It runs in my family. My father suffered from it. Few other family members too. It ripped apart my family and caused a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. For those that suffered from it, and just as much, for those that suffered in the wake of it.
Moods that would change in an instant. Raging temper and anger. Sadness that would last for weeks, and longer. The far off glaze that would result in long bouts of silence. Suffering that would literally cripple people. I saw it all first hand.
For me, I was fortunate to have been born with a “sunny side up” disposition in life.
But I am human though and, of course, at times I get “depressed.” Periods in life where I get overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, indecision, immobility, feeling down and defeated. But they don’t last long. And they don’t come that often thankfully.
But depression is something that I don’t think we as a society talk about as easily as other “physical” medical conditions. For some reason, mental disease is often regarded with some stigma. As if those that suffer from it do so either willingly or they can simply “snap out of it.”
I always knew better. I have a brother who suffered from a terrible drug addiction his entire life until it finally rendered him in a half-life state, incapable of living on his own. The damage to his mind and body were irreversible. And people would always judge him with disgust or disdain. It hurt me terribly, their judgments of him. But I understood. I knew he suffered from depression and to him, his only escape was self medication. To ease his pain and suffering.
Had he been diagnosed early in his life, he probably would have had a different life. But people don’t often know what to look for and worse yet, how to help those that suffer from mental disease.
Bruce Springsteen did a wonderful public service when he spoke about his own depression in his recent autobiography. Haunting. Harrowing. Debilitating.
And yet, I would hear and read the common refrain from people, “What the hell does Bruce have to be so depressed about? He’s Bruce Friggen Springsteen!!!” Again, that stigma. It’s a disease, not a choice.
I have many friends that I know who suffer from depression. Many don’t talk about it. But I know from experience they suffer from it. Again, society has great empathy for those with physical ailments and celebrates when they overcome them, but we often pass judgment on those with mental afflictions and shun them all the while they suffer.
For the past few years, as I have been exploring in great depth the power of the mind and how it can literally manifest itself into physical suffering and into a life of stress, anxiety and helplessness, I have come to understand that depression is also something that can be treated by altering one’s thought patterns and processes. I am sure that for many people, there are also suitable medical solutions to treat depression which I cannot speak to with any degree of knowledge.
While I am not a doctor and haven’t done any medical research on this topic, as a practicing Buddhist and someone who meditates and embraces mindfulness, I do know the power of controlling one’s thoughts and internal narratives and how they can literally transform your life condition.
I know in my own life I have seen firsthand how understanding how our brain is wired and how our thoughts are shaped determine our own reality. And I have read a great deal on this subject with amazing books like Buddha’s Brain.
So much of our society is conditioned to automatically turn to pharmaceuticals to find the cure for everything that ails us. And yet so little is invested in understanding how the brain works and the power it has on our physical lives. After all, taking anti-depressants might work to help mitigate the symptoms of depression, but they will NEVER cure the root cause of depression…your brain wiring.
I read this great article in Psychology Today on how mediation can help treat depression and here is one quote from the article…
“Imagine if you could cure depression with a therapy that was more effective and long-lasting than expensive drugs, and which did not have any side effects. These are the claims being made for a form of Mindfulness meditation.
Psychologists from the University of Exeter recently published a study into “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” (MBCT), finding it to be better than drugs or counseling for depression. Four months after starting, three quarters of the patients felt well enough to stop taking antidepressants.”
Three other great reads on this topic are:
I am a big fan of Tim Ferriss. I find him to be someone that is both extremely honest in his own vulnerability and tremendously bold in his desire to push the boundaries of the human condition. I have heard him speak often of his bouts with depression and of his past suicidal thoughts. When I heard this amazing Ted Talk he gave on this subject, I was really moved and so I want to share it. In his brutally candid and honest talk, he provides his own remedy for dealing with depression and it has nothing to do with pharma and everything to do with controlling your thoughts. Whether you suffer from depression or not, I really encourage you to watch this video since it holds so many wonderful words of advice on overcoming your fears.
I hope you will listen to it. I hope that if you know someone who suffers from depression you will share it with them. And I sincerely hope that it helps to educate others not only on depression as being a disease, but that it can also be treated by using the most powerful anti-drug ever created which lives inside of us all…your brain!