My 6th Sense: Depression

Haley Joel Osment (Cole) from the movie “The Sixth Sense”. (1999)

Spoiler Alert* In the 1999 psychological thriller, The Sixth Sense, the main character has the ability to see and communicate with dead people. Throughout the movie we are engrossed in his peculiar ability to be a medium between two worlds; the living and the dead. This extra sense causes him distress but by the end of the film he comes out as a hero because of the healing he provides for the living. Although I have yet to communicate with the dead, I have discovered another ability that until recently I viewed as an affliction: depression.

A New Understanding

I have had a new understanding and acceptance of depression; partially attributed to the nature of getting older and also in part because I am tired of the conversations that are being had. I find the discussion of mental health and depression to be full of stigma, misunderstanding, and confusion. I am also tired of posts online where people “come out” with their mental health status and then feel like they have to live their lives with their mental health as their primary lens. Please don’t get me wrong, it is brave and courageous to talk about your mental health — but it feels like many of these posts and conversations recently are missing the second part; the actionable part.

Sensory Experiences

Smell, Taste, Touch, See, Hear

We have been conditioned from birth to perceive our environment by the five senses shown above. It’s just not true. We have more receptors than those socially accepted. Depression is another receptor to consume your environment! It’s a different type of awareness. Adele didn’t write ‘Someone Like You’ because her sight and smell were strong. It was an awareness brought on by her 6th sense; depression.

Some of the strongest and emotive writing I have ever done has been when my depression was heightened.

Contextualize Depression

If we want non-depressed people to be mobilized by these posts and discussions, we need to also give them something to work with. Many people have tried to contextualize depression for the non-depressed by comparing it to a broken leg, an open wound, or a health issue like Diabetes: you can’t fix it with your thoughts alone. This is partially true but it doesn’t paint the whole picture.

Having lived with depression for nearly 1/3 of my life, I feel like calling it one of these things is misinformed. Depression is more than a sickness. It has become a lens and sensory experience, my 6th sense.

Consumption through Depression

As much as I consume my environment through smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing, I also consume my environment through my depression. Depression gives me a different perceptual ability in which I can consume what is around me.

When you smell something bad you don’t automatically move to cut off your nose. We have been conditioned to accept that these senses come with a spectrum of experiences to be had. We don’t see beautiful things all the time. We don’t taste amazing foods every day. Our taste buds serve a biological purpose of helping us of discerning things that are bad like poisons and rotten food — and craving sugars, salts, and fats as a biological means of survival (too much so at this point). Our ears can only handle a certain level of sound before they become damaged.

We respect the limits of our senses and appreciate when they allow us to experience something stimulating — whether it be one sense at a time or all at once. Depression, over time, has become another sensory experience. I’m beyond feeling sad and hopeless when I get depressed. I have moved into a state of observation and analyzing.

Over the past year, leveraging my depressive episodes as another means to sense my surroundings has elevated my mood, increased my awareness of my surroundings, and empowered me.

What now?

When you are depressed — use the time to observe your environment, physical or mental, with a new lens. How lucky are you to have a new perspective that makes you relatable to 14.8 million American adults ?

Depression is an extension of your sensory abilities, not an affliction. Heal the living part of you with the side of you that can feel dead at times.