Depression is not…

I saw an illustration this morning that showed a man walking with a heavy shadow weighing him down. From one tile to the next the shadow grew bigger and more daunting until eventually it got inside him turning the inside of his body into a dark cave, with a little figure of him sitting helplessly in a corner inside his body. When asked by someone else how he was doing, he simply replied that he was fine, while apparently hiding the darkness inside of him. Many who have experienced, or are experiencing depression can relate to this illustration, but not enough take the more important lesson from it. Park that thought for now.

The good thing about the recent focus on Mental Health is that they are not calling it Mental Disorders as often as they used to. I take hope wherever I can find it because this is one topic that if ever there was profiteering from the misery of others, this would be it. When trying to sell a product we generally appeal to one of three things. We appeal to vanity, we appeal to convenience, or we play on fears. Mental health is very much in the last category and is currently a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.

The first point therefore is that depression is definitely good for business. Turning every supposedly imperfect emotional state into a disorder was the goal of the American Psychiatric Association as far back as the early 1970’s. It is for this reason that we now even have a pill to deal with shyness or modesty because we have been led to believe that it is a social anxiety disorder. As dreadful as that seems, it is hardly the worst thing about the depression industry.

Buying into this mentality provides the convenience of abdicating accountability for the uninformed or downright poor choices that we make in life. Take that accountability away and replace it with a pill, and you have a patient for life. Worse than this, you give others an excuse to claim that they are victims of an external force and can therefore not overcome this state by making better choices. Instead, medication and psychotherapy is needed. Good parenting and healthy friendships have nothing to do with it, or at least that is what they would have you believe.

We then refocus our goals on individual needs and blame society for stifling us, and in the process once again abdicate responsibility for the contribution to those around us that would build the healthy society that we all yearn for, while complaining about the cruel world that we live in. Cruel world dynamics then create more opportunity for new pills and lifestyle diseases, and suddenly the overwhelming number of health problems related to depression adds weight to the farce that depression is something we suffer from as an illness.

Back to that illustration, what we fail to realise is that the more we nurture the depressive state (that overbearing shadow of darkness) the more it will grow. Again, a choice that we make to either deal with the source of our dissatisfaction, or accept it for what it is if we are unable to change it. Unfortunately, most wait for it to miraculously change without any effort on their part, and in the process convince themselves that the universe hates them which is why they are not getting what they need to be happy.

That was deliberately flippant because if reading that angers you, then you are more likely to be predisposed to depression or feelings of oppression because you see weakness of resolve as being imposed on the individual by society, rather than seeing that the weak resolve of individuals is what allows society to define the self worth of the individual. By showing sympathy and compassion for unhealthy behaviour, we teach people that such behaviour is not their fault.

We teach them that poor choices are not because they were naive, but rather because someone else was manipulative or dishonest. As much as that is true, the resultant impact on us is directly related to what we continue to expect from them, and not what they continue to do to us. Waiting for an abusive parent or partner to be wholesome before we believe we are worthy is like putting a loaded gun in the hands of a psychopath and asking them to have mercy on us.

Our lack of conviction in what is acceptable versus what is intolerable for society to thrive as a collective and not as individual indulgences is exactly what enables the bullies, the manipulators, the deceitful, and the immoral among us. Deferring our accountability for the consequences of the choices that we’ve made in life simply emboldens the toxic ones and vilifies the victims into a state of shame or…depression.

Everyone gets it wrong. Often! But our insistence on viewing the success of others through idealistic lenses because we need to believe that we are unworthy simply provides us with comfort when we fail, because persisting in the face of adversity is only possible with the heroes among us. Like one philosopher so eloquently stated, each time we create a hero, we diminish our own capacity for greatness. Be careful who you create as a hero in your mind.

P. S. If you know which philosopher it was that said that, please let me know because I can’t seem to find the source to give due credit for it. I suspect it was Henry Thoreau but I could be mistaken.

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