Oct 7, 2011
When I tell my wife I’m depressed, she’ll often ask, “Why?”
I usually explain that, at least for me, depression is rarely a response to some negative event. If it were, I would call it “sadness” or “unhappiness” or “disappointment.”
Depression, by contrast, is an all-permeating negative attitude or perspective, probably stemming from a genetically determined neuro-chemical fluctuation. In other words, when I’m depressed, I’m not depressed because something bad happened or something good didn’t go my way; I’m depressed because I have a tendency to depression (and, some would point out, a countervailing tendency towards mania).
It’s natural, when someone is feeling down, to try and buoy their spirits by reminding them of all they have to be grateful for (much as this blogger does in response to a recent suicide). “You still have your health!” “You’ve got friends who like you and a family that loves you.” “At least you’re not rotting away in a Turkish prison.” Etc.
The problem is that depression is not an intellectual error. It’s not something that will go away if you just “look at the facts” or “do the numbers.” In other words, it’s not a (falsely drawn) conclusion which can be rectified if you just check your work and figure out where you went off track.
The “count your blessings” approach can’t dislodge depression because depression doesn’t arise from miscounting. In my experience, however, it can be addressed with exercise, sleep, proper diet, a change of scenery, time spent with friends, etc. In other words, actions that change the chemical makeup of your body, rather than arguments that change your mind.
Depression manifests in our consciousness; we ought to treat it by way of the flesh in which that consciousness is embedded.