I Choose Depression

When I told my mother that I am dealing with depression she said, “Well son, depression is a choice.” Then she quickly escaped any further conversation about it by making up a story that she was in a meeting and had to go. What meeting? My mom has not worked in over twenty years.

Even though I felt deeply wounded by her quick dismissal of my pain, I thought about what she said. “Depression is a choice.” Am I choosing to be depressed?

A fellow psychotherapist whom I sometimes have lunch with deals with serious depression. But he is one of the happier people I know. He often says, “I choose joy. I choose to be joyful because I have to.” Really? You have to? I find it odd that someone who is very depressed could appear so happy. Something seems very forced and inauthentic about it to me, but who am I to judge? Don’t most people do this?

Deep down, depression is a choice. It is true that I have little interest in happiness. I find positivity and happiness to be incredibly banal and superficial states to be in. If I am happy, great- I will enjoy it. But it is the pursuit of happiness and positivity that I think is responsible for so much misery.

As a psychotherapist, the one thing I hear all the time is, “I just want to be happy.” This I feel is the root of most people’s unhappiness (and empty bank accounts).

I choose not to be happy. If happiness shows up, as it sometimes does, I don’t turn it away. I enjoy it. But I choose to not strive to be happy and positive. I don’t think I should be happy. In fact, I think the desire to be happy is just as dangerous as driving a motorcycle at high speeds.

Depression is a logical emotional reflection of the world we are living in today. Just like a pool of water reflects the sky and trees that hang over it, depression is a reflection of the world the soul is living in today. The soul is lonely and in a state of terror and despair. The soul is sad about all the sensless violence all around. The soul feels under threat from the absence of creativity and authentic community in our working and private lives. The soul feels stuck by political and economic conditions outