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Have you accepted that depression will always be a part of you?
In the last seven years, I’ve met hundreds of people who suffer from depression, whether that be in group therapy, online forums, psych wards, through social media, or just in the course of day to day life. Over this time, I’ve carefully observed peoples’ mentality towards their depression, and one of the most common views I found people to have was that it was just a part of them. That while their life would not be without periods of happiness, that it would also be choked with periods of misery, and that no matter what they did, they’d never be far out of depression’s reach. Put another way, they’d accepted that they’d have to battle their illness for the rest of their life.
Now I can understand this mentality. When you’ve had several episodes of depression over a period of months or even years, it’s easy to think that it’s settled in for the long haul. That it’s just the way you are. That you’ll never be able to beat your demons, so the best you can do is learn to live with them. But even though I can understand it, whenever I meet someone who thinks this way, it breaks my heart.
Because as soon as you accept that depression will be a permanent feature of your life, then it always will be.
The self-fulfilling prophecy
The great American philosopher William James once said, “it is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which more than anything will affect a successful outcome.” And the reason that the “accept that I’ll have to battle it for the rest of my life” mentality fulfills its own prophecy is because it tends to set you on a path that doesn’t lead you to do the things that you need to do in order to overcome it for good.
‘What do you do when you’re going through a rough patch?’ I often ask people with such a philosophy.
‘I just try to keep my head above water,’ they usually respond. ‘I try to remind myself that episodes like this are going to happen, because depression is just a part of who I am. I try to remind myself that this episode will pass, and that eventually, I’ll feel better again.’
Once again, I can understand this approach. When you’re in the throes of depression, it’s hard enough just to keep your head above water. It’s a struggle to do anything more than the bare minimum just to get by.
But here’s the heartbreaking part: having this mentality doesn’t set you on a path towards empowering yourself with the tools you need to prevent such an episode from occurring again. History, as a result, is destined to repeat itself—time after time after time.
An alternative approach—set your goals higher
If you’ve read my stuff before, you’ll know that my own plight with depression lasted approximately four years, and was fraught with alcoholism, drug abuse, medicine-induced psychosis, near-suicide attempts and multiple hospitalizations. However, by early 2012 I was able to recover, and these days I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. I’m 24 years old and I’ve got the rest of my life ahead of me. I feel great.
Now my recovery was not, to say the least, smooth sailing. I made a lot of mistakes, and I did things I’m not proud of. But one thing I did right was have, in my opinion, the right approach to recovery.
“I refuse to let depression be a permanent feature of my life,” I always thought. “I’m going to beat it. I’m going to make a full recovery. And after I do, I’m going to go on to live a happy, healthy, fulfilling life.”
The reason I believe this mentality is the best approach to have is because it too can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. By aiming to make a full recovery, you can go on to make a full recovery.
So, whenever I was going through a depressive episode, I’d think to myself:
“I need to work out exactly what triggered this, understand that trigger inside out, and make sure I learn from this episode so that it doesn’t repeat itself’.
In this way, having the goal of making a full recovery pushed me to be proactive. It pushed me to want to learn. It pushed me to hit back instead of just try to defend myself. It led me to get sober, to diligently take medication, to commit myself to therapy, to read self-help books, to make challenging situational changes in my life, and learn about the importance of eating well, sleeping well and exercising frequently. And over time, I was able to empower myself with an acute level of self-awareness and an extensive, refined psychological skill-set, and combined with the lifestyle changes I’d made, I grew to understand my triggers so well that they failed to be triggers anymore—or if they were still triggers, then I’d learned to structure my life in such a way as to avoid them triggering me. In other words, I was able to make a full recovery.
“Maybe that worked for you, but it doesn’t work for me”
Again, if you’ve suffered from multiple bouts of depression over an extended period of time, I can understand how you can give up on the idea of recovery, and think that it’s something that only happens to “other people”. But let me offer you an alternative perspective:
The reason you’re still struggling with depression is because at the moment, you don’t quite have the requisite self-awareness, psychological skillset or lifestyle in place to overcome it.
