(Photo: Stefan Baudy/Flickr)
It’s coming up to the one year anniversary that I’ve been what I’d describe as a very active mental health advocate, and one of the things I’ve realised over this time is that broadly speaking, people who suffer from depression can be divided into two different categories.
One class of people want to recover from depression, and channel all their energy into doing so. They’re the ones who work with their doctors and commit themselves to therapy – and if they can’t afford therapy, they bury themselves in more cost-friendly alternatives like self-help books and free online therapy. They make sure they eat well, do their best to sleep well, and even though it may be the last thing in the world that they feel like doing, they force themselves to exercise.
When I talk to them, they ask me:
“Danny, how did you recover from depression?”
“Do you have any tips on how I can get better?”
“Do you think there’s more that I could be doing to recover? If you think there is, then please tell me, because I want to recover as soon as possible.”
And because all their energy is dedicated to recovering, they usually do so, and they go on to live happy, healthy lives.
The second group of people, on the other hand, do not want to recover – rather, they’ve convinced themselves that they’re always going to suffer from depression, and as a result, their goal is just to be as comfortable while suffering from their affliction as they can.
And because they don’t believe that they can get on top of their illness, they tend to do few of the things that would actually help them get on top of it.
After all, going to therapy isn’t exactly the most fun thing in the world to do, so if you’re goal isn’t to recover from depression, then why would you do it?
Same with reading self-help books and doing free online therapy – in the short run, you’d feel more “comfortable” watching TV or playing with your dog – so if your goal isn’t to recover from depression, then why would you bother?
Same story with healthy eating – it’s easier (and it tastes better!) to let yourself go then stick to a healthy diet, so if your goal was just to be as comfortable while suffering from your illness as possible as opposed to recovering from it for good, then you’re going to eat that hamburger with a large chips and Coke on the side instead of eating grilled chicken, a salad and a bottle of water.
Exercise, too – anyone who’s suffered from depression will tell you that there are days when you feel so tired that going for a run or playing some sport is the last thing in the world that you want to do – but people whose goal it is to recover from depression pull themselves out of bed and force themselves to do it, because they know that doing so will help them recover. However, people whose goal isn’t to recover from depression tend not to, because it’s more comfortable to stay in bed.
Like I said, people whose goal it is to recover from depression usually do, because they throw themselves into doing so and gobble up the fruits of their labour.
On the other hand, people who don’t have the goal of recovering from depression – people who just aim to be as comfortable while suffering from their depression as they can – tend not to recover, because their goal of “comfort” as opposed to “recovery” does not lead them to do the things that they need to do to in order to recover. As a result, depression rarely leaves them.
So I want to ask you point-blank:
What sort of person are you?
Are you the sort of person who has the goal of recovering from depression and is committed to doing so?
Or, are you the sort of person who aims to be as comfortable as you can while you suffer from depression, and as a result, don’t do the things you need to do to recover?
If you can honestly say you’re the former, then keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get there eventually.
If you’re the latter, then I strongly encourage you to really think about what you want out of life.
If it’s what you’ve basically been getting up until this point, then by all means keep doing what you’re doing. As they say, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
But if you want something more – if you’re sick of feeling exhausted, if you’re sick of feeling miserable – hell, if you want to be happy, again – then I recommend changing things up. If you want something more, then your goal needs to be to recover from depression, and you need to commit yourself to achieving it.
Whether you choose to pursue “recovery” or choose to pursue “being as comfortable as possible while suffering from depression” is of course, entirely up to you, and I make no judgment as to what choice you make. All I hope for is that you make your choice based on the future you want for yourself.
If you enjoyed reading this post, you’re welcome to download a free copy of my memoir here.