I know my depression well; we’ve been together a long time. It’s been almost twenty years since it hospitalized me, and I struggled with it for an eternity before that. It’s been a big part of my life, and, at times, the only thing in my life.
I feel confident saying, then, that I don’t think the key to combating my depression can be outlined in five easy steps. Here’s why:
1. I’m Not One Enjoyable Walk on the Beach Away From Mental Health
Clinical depression is a powerful and complex condition. It’s not the same as feeling a little down. Some days I can barely move or speak, so a 5-mile run seems as unrealistic as it does unappealing. Puppies are good for a chuckle and a beautiful springtime dawn is well worth appreciating, but they don’t even register compared to the constant torrent of despair inside my head.
There are simple pleasures in the world that do put a smile on my face, and I’m always grateful for them, but focusing on them simply isn’t a sufficient strategy for combating my depression.
2. I’ve Probably Already Tried What The Listicle is Suggesting
Depression is often characterized by desperation, and that means that those of us who suffer from it have usually put a lot of time and effort into combating it long before we have mentioned it to anyone or even acknowledged it ourselves.
Meditation, positive affirmations, writing letters to ourselves and to our condition, we’ve tried it all. So, it’s not that I’m being dismissive or that I’m not open to suggestions for improving my situation; it’s that while I appreciate the intent behind the suggestions, I’ve probably already tried it and failed.
3. I’m Not Going to Be Able to Reason My Way Out of It
One of the most insidious and cruelly unfair features of depression is that it affects the way that we think about and perceive things in a manner that it doesn’t allow us to alter at will. This means that a discussion on how and why I can and should think or feel differently is unfortunately ineffective.
I can read a perfectly well thought out argument or set of instructions on how to feel better, and I can even agree wholeheartedly with every point it makes, but it just doesn’t take hold in my diseased brain in a way that allows me to make the transition to productive action.
4. The Listicle Itself Makes Me Feel More Misunderstood
Perhaps the most frustrating interpersonal aspect of depression is the feeling that other people don’t seem to be able to understand how or why I’m struggling. By appearing to completely misjudge the nature of my illness and effective strategies for managing it, these listicles are only intensifying that feeling.
I trust and appreciate that the authors of these listicles mean well when offering their suggestions. Perhaps they are helpful to someone, and that’s not without considerable value. More often than not, though, I come away from reading them feeling less comforted and more isolated.
5. Words are Powerful, but Not More Powerful Than Modern Medicine
I’ve spent years in skilled, experienced therapy, and I’ve learned that, for me, discussion simply doesn’t have the impact that medication does. Cooperative sessions with a trained professional have given me the tools to recognize the signs of my depression and to manage it to the limited degree that I am able.
The big change in my condition, though, was only ever achieved through the correct type and dosage of medication. Chemistry is a significant element in my condition, and it requires a chemical answer. Obviously, that’s on an entirely different level than what a listicle can offer.
Please don’t misunderstand. I do applaud the intention to offer some means of relief for those struggling with depression. The thought does count. It’s just that a listicle on how to deal with depression isn’t of the appropriate caliber for actually dealing with depression, and I’m not sure that the implication that it is doesn’t do a bit more harm than good.