Can’t Get Happy? Advice for Depression

Warning: This article addresses the topic of suicide

Earlier today, a post came across my screen in which the writer asked for advice on how to start dealing with depression. I banged out a quick reply and I am posting it here (seen further below) without any editing or further polish.

Something in particular compels me to share it on Medium. This poster’s request reminds me of something my friend and college roommate once said to me. He told me that the reward center of his brain was broken and he couldn’t derive pleasure from any activity in life. He struggled for a while after we graduated college and eventually ended his own life. I wish he would have asked me for help before he took that final irreversible step.

At one point, he appeared unannounced and stayed at my apartment for about a week — I think it was in 2011 — and we talked a bit about what he thought might help him feel better. He was sleeping on our couch and my two roommates began to express their discomfort with having an unknown (to them) guest staying in our apartment on an open-ended timeline. I asked my friend to find somewhere else to stay in town, but he decided to leave town altogether.

In retrospect, maybe I should have insisted that he stay with me, or I should have put him up in a hotel around the block so we could meet after work. He may have needed an ally at that point in his life and I could have done a better job of putting my roommates and my life on hold to let him know that it was okay to make the time and space for us to attend to his struggle.

In my mind, he will always be remembered for his dry sense of humor, his pre-medical flash cards, our trip to Jamaica, and the chili and rice & beans that he cooked in our house on Packard Street.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need some help.


Q:

I feel depressed all the time and don’t enjoy anything. The only relief is that work distracts me. I don’t know what to do.

A:

Definitely talk to a psychologist and try three different ones while you are at it because the first one may not click with you. They should be able to point you in the right direction because there are MANY things you can tweak to see what works for you, including:

1) sleep

2) exercise

3) diet

4) travel far away

5) Read the works of Viktor Frankl, Alan Watts, Erich Fromm, Pema Chodron, Tara Brach

6) Assess your swim lanes in life (family, friends, interests/hobbies, work, self/health, partner if present) and try to describe what’s working and not working

7) get out into big nature — forests, mountains, starry skies, deserts

8) tell people that you appreciate what you like about them and send some small gifts / notes / postcards to those you care about

9) go to Vipassana silent meditation retreat

10) realize that this universe could have not existed. there could have been nothing at all in this local area. but there IS a solar system with an Earth, that somehow developed self-aware life against many crazy obstacles, and somehow now you are part of that self-aware life, and you have a body which you can pilot around the surface of the watery planet. If you have two legs, that’s pretty cool… you can move around. If you have two arms and hands, that’s pretty cool because you can touch stuff and pick stuff up. If you have eyes then you can look at stuff like a beach or a sunset. So that seems pretty amazing to me that we have something instead of nothing.

11) Yes, talk to a professional, they can give you more tailored advice than I

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