,

Three Stages Out of Depression

“Every depression is caused by something depressing that has happened, with no exceptions.”   –  George E. Atwood, The Abyss of Madness, p. 166   The title of this article is very alluring for someone who struggles with depression.  It promises that there is a way out of depression and that depression has a cure.  I do believe there is a way out of depression and that depression, on many levels, has a cure.  The cure may not be an easy one, but there is a cure.   Depression is the product of a lack of individuation.  Individuation is the ability to recognize yourself as a unique entity apart from others while still in relationship with others.  Individuation is the ability to recognize that your life is your own despite what others believe, believe about you, or have done to you.  Individuation is the ability to say to yourself, “This is who I am regardless of what has happened or will happen to me.”   Depression occurs when we believe, falsely, that our most fundamental need – human connection (see Change, Part I) – can only exist if we are or behave in ways that other significant people in our lives accept or accepted.  When we feel as if there is no hope in ever being what we believe other people in our lives want us to be we become isolated, hopeless…depressed.   To state that depression is the product of a lack of individuation is dangerous.  It’s dangerous because it puts the responsibility of depression on the depressed person’s shoulders.   And if there is one thing a depressed person doesn’t need while in his depression it is to believe that his depression is his fault.   I am and I am not saying that depression is the depressed person’s fault.  I am saying that it is his fault in that I believe that depression has a level of choice to it, a choice to individuate.  I am not saying that depression is the depressed person’s fault in that there are millions of factors that have gone into a person becoming the person he is which had nothing to do with him or the decisions he has made in life.  Life is complex.  But again, this gets back to choice.  Wondering and marveling at life’s complexity instead of trying to control it is a pathway to contentment.   Stage One – Depression   A big debate among clinicians who treat depression is how much of depression is a product of genetics and how much of it is a product of circumstance.  How much of it is a matter of “nature” and how much of it is a matter of...

Read More

Dads…

“When we understand that we are born babies, that we all bleed blood, and that we experience the same pains and joys, then we have the basis of the empathy and humility we need to be able to forgive.” – Everett L. Worthington Jr., Forgiving and Reconciling, p. 127   Mike’s dad kicked him out of the house when he was sixteen. The last time I saw Mike before he left to live with his mother in Katmandu, Nepal was when my older brother and I were running laps around a big grassy field in our neighborhood park. It was night. Where I ran Mike was going to sleep. I don’t remember if I invited Mike to come stay at our house. He wouldn’t have anyway so I guess it wouldn’t have mattered. I’ll get to that in minute.   Mike’s parents divorced when Mike was two, maybe before that. As long as I had known Mike it was just his dad and he. Paul, another friend of ours, frequently reminded me how much he envied Mike’s relationship with his dad. He’d see Mike and his dad walk to the park to play catch or go to a movie every Sunday. Although I don’t know what there is to envy about the type of father who would kick his son out of the house at the age of sixteen Paul always talked glowingly about their relationship. Of course, Paul’s father was a physically abusive alcoholic who left his family when Paul was nine. It’s all relative.   Apparently Mike’s father was abusive as well. Paul told me. I recently returned to my hometown and Paul and I caught up. I pictured Mike helpless in his father’s shuttered two-bedroom house. “I wonder if that’s why Mike never wore shorts,” I speculated. Mike had a penchant for Toughskins, even during our fifth grade soccer practices and games. Better to hide the bruises.   Mike’s hard living predated his departure. He started drinking and smoking in seventh grade. Between sixteen and twenty-one he experimented with every drug imaginable, lived in Jamaica for a while, toured the country, wrote poetry. After twenty-one I guess he lived in Chicago. He never graduated from high school.   Mike’s dead. A rare neurological condition caught up with him in his late thirties. I can’t imagine the drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes helped. Paul told me that Mike and his dad reconciled. I’m not sure when, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was on account of Mike’s decline. Death has a way of opening up doors.   The last time I saw Mike we were twenty-one. Of all of the insights we shared during our brief reconnection...

Read More