“Hey cheer up, it can’t be that bad. Pull yourself together”
Anyone who has ever experienced depression knows how words such as those can really get our blood boiling. It’s no wonder many of us refuse to tell anyone about how we feel when we just KNOW what the common response will be. The ignorance of those more fortunate than us just helps to suppress and contain these feelings and thoughts to ourselves.
It’s a disease, an illness, the modern day version of leprosy where revealing our affliction immediately condemns us to the metaphorical island of isolation where we can wither away and the ordinary folk can judge from afar.
To be fair not everyone shares these views, and for that I applaud them. It can be very hard to truly understand what depression actually feels like. Just as I can’t understand what it feels like to be a psychopath and to be devoid of all empathy and guilt. To lack the basic brain function of what makes us human. It must be similarly unfathomable for most people to understand how people like us struggle to feel happiness and joy, even when surrounded by such emotional stimuli.
Not many people know what goes on inside my head. I like it this way as it makes me feel uncomfortable to think that everyone can go poking around in there. I admit I don’t know exactly what is wrong, but for as long as I can remember something hasn’t been right up there. The little chemist in my brain has got his formula all wrong and while he isn’t in danger of blowing up the lab, my inner Walter White is at best, a little confused.
Basically I suppose I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t have any ‘bad’ thoughts and I feel real empathy for those who face these on a daily basis. My general thoughts are of vast indifference to the world and everything in it. The things that should make me happy only serve to slightly elevate my mood and the things that should make me feel sad don’t have a strong effect on me. Maybe I have just learned how to deal with negativity, I don’t know, desensitized if you will.
Having learnt how to deal with how my brain works, and having come to terms with my feelings I now feel that there is an upside to this. Well there is an upside to most things if we look hard enough. I would like to share 5 aspects of depression that can serve us well in the long run.
1. Being miserable can actually extend our life
What? Yes it’s true. We are forever told that happiness is the key to longevity but as it turns out, there may be such a thing as a ‘depression gene’ and those who have it are better at fighting disease and infection.
Scientists have often wondered why this gene still manages to be passed on when it is supposed to be bad for us. The answer lies in that it could be crucial for our survival for it helps improve our immune system. Expressing depression like symptoms is actually conducive to fighting infection.
Not only this, but as I have mentioned before, being miserable in general enables us to think clearer and we make better less impulsive decisions.
2. It increases our self-awareness
I don’t know about you but I definitely feel like I know and understand myself better than the average ‘happy’ person. I believe that depression acts as a viewfinder into who we are and we become more introspective as a result.
A lot of people go through their life totally ignorant to their feelings. They simply don’t question and analyse why they think a certain way and how their behaviour is affecting both themselves and those around them.
This is why many great musicians, poets, writers, artists and entertainers have experienced depression at some point. Reaching into yourself and discovering who you really are lends itself to a creative output.
3. We become more intuitive about other people
The flipside of being more in tune with ourselves is that we tend to notice and empathise with other people too.
Not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve yet whenever there is any kind of inner turmoil, there will always be some kind of external trigger sign letting people know what lies beneath. Those who have experienced these emotions themselves are better at picking up on these cues.
Obviously the benefit of being more intuitive is that by seeing this in other people, we feel less alone and isolated as a result. The fact is that the best friend anyone can have is a friend that understands who we are and knows how to help out when things get a little scary.
4. It forces us to appreciate the little things
Life can be difficult and when those days crop up where we just can’t face the day ahead it’s too easy to focus on the negativity and allow it to consume our thoughts. I believe that the ability to focus on the little things can be a great way to increase our mood.
For example, I take the time to really pay attention to all the things that many of us normally take for granted. As I write this the sun is shining on the right side of my body and the warmth feels really good. It creates a feeling of being present and any worries I had 5 minutes ago had temporarily left my thoughts.
Most people go through their lives in such a daze that they don’t take the time to appreciate the world around them. For people who experience depression, there are always brief windows of respite and it’s during these times that we can really make the most of our positive thoughts.
5. Depression and personal development go hand in hand
You know what separates you from the majority of the population? You want to get better. You want to change who you are and you want to do it NOW.
It’s all very well saying there are positive aspects of depression but the reality is that it sucks. It is there pretty much 24/7 and we know that it prevents us from living the life we all imagine.
So how is this good? Well most people when presented with the opportunity to develop themselves pass up on this chance. They think their lives are decent enough already that they are happy to count down their days until the reaper comes knocking.
There is an irony involved here that the illness which is partly responsible for procrastination and a lack of dopamine in the brain can actually flip 180 and motivate us to become the best we can be.