Depression is a Good Thing?
If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around that, you’re not alone. In fact, when I first had that thought my conscious mind responded by going into a fetal position and giving me a rude gesture that is recognized around the world (one that involves a middle finger).
That “huh?” reaction is pretty universal, similar to the one people have when they hear someone say that a life-threatening disease was the best thing that ever happened to him or her.
What’s curious is that I’ve never heard anyone say that about depression. Why? I don’t know, but I’m willing to guess that it’s because depression hits on such a deeply emotional level. It’s hard to think of depression as being anything less than horrible. Often, depression accompanies other challenges, so while we recognize that depression may be affecting us, we tie it to those other events in our lives, and then we say that the other challenge was the good thing (but not the depression).
However, when depression rears its ugly head as its own stand-alone monster, we almost never think of it as being a good thing, or the best thing that’s ever happened to us. Quite the opposite.
I’m therefore willing to go out on a limb and say that, speaking strictly for myself, depression is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Oh, going through depression sucks big time, but it’s still the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Here are some reasons why:
- I’ve learned valuable life lessons, and the coping mechanisms I’ve developed have helped not only me, but many others.
- The challenges brought on by depression have prepared me for the work I do now.
- I’m more empathetic, and I understand sadness in a way that only someone who has been through that sadness can.
- I’ve learned how to think deliberately, and how to focus on gratitude, fun, and things that make me happy.
- I’ve learned how to treat myself and others with compassion.
- I’ve learned how to forgive myself and others.
- I’ve learned how to be selfish in a good way. (Look for my upcoming post, Go Ahead, Be Selfish.)
More recently, there are several good reasons why I believe why my recent bout with depression has been a good thing. Here are three of them:
- I’ve used my “down time” to engage in big picture thinking, and I’ve come to realize how I’ve made depression my ally rather than my enemy.
- Writing down my thoughts has been helpful for me, but I’m not the only one who has benefitted. I continue to get notes of thanks, and for that I’m deeply grateful.
- I’ve been reminded that I live in a world that is filled with gratitude and love. In fact, we’re surrounded by gratitude and love. That, I have noticed, is the rule rather than the exception.
So yes, depression has been a good thing for me. Granted, I usually wait until I’m mostly through the VD before I make such a declaration, but it nevertheless rings true. (By the way, if you missed my definition of the VD, you can read my Coping Mechanisms post.)
Speaking of coping mechanisms, I neglected to mention a very important one in that post. One thing I almost always do is to ask myself “What good things can I learn from this?”, and then I write down the answers as they come to me. I don’t try to wrack my brain for answers, nor do I try to force them. I merely let them pop into my consciousness whenever they feel like it. That’s because sometimes, I’m the one who needs to “marinate” a bit before I’m ready for the answer that is most beneficial to me.
If you’ve never asked yourself that question when faced with depression or any other challenge, I strongly recommend doing so. A couple of benefits come from asking yourself “What good things can I learn from this?” First, you take you mind off of the sadness you feel or the thing that’s bothering you. Second, you train yourself to think in ways that benefit you and that help you reclaim your natural passion for life.
By the way, it’s okay to write down flippant or sarcastic answers. I remember one time when I was negotiating a real estate deal that soured in the worst possible way. Both parties were threatening to sue each other and me as the transaction broker. The only positive thing I could think of from that situation was that I was going to get a crash course in how the legal system worked. Fortunately, the deal was salvaged and I never had to go to court, but I attribute the positive outcome to my willingness to look at the good that could come out of the situation – even if my “positive” thought didn’t seem so positive.
I would encourage anyone who is going through depression or who is faced with a major challenge to start asking yourself that one simple question:
“What good things can I learn from this?”
I assure you that you’ll notice an immediate shift in how you feel. It may not be a big shift, but you’ll feel it. Truthfully, it felt a little awkward for me at first. However, under that awkward feeling, I felt a deeper sense of empowerment. I realized that by asking myself what good things I could learn, I was taking control of a feeling I thought was beyond my control. I still let my feelings flow, but I discovered that I could direct my thoughts, which ultimately led me back to my natural state of fun and happiness.
Will you do that for yourself? Will you start asking what good things you can learn from the depression you feel, or the “bad” situation in which you find yourself? I hope you will. I promise that even if the change is gradual, you will see the lasting effects for the rest of your life.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.