Please don’t get defensive – just have a think about it. Read it a couple of times. Mull it over. And then ask yourself the following questions.
Have I seen every psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or GP in my city to get help for my illness?
Have I worked with every therapist who offers their services online?
If I can’t afford any such professional help, have I worked through all of the online therapy modules that are run by some of the most highly ranked universities in the world?
Have I read all of the depression self-help books that are written by some of the most well-respected doctors on the planet?
Have I tried all of the antidepressant medications available for an extended period of time?
Have I successfully changed the situational factors in my life that may be triggering my depression?
Have I cut all alcohol and illicit substances out of my life?
Do I get good, regular sleep? At least seven hours every night?
Do I eat healthily? Do I treat my body like a temple?
Do I exercise frequently? At least three times a week?
Now, read that block quote again: “the reason you’re still struggling with depression is because at the moment, you don’t quite have the requisite self-awareness, psychological skillset or lifestyle in place to overcome it.
Given that you weren’t able to answer “yes” to all of the above questions (it’s not possible to – there are too many resources out there, even if you’re on a budget), then how do you know that the next thing you try, or the next combination of things you try—whether that be, for example, changing medications, seeing a (new?) therapist, burying yourself in self-help books or making some positive lifestyle changes—won’t be what makes all the difference in the world? How do you know that it won’t lead you to recover in the same way that I did?
And the answer is: you don’t.
That’s why I believe concluding that depression is something you’ll have to battle for the rest of your life is extremely premature. Given the plethora of things you can do to try and beat it, you have every reason to aim for—and believe you can make—a full recovery.
Challenge yourself—change the course of your destiny!
So if you’re suffering from depression, I want to challenge you to not accept that you’ll have to struggle with it for the rest of your life. Instead, I want to challenge you to set the bar higher. I want to challenge you to think of depression as an intruder in your life instead of a permanent resident. I want you to aim to make a full recovery, and take the necessary steps to kick it out of your life for good.
As I’ve argued, aiming for a full recovery leads you to be proactive. It leads you to empower yourself with knowledge and change your lifestyle for the better. And by doing so, it can fulfill its own prophecy and lead you to happiness. But accepting a life that will be riddled with depression inherently leads you to be much more passive. It too fulfills its own prophecy, but a very, very different one.
So … what are you going to do? Are you going to take the challenge and change your fate? Why or why not?
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If you enjoyed reading this post, you may also like Danny’s book titled “MY RECOVERY BLUEPRINT – How I overcame depression in three straightforward steps and how you can do the same.” Grab your copy from Amazon here.
I hope the message you are trying to convey is to stay away from extreme thinking and be open to the idea that full recovery is possible. “I’m never going to get better, so why bother?” can be extremely limiting, I agree, but I think it is important for sufferers to take it one day at a time. “I’m struggling now, but one day I hope to be better” is more sensitive to that and is also a lot more attainable. Sometimes saying you are “fully recovered” can be as dangerous as admitting defeat can. What if you start to… Read more »
Dear Danny and Deryl, I believe in a fact that time is the best healer. It would heal all your wounds. But time can be so bad also that it could really fuck you. Most people or experts believe that depression could be fought through ideologies and believes. Well Danny depression is something that does not listen to ur ideologies. U may be a great thinker, a philosopher but philosophers are sometimes the best lovers of this disease. Dear Danny I totally believe that depression could be fought with strong determination and self belief. But it only reduces the amount… Read more »
Hi Danny I have read your article and all of the comments. My biggest concern that I take out of this as many others have is that you have ignored the very fact that for many depression is a genetic malfunction in the brain and not simply a matter of being able to think your way out of it. I have only recently been dx with depression and many other things but this is after an extremely long progression towards a breakdown and by long I mean nearly 3 decades. By suggesting that we think our way out of it… Read more »
