When I’m depressed, nothing works, nothing’s right. And certainly a list of reasons to be grateful would just make me stick out my tongue and go blaaa. But, as I started to climb out of the valley of my depression on Friday (and as I was walking the trails in beautiful Watson’s Mill State Park) I started to think of reasons to be grateful too.
First, a smidge of background: I consider myself a very happy and ‘up’ person most of the time. In fact, in my youth I probably wouldn’t describe myself as ever getting depressed, but now in my 30s (and as I’ve started giving myself bigger and bigger challenges to live my dreams) the dark does creep in now and then. Luckily only for a few days and not to any dangerous level, but at the time it feels very legitimate, very real. But, then it passes and the sun returns. So, please don’t think I’m depressed all the time (or even all that often), but do know that, like many of you, it is a part of life and not to be ashamed of or feared.
And now, without further ado —
FIVE REASONS I’M GRATEFUL FOR DEPRESSION
- Because it means you feel deeply. I’m not at all judging people who never get depressed, but a lot of deep thinkers and a looooooot of artists (painters, writers, etc) throughout time have found that with the gifts of insight and the ability to look and drink deeply of the world comes the price of sometimes seeing too much, feeling too much. It’s like the fact that I’ve probably been in unrequited love 30 times — it makes for a chaotic life, but it makes for a hell of a love story when I write my fiction. Depression is like that too, and I realised long ago that our lives are an ecosystem — and you could never cut away one part of your soul without damaging everything else you think is beautiful.
- Because it can let you know when something is wrong. For me, depression can come in two types. Sometimes I’ll just wake up feeling like there’s an invisible blanket lying on top of me and I can actually feel a chemical imbalance in my blood. But that sort passes fast (after a day or so) and has no reason tied to it. For me, bigger depression (which is still only a few days; my heart goes out to all who suffer for so much longer) usually has a cause. When my Mom died nine years ago, it felt natural and right to have a quiet, turning inward time, to heal. Nowadays though, my depression’s loud and screechy. It yowls at me to move faster toward my dreams, to quit settling and smiling and telling everyone I’m content where I am. I feel, sort of, that I missed the turn-off for my dreams, some imaginary deadline, and my soul’s screaming at me to turn around and find it. I’ve always felt that I’m making progress, that I’m on the right track, but my soul whispers “Sooner, faster, more.” And remember, Steven Winterburn said, “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” This could be true of a lot of things — a truly bad job, relationship, etc. You owe it to yourself to find out — and then change it.
- It reminds you who truly cares. Not that there’s anything they can do at the time to make you feel better, necessarily, but it means a lot on the other side. Now, no shame for the people who couldn’t see beneath the glossy shield you put up, but some may have noticed and simply choose not to look closer. My thanks to Sarah, Rob, and David, who all did notice when I was unhappy, and took the time to listen and help with kind words.
- It’s making me eat right and exercise. I really felt like that walk (five miles!) set me free, and I took a long bike ride yesterday. And I’m staying away from fast food and sugar as much as possible. These are all things are improvements I want to make anyway, but I feel they really help in lessening depression too. In the darkest times, I don’t even want to move, but the second you can move — get out in nature, a take a walk. Real nature, like a park, a wooded trail, away from people and buildings if possible. John Muir said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” So true.
- It’s making me make a plan. For me, since this depression is tied to inaction and unhappiness with my progress, then I must move forward, at least a little, every day. Now, instead of being stuck in a certain circumstance, I’m choosing be here while I prep for the next big step in my dreams. And I have a deadline. If I don’t hit my big goal by that point, I will at least change-up where I am and what I’m doing. I don’t have to stay exactly the same. Someone else’s plan might mean talking to a doctor and getting treatment, or being brave enough to talk about depression with a loved one. Everyone is different, and everyone’s depression is different, but remember — You are perfect and you are always, now and forever by the heavens, being showered with gifts. I hope you find something of value in your depression and carry it with you into the sunshine.