Recently a reader of the magazine I edit, Life Positive, called me to find out if I could help him find possible cures for his sister who has been battling chronic depression for two decades. Taking care of her has consumed the time and energy of her aged parents and he himself had deferred from marrying until quite recently so he could support her. He too, he confessed, had suffered from the dreaded malaise, until he took himself in hand, went to a therapist and worked his way out of its hold.
Depression is a modern malaise, a product of the 20th and 21st century, which probably explains why there is an epidemic of it worldwide. Typically, someone suffering from depression loses interest in living, gets caught in negative cycles of thought that paralyse them, and lose touch with positive emotions like joy, enthusiasm and peace. Depressives feel as if the waters of life have left them high and dry, unable to act or feel.
One of the reasons for depression is an inability to deal with emotions and problems. We brush them aside or suppress them, instead of facing them head on. Our delicate psyches are always getting bruised and hurt by an unkind remark, or a traumatic experience. Carl Jung memorably said that all psychosis is the result of avoiding legitimate pain.
This apart, depression can be caused by a loss of meaning to life. We lead artificial lives today, as we plug more and more into technology and a materialistic lifestyle. We are alienated from nature, from others, from ourselves and from God. The result is that our life force muffles and dies.
The third cause for depression is that it is often a movement into spirituality. It is the soul’s way of jogging us awake and forcing us to take stock and see where we have gone wrong and how to set it right. I myself suffered from depression for 16 years, from the age of 16 to 32. A deep spiritual awakening released me from depression and gave me all the answers I was looking for. It was only in retrospect that I realised that my depression was my first and faulty attempt to control my febrile emotions by shutting them down.
Whatever the cause of the depression, the first thing is to recognise that there is nothing shameful about it. Life is hard, brutally hard, and there are times when we can lose the plot. We need to ask for help. If it is okay to go to a doctor when we fall physically ill, why cannot we go to a doctor when we fall emotionally or mentally ill?
There are many therapies that can help you heal from depression. Yes, psychiatry and medication is one way of healing, and a very useful way too for severe cases. For milder attacks, there are many therapies that can help. Bach Flower Remedy is one. Emotional Freedom Therapy is another. Access Consciousness, The Journey method and so many others can restore us to happiness and harmony. Google for therapists in your city and get cracking.
If you learn what depression has to teach you, you will find yourself orbiting on a much higher plane than you could have believed possible. Just do it!
(The author is Editor-in-chief, Life Positive magazine)