Listen To This Post
What is depression?
Depression is the aspect of mental illness that I have had the most experience with, it is the one I struggled with the most but it was also the one that woke me up, or it led me to my awakening is probably a better way of putting it. Hence, it is the one I feel most passionately about and most able to help with. I would say that I had depression from about the age of 15 to 17, for roughly 2 to 3 years and the best way I could describe depression is simply a lacking. A lack of love, a lack of emotion, a lack of feeling, all from within myself. These 3 lacks were created by a 4th, a lack of care. For those 2 to 3 years I didn’t care about anything, good or bad. That lack of care is what snatched life away from me. I was not giving, therefore I was not receiving. I didn’t look forward to anything or get excited about anything, I was unable to enjoy life. I didn’t laugh wholeheartedly or smile with sincerity, nor did I fume with anger or cry with sorrow. I did not feel love or hate, joy or sadness, in fact, I didn’t feel much of anything at all.
I think there is a common misconception with depression, that it is some kind of extreme sadness, but actually, to feel sad we have to care, we have to invest in something in order to feel sad about it later. Sadness is an emotion and with depression, we lack that. When we withdraw, when we stop investing, that is when depression occurs.
Think of it like a tree in the earth. The tree is us, the earth is life and our roots are the care we give, our investment in life. Our roots allow us to soak up all that life has to offer, experience, feeling, emotion. Life-sustaining nutrients that we need to truly live. But with a lack of care, we withdraw our roots back to us, above the surface. We are then unable to soak up any of life’s goodness with our roots withdrawn into us. We become cut off. We have cut ourselves off from life. This separation creates a constant low feeling within us. We become hollow and lacking. We then lack passion, energy, desire and motivation towards anything, as we slowly begin to lack feeling and emotion. For me, depression was not sadness, heartbreak or grief but a constant low, due to a constant lack. A tree without roots in the earth is a tree that is lost and unstable, a tree that will slowly wither and die.
I see depression as coming in two parts, the Prison and the Tree. The Prison I have mentioned before in Living in Our Heads as well as while discussing what mental illness is, in Living in Our Heads #2. The Prison is a place in our minds, made of low thoughts, thoughts of fear, worry and stress. When we choose to live in this place, unconsciously or not, we create the mental conditions for depression to become our reality. This leads to the second part of the illness, the cutting off from life, the withdrawing of our roots. Living in the prison gives us a warped view of reality, in which nothing seems worth it. Pain or the risk of it, mentally, emotionally and physically begins to outweigh the goodness of life. So we withdraw in order to protect ourselves mentally. Our roots leave the earth and we stop giving, we stop caring.
We, as human beings, thrive through the partaking of life, by sending our roots deep down into the earth, into life. In order to get the goodness of life, we have to care. To truly feel the love from family and friends we have to care. To enjoy the warmth of the sun we have to care. To enjoy our hobbies we have to care, to feel happiness and joy we have to care. To truly live our lives we have to care and to care, we have to connect.
By connecting, by burying our roots deep we establish sources of emotion, feeling and experience. Sources that we can draw on for goodness, that can give life to our withering tree. Connect with people, nature, sounds, smells and feelings, connect, give and receive the rewards. By caring for others, we receive care ourselves, through caring for nature we see it grow, by caring for sounds they evoke emotion in us, care for a smell and we can relive a memory, care for what we touch and even an inanimate object becomes precious. We must reach out and touch it, feel it. Connect with things instead of cutting ourselves off. Connect on an emotional level, connect on a mental level and connect on a physical level to the life all around us. It’s these connections to life that can bring us joy. The more connections to life that we have, the further we bury our roots into the earth, the more joy, the more passion, the more love we will feel. The more we will feel full stop.
If it’s really that simple then why? Why cut yourself off from life in the first place? For a long time, I didn’t really know the answer. Now I know, that for me, it was my prison, the time I spent there that caused my tree to wither, my fear of a non-existent pain. I didn’t know that at the time but I didn’t care what the reason was. (In a good way this time) It didn’t matter. I didn’t need the reason to stop being depressed. I didn’t need to know where it came from, I just had to choose to be better. That’s what it was for me, my ‘cure’ for depression. It was a choice I made, to simply stop being depressed. It was literally that simple, yet before I made the choice it all seemed so complicated. I hit a point low enough for me to suddenly say to myself, ‘What am I doing? What the fuck am I doing?’ What I was actually doing was crying over a girl, that I barely even knew but had been pining over for about a year. It hadn’t gone the way I’d hoped and I was having some kind of breakdown. I had been playing the victim, feeling sorry for myself, being down and depressed for so long that it had reached ridiculous levels. It was at that moment where I caught myself and realised just how ridiculous I was being. Not just with the girl but with my whole life. This victim attitude, my depression, it was all me, and I had the power to stop it from spiralling further. I had reached the point where I was so unconsciously out of control, that I had led myself to a point that I just couldn’t tolerate anymore. I caught myself in some sort of reality check and became aware of what I was doing and what I had been doing. I became conscious of the way I’d been thinking and how it affected my feelings. It was as if I woke up and realised what I had been doing this entire time wasn’t real, I had created my own matrix in my mind, it was all in my head. So I just stopped. I stopped thinking that way, wiped away the fog clouding my mind, took a deep breath and saw things clearly for the first time in a long time. I am in control.
If you have depression, you might be thinking that this doesn’t help you very much. You might not be able to fully grasp what I mean; after all, it’s something hard to describe. That realisation, that awareness and escaping the prison can seem so complicated when you are still there, but I assure you it is, in reality, very simple. Living in Our Heads might be able to help you with that as well as our post on the benefits of meditation. You have all the power, all the choice. After all, you are the prison and the prison is you. You are fully in control of that place without even realising it. The prison is your thinking, your thinking is fully in your control. Realise and take an active, conscious control over your mind, then reach your roots deep into the earth and give again.
Before long you will begin to feel, to feel warmth, to feel joy, to feel excitement, to feel passion and love for life. We need not fear the risks of life, the joy far outweighs the pain if we allow it to and after all, sometimes our tree needs a little rain in order to grow.
If you feel this post can help someone you know, please share it with them.
Why not subscribe for more posts like this as well as exclusive midweek content.
If you think you are depressed and are looking for help, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will help as best we can. If you are in need of urgent help, Mind, a mental health charity will be able to help you.