Danny I would have added this to my original reply but I couldn’t. I am a little bit sad right now. I have just read another of your articles about things to say to someone with depression that has such insight and thoughtfulness about it and then to put it against this article it really feels as thought you have lost that empathy for someone with depression. I am certain that this is not true well at least I really want to believe this isn’t true. Perhaps you could re-write this piece with a little more empathy for those who… Read more »
I read this article as I am severely depressed at the moment. I am going to the doctor in a few days. I was already crossfitting 6 days a week with a healthy diet when I realised I wanted to give up on this life. I am still there, and I have tried every holistic approach to lift this. I am not overweight. I donot do drugs or drink alcohol. I would like to go to sleep and not wake up. I cannot “count my blessings” I cannot make a “gratitude journal” or donate my time to charity. Because, today… Read more »
What this article either completely ignores or greatly underplays is the fact – the very objectively proven fact – that each episode of depression makes another more likely. That those nasty little neural pathways gets more & more grooved and harder & harder to bypass. I like the idea of using logic to battle to Depression – oh I am a data hound and I can spend hours pouring over records of how I felt, what I ate, who I spent time with – trying to determine the trigger for my last bout. Two problems – one, that is pretty… Read more »
The link to Danny’s book is broken. I think he wrote a new or updated it and it is called “Depression Is A Liar: It IS possible to recover and be happy again – even if you don’t believe it right now”.
I’ve suffered from depression/anxiety for half my life and later borderline personality disorder and I’m finally starting to get better. There isn’t a one solution fixes all for everyone. What I can tell you that does help everyone is getting help. You need to be on medication and therapy. You can get better with out them but its a long and hard struggle, that can be greatly eased with this help. Time also helps. One persons struggle is not the same as others. Comparing your mood or ability to cope with others will only leave you feeling worse. You are… Read more »
Mr Baker, Your claim to understand depression because you suffered from it for 4 years, is akin to saying that you had a broken leg so you can understand what its like to be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. I am gratified to hear that you managed to overcome your depression. You are fortunate and your depression was situational and you’ve found a way do manage it. Most chronic depressions are not. For someone who claims to be an expert on the subject, I’d suggest you look deeper into both the physiological and psychological studies and… Read more »
Being a sufferer of depression I fully agree with ur view points.Even it went almost very parallel to mine.
Great stuff Danny. I’m 32. I suffered from chronic bouts of depression from my teens through my twenties. Suicide attempts, four or five years of doing nothing but sit on the couch, playing Civilization III (I was *really* good at it, I tell you). Diving deep into debt, poor relationships, bad health, etc. Took me nine years to complete my undergraduate degree – and during that time I probably earned a total of $60,000. In nine years. I lived with my parents for several years, had no friends and when I did have the occasional girlfriend it was always *super*… Read more »
Danny, when I was 24 I thought I knew all the answers, too. A truly depressed person can barely manage to get out of bed, let alone set higher goals. This “cure” of yours is a simplistic, slightly disguised version of the old “just try harder” or “pull up your socks” responses most face all their lives from non-sufferers, and can do serious harm to at-risk individuals. Please stop it.
You should really read some Sylvia Plath.
I’m a little concerned aboutthis article. I’m 49 years old and have lived with depression for exactly half of my life. I eat well, sleep well, and put my mental health requirements ahead of many other things in life to ensure I can say ‘I LIVE with depression’ instead of ‘I suffer from depression’. So I get it – that you can do a lot to help yourself and I’m a good example of that philosophy. However, to dismiss depression so easily, as this writer does, undermines the actions of so many people to keep their heads above water. Those… Read more »
I agree with some of your points, Tori. I have been depressed since age 5 or so, which is over two decades. It has little to do with ‘triggers.’ I think the author believes that the small part of the elephant he’s touching is the entire elephant. Not all depression is situational.
Well said Maryann, and thank you ZK.
don’t tell people that they can overcome depression with a sunny outlook on life. you are 24, you know less than you think you do. i spent many years as a teenager struggling through depression, and then i felt better. and then in my early twenties it struck again and, then i felt better. and then in my late 20’s ignored it, because i was “cured”. then i finally took the time to deal with it and after some time and medication, i felt better. depression really is a part of some people’s entire life and spreading the message that… Read more »
Amen. Coping skills are a nescesity, but depression IS a part of who we are. A very low percentage of depressed patients are lifelong. For those of us that are, it is a grim reality that cannot be ignored. This kind of positive thinking therapy will only get you so far.
there is no way that a man in his 74th year can do the requisite exercise as he recommends
i find sleep unrefreshing
walking causes foot pain
i have tons of excuses but cannot relearn
those disciplines that i have neglected for so long
my coronaries are damaged
my bowels are shot
eyes are failing
memory and driving are an issue
family is unable to comprehend my dilemmas
I agree with Daryl in part, but I would venture this proposition: research does demonstrate a healthier lifestyle and mindset can contribute to a reduction in depressive episodes. Some of us become depressed over time as a result of difficult trials in our lives; death, the end of relationships, abuse, illness, etc. In those instances depression is almost an inherent result of causation, and with therapy and medication, will dissipate over time. Some others, however, have a permanent imbalance of chemicals in our brains that make us consistently prone to bout after bout. The reality is you can only consider… Read more »
Thank you. You perfectly stated what I was thinking.
If someone is feeling suicidal day in and day out,its very hard to motivate yourself to take necessary steps.
tori!!!! very well put
Great article Danny. Every word you write is true. And anyone reading this who has depression should take inspiration and KNOW that it can be overcome. I had the illness for maybe 6 years, the first 3 I didn’t realise I had it as I ploughed all my energies into work/having a good time but when the shit hit the fan with work, I had nothing to balance the depression and it kicked in slowly but grew and grew. I accepted that hey maybe I’m always going to be one of life’s unhappy people and one of life’s losers. Manfully… Read more »
“‘What do you do when you’re going through a rough patch?’ I often ask people with such a philosophy.
‘I just try to keep my head above water,’ they usually respond.'”
I’m surprised no one ever suggested: ‘Try to make it to shore’ – if someone really wants to think outside the box, then swimming and drowning shouldn’t be the only two modes transportation; especially if you don’t like swimming.
Danny, You are 24 years old. You do not have enough life experience to hand out advice like this. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad you feel better and you make some valid points about living a more fulfilling and less depressed life. That said, there are several things you do not take into account. First, it’s an established scientific fact that there is a genetic predisposition to depression. Second, there isn’t a person on the planet that is 100 percent in control of their own destiny. Bad things happen to everyone, even good people who completely have their shit… Read more »
Ok, so let’s start with the most obvious issue here. You are committing an ATROCIOUS Fallacy by saying that at 24 he hasn’t the experience to hand out that advice, and that at 48, you do. THis just doesn’t stand up to ANY form of logical scrutiny. Life experience is not caused by age, and Age is but one factor. TO be honest, at 22, I have more life experience than practically every adult I know. Most of them have holed themselves up and decided that the things they see on a daily basis is “the way the real world… Read more »
Daryl, He does get it. I know. Yes, I take your point we all get wiser each day and with years rolling by most of us are quite knowledgeable. And yes, I agree that depression could strike back at any stage. But if it does, I have the tools to overcome it. And in turn I hope your mindset’s not too limited not to take my point of view that to be able to understand a subject, you don’t have to be a certain age. It comes across that Danny is a well-adjusted bloke and mature beyond his years. Equally… Read more »
Daryl as I was reading this I was thinking the same thing you wrote. at 24 i felt invincible, but with age comes responsibilities. if u have kids, they get older, and much more demanding….therefore, many more challenges raising them. these things create “triggers”/ “stressors” which we know we have to avoid….however, certain triggers and stressors can’t be avoided. we have to interact. Scientifically, as we get older, depression really starts to take a toll on us, and it becomes harder to treat. my only fear is not becoming schizophrenic like my grandmother. but Daryl I agree with u 100%….however… Read more »