I was diagnosed (officially) about 3 years ago but I think I have been struggling since I remember my first memories. With usual ebbs and flows, I have reached a point, where I am aware I cannot get rid of it, but I have to learn to live with it. My default is sadness, but my therapist reminds me that I am not my emotions. It’s not that I am sad. I feel sad. But this is not about the background, so I’ll cut straight to the chase.
Here is what I have been doing different that has significantly helped me cope with my depression:
a) The Pact: I have promised someone I love the most (and/or who loves me the most) that I will never talk negatively about myself. Neither to them nor to myself. And I will not lie to save them from hurting. I will speak the truth. Now, right off the bat (yay! sports metaphor), I know this one is hard to share and soul-crushing to do. But I thought of the promise as a form of accountability on my part for my mental safety. Then, if I am suicidal, I will share it. It can be made into a defense mechanism with support from those who love you.
And, there is another opportunity in this promise (more like a pact) — to remember that there are people who love you. They would like to know if you are suffering. They want to help. So, stay connected with someone.
b) The Purpose: Through regular therapy, I found enough courage to scan media on depression. Sometimes I can watch videos and read articles on the topic. This is where my growth began. I listened to Andrew Solomon’s Ted Talks where he talks about the opposite of depression not being happiness but vitality. He reminds me of Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development where he talks about the middle-age-conflict between generativity versus stagnation, and the virtue of care to be gained. I find myself sitting in the middle of it, I feel. So, I use it as a cheat sheet. What do I care about? I invest my time in those things. Family. Art. Writing. Teaching. Music. Not necessarily in this order. But I also care about the world. I care about children across the world, suffering. People being oppressed. I want to help that too. I try to take care of things I care about in any way possible. It could be addressing it head-on. Writing about it. Doing charity. Volunteering. Serving in any way you can. To me, I have started thinking of service as my purpose. And service can be of many kinds. I think there is enough flexibility in the idea to be independently interpreted as serving to whom, how, of what capacity. To me, teaching, painting, family meet those expectations too, but volunteering makes it feel complete. Find yours, I guess.
c) The Plurality: Finally, I think the idea of not just understanding the meaning of all forms of plurality in the universe. A life-giving supernova of diversity and plurality. So, why shouldn’t we celebrate the plurality in all its form? In people too. In what they make as well. Creativity becomes crucial here. It fuels a search for beauty, which is often not far from the truth. There are many truths and many beauties. Learning to understand and celebrate this universal plurality is the meaning of life to me. Again, find yours or borrow mine.
These three ideas have been helping me to cope. I fight against it more vigorously. I have tried everything else. Acceptance was the start, but I had to move past acceptance and get rid of it. Learning to live with it wasn’t giving me much help. Please share with people you know may benefit from this.