*The following is not intended as medical advice. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, see a doctor as soon as possible and consider working with a licensed counselor.
It’s Ok to be Depressed
“When I am weak, then I am strong.” – St. Paul
One of the key things to remember with depression is that it is perfectly normal, but serious. I’m not saying it’s good, but it is normal. One of the most fundamental things to know and to communicate to people who struggle with depression is that it’s ok to be depressed. Not good, but ok. Ironically, this can be a starting point for recovery.
Depression is a normal reaction to stress, anxiety, or trauma and is characterized by negative thoughts, sadness, and / or despair. It can take months, or even years for some people to recover.
The social mask in America is so materialistic, so much focused on brands and hierarchy, and so competitive, that there is often a stigma attached to depression and mental illness because these things show weakness. People hide their depression. Because our suburban car culture and balkanized, multicultural demographics already tend to leave people isolated and anonymous, the social support system is often non-existent and depression tends to cause even more social isolation.
Depression and mental illness needs to be accepted as part of life and come out into the open.
One of the best classes I took in college while getting my Master’s at GSU was “Stress Management” with Dr. Ken Matheny. In the class, Dr. Matheny taught us that an underlying acceptance of depression can be a healthy thing. In times of great cultural change, trauma, or confusion, people get depressed. It just happens. In America right now, the modern project of unfettered liberalism is unraveling, turning in on itself, and it is leaving people confused, alone and isolated, disconnected from anything meaningful in life- family, community, citizenship, history, culture, and / or religion. This is even worse for those with depression and mental illness because it depletes the anthropological and cultural resources needed for coping in times of stress.
There’s even a case to be made that depression is partially an evolutionary process of physical downregulation of energy and resources, so that the person can survive stress.
And people often have physiological and biological problems that make them more likely to suffer from depression as well, like lower serotonin levels. I know many people who have had depression, and you probably do as well. I think I’ve been borderline a few times, but have luckily never had a clinically strong case of it. All treatments should be considered- medication, counseling, exercise, but also, it’s important to just accept it for what it is, a perfectly normal reaction to stress.
Start with this: it’s ok to be depressed.
Then start considering treatments and options- especially exercise.
Depression means you’re alive, and having a normal if difficult reaction to something stressful. When St. Paul admits his humility in scripture, he’s at his strongest point and so are we. Depression is not good, obviously, but it shows that deep down you are much more than what might be happening right now. It can be a wake-up call to something better. Reach out to people you know, or if you’re having a hard time and dealing with depression, remember that it’s ok and get help. You’re ok and will get better.
We must remove the stigma of depression. We need to talk openly about it. Depression is often heartbreaking, but it is part of life.
When you’re weak, you’re strong. You aren’t your possessions, your thoughts, or your depression. It’s ok. It happens, but this too will pass.
For further reading: The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age
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