a survivor, Frankl pondered why some people, who had many advantages, died while others with nothing like himself lived. He was kept alive by the memory of his young wife since he believed that they had a future together. From this experience, Frankl realized that the survivors believed in the future. He developed his theory of logotherapy, which is to find a will to live through meaning. In the emptiness of time when nothing exists to take us away from ourselves is when we seek to find meaning for our lives.