26 May 2012

"Choosing Happiness" and Clinical Depression

photo by gary barnes
I've heard it a billion times: you have to merely decide to be happy and then you will be. I wanted to agree. I wanted to be on that rosy colored boat with those happy people, loving life, feeling good, but it was a concept that I couldn't fully grasp. I knew that there was a deeper reason why true happiness appeared just out of reach for me. So I remained on the shoreline and let that boat go on without me.

But as time has gone on, and as I have experienced different depths of depression-- and in turn, tried different ways to pull myself out of that depression-- I realize that I can still choose happiness, in a way. There are just a few more steps involved in that process.

(Continue reading after the jump)

When an individual is depressed, it can take every ounce of energy to be proactive about their healthcare. Confessing the problem to a friend, calling a doctor, having to see multiple doctors and/or specialists, going through different medications and different doses, trying to find the right fit, and occasionally pursuing alternative medicine. It takes it's toll, and oftentimes does not get done. It can take years to find the right fit, and even then, our bodies are continually changing. What works now may not work in 10 years. It is exhausting and oftentimes that light at the end of the tunnel seems terribly dim.

But I tell you this with all sincerity: the fight is worth it. It will get better, but you must work for it.

One of the greatest blessings in this journey is the company of friends-- friends who will not give up on you or abandon you when times get tough. Friends who have enough compassion and love to see you through. I have been blessed with a few choice friends who fall in this category, but I have also been cursed with those who have not seen me through. It is heartbreaking. But those few kindred spirits have been vital in my journey through depression.

To those with friends suffering through depression, please do not give up on them. Please educate yourselves, be aware, and never be afraid to reach out. Last month a leader from my church expressed the following sentiment: "If you come upon a person who is drowning, would you ask if they need help—or would it be better to just jump in and save them from the deepening waters? The offer, while well meaning and often given, “Let me know if I can help” is really no help at all." (Ronald A. Rasband, here). It is so true, especially with depression. Those suffering hide it well (and I should know). A smile may be hiding the deepest of pain, and the friend who notices such a deception is truly a lifesaver.

I believe that even with such a metaphysical condition as depression, "choosing happiness" is still an option, but it much be preceded by those terribly draining tasks of getting a hold on one's condition, which may include counseling, medication, greater self-awareness, etc. Every person is different, thus making every person's treatment different. But it is imperative that you keep holding on, keep pressing on. It will get better.

When things get under control, that's where the choice comes in. You can dwell on where you have been, or you can move forward. You can disregard your treatments, or continue on the path to stability and wellness. The past influences the future, most definitely, but it does not define you. I am grateful for where I have been, even the darkest places, because it has made me who I am today.

It gets better. I promise.

*More info on depression here. Some resources here.

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