I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, but like many, I’ve succumbed to it periodically throughout the years. We often forget that generally optimistic people can still become depressed, and that trying to think positively is not necessarily a tonic for it. Sometimes the cheerleaders of the world just get in a rut and feel like shit.
When I was going through my divorce almost 15 years ago and having a hard time, a doctor friend suggested I get medication to help me through it. I was hesitant. I thought drugs were a cop out. I should be able to talk myself out of being depressed, right? I was an optimist, for pete’s sake! My friend then explained that our bodies naturally produce chemicals to help us cope with stress, and if we use up all those natural chemicals during times of high-stress, we can become susceptible to feelings of hopelessness before we have time to produce more. No one can survive running on empty. This made sense to me. So I took the pills. And they did help.
More importantly, this made me view my own mental health differently. I stopped judging my low times so harshly. I began viewing them simply as vacuums of space, or emotional whirlpools, that occurred naturally within the flow that was my life. And like any whirlpool I might see in a river, or void I might encounter while traveling through the universe, I came to understand that as long as I kept going, kept flowing, they were all temporary and permeable.
But sometimes we need help to keep going. Sometimes things seem so ominous they blot out the light. Sometimes we have to admit we can’t do it on our own. Being overwhelmed with stress doesn’t mean we are barely surviving it; it means we are drowning in it. There is no embarrassment in relying on something to help us stay afloat. The goal is not to drown. Needing to do that by ourselves is just detrimental pride. Why would a person refuse a life-preserver after being thrown overboard to flounder in a stormy sea? Insanity.
There are ways, however, to keep things from getting to that point. Meditating. Loving. Being honest. Painting. Writing. Appreciating. Seeing the big picture. And perhaps the most important — remembering that hope exists.
When things get tough we need to remind ourselves that hope is a universal constant, and it is only our recognition of it that wanes. Keep looking for it and you’ll see it is still in there somewhere, like a spark inside you.
And then you will understand why there are few things more powerful than a spark of hope in a bleak world.