Ten Observations on Depression

by Francisco Stork on November 19, 2015

As I was writing The Memory of Light (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, January 2016), a novel about a young girl recovering from depression and a suicide attempt, I jotted in a little notebook that I kept next to me, random thoughts and observations about depression that occurred to me as I wrote. These kind of didactic aphorisms don’t belong in a work of fiction unless you have a character that can utter them as naturally as a hummingbird hums. Yet, they are part of the musing, reflecting and imagining that happens in the process of writing a novel. I offer some of these thoughts to you in the hope that they may be of benefit to you.

  1. Because depression is part of you, hatred and anger toward it will only hurt you more. Think of depression not as an enemy to be destroyed but as an adversary to be opposed with quiet strength, like the firm but loving opposition to a child’s dangerous whim.
  2. Depression may be a part of you but it is not the whole of you. Nor is depression the part of you that is in charge. The part of you that feels and recognizes the symptoms of depression is the part of you that runs the show.
  3. You don’t think you’re worthless because you have an infection on your leg but often you do when you have depression. What’s the difference? In the case of depression the thoughts of worthlessness are the infection.
  4. Just because depression has a chemical and biological component doesn’t mean that there aren’t good reasons in your life for you to be depressed. A fever tells you there’s something wrong in your body. Depression sometimes tells you there’s something wrong in your body and in your life.
  5. If you have a friend who will go bowling with you or to a movie or window-shopping or do anything where dialogue is optional but not expected, count yourself extremely fortunate.
  6. You’ll know you’re getting better when you notice yourself getting angry at the incredible number of jerks that populate our world. Know that the anger you’ve lived with for so long is making a U-Turn.
  7. There are many things you will dislike doing when you have depression. Figure out which ones you can stop doing (going to cocktail parties or other social functions dominated by small-talk) and which ones you need to do even if you don’t feel like doing them (going for quiet walks, showering, being kind to your spouse, being useful to others, as best you can).
  8. Remind yourself now and then that like all mental illnesses, depression distorts your perception of reality and your reaction to it. A friend that doesn’t call doesn’t mean that you’re unloved by everyone or unlovable.
  9. Listen to Music. Put your earphones on and really listen. Let the music dissolve all thought. Become the music. Your depression will guide you to the right music. There are times when music will save your life.
  10. Depression doesn’t make you more intuitive, more sensitive, more spiritual, a better artist. You are not a better person just because you hate yourself for thinking you are a better person. If you are lucky depression will teach you that you are an ordinary human being blessed with the gift of life. And if you are okay with that, you are on your way to being healed.

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