Much of the dialogue I hear about depression involves: fighting, beating, or defeating depression. People talk about the battle and the struggle with depression. But in my experience, you don’t beat depression.
Because depression is coming from a part of you.
How is this? Most of the emotions that we have are messages from the deepest recesses of ourselves:
Jealousy says “I want what they have.”
Anger says “My boundary has been crossed.”
Sadness says “I have lost something that matters.”
Each emotion we have is not ‘bad’ —they are signals indicating our needs, desires, and perspectives.
When you fight these emotions —including depression— you are fighting yourself.
You are telling yourself that your need, your desire, your perspective is wrong. You are telling part of yourself that you do not accept it.
Depression is not just around to make you feel miserable. Depression is a message expressing that you need something. Something which you or your situation are not giving you.
Of course, the rather annoying and difficult thing about this is that depression doesn’t just speak to you in plain English. It doesn’t say things like: “Hey Aurora, I’m really hurt that you are not acknowledging ______” or “You know, Aurora, it’s a problem for me when you ______.” I wish it was that straightforward.
Unfortunately, depression often just happens —usually for completely non-obvious reasons— and then it’s up to you to decode the seemingly inscrutable language of your subconscious.
After a long translation process, I eventually realized that my depression was saying things like:
- “You’re forcing yourself to do things you don’t believe in.”
- “You’re doing things you don’t care about.”
- “You’re selling yourself short.”
- “You’re lowering your standards.”
- “You’re disrespecting yourself.”
- “You’re not honoring your deepest wishes.”
And I only ever felt better when I listened. And acted on these appeals.
So I think ‘recovering’ from depression is not about fighting it, or kicking depression to the curb, or any of those rather aggressive metaphors. It’s more about listening.
Depression, for me, could not have been resolved by ‘fighting’ it. Because actually, depression was the fight.
Depression was a war between two sides of myself. One side yearned to: sing, pursue music, be an outdoor badass, hike the PCT, trail run, write articles, and create youtube videos. And the other side wanted me to: fit in, do what was safe, become financially stable, and follow the socially acceptable route.
I’m pretty stubborn. And the thing about me being stubborn is that all the sides of myself are —guess what?— pretty damn stubborn. So when push came to shove, both sides began throwing down. And the general fisticuffs created panic attack followed by depression followed by panic attack.
Depression was like “Big Aurora” telling “Little Aurora”:
- “Shut up.”
- “Shape up.”
- “Be normal, dammit.”
- “Stop crying so much.”
- “None of that matters.”
- “Get a job, for Chrissakes.”
- “Can’t you do something that makes financial sense?”
You see, Big Aurora is very practical, and doesn’t like inconvenient things. And what Little Aurora wanted was inconvenient:
- Inconvenient for finishing a Cornell Ph.D.
- Inconvenient for getting a geotech job.
- Inconvenient for my bank account.
- Inconvenient for staying in one place.
- Inconvenient for climbing the social ladder. And,
- Inconvenient for my relationship with my parents when they asked me what I was doing with my life.
But something else was even more inconvenient: wishing I was dead.
So because of that *teeny* little complication, Little Aurora basically had the upper hand. Otherwise, it was game over for everybody.
As a result —and as time’s gone on— Big Aurora has been learning to trust and support Little Aurora for who she is. And them being friends will be better for both of them. Because —yaknow— they’re both me and stuff.
So the point of my cute metaphors is this:
As long as you continue to fight yourself, you will not get better.
As long as you smother parts of yourself, you will not be whole. And,
As long as you try to beat depression, the only thing you really ‘beat’ is yourself.
So instead of ‘fighting’ depression, embrace it. Listen to it. Communicate with it. Depression is here to tell you some really important things. —Things that just *might* change your life forever in beautiful and profound ways.
It sure did —and still is— for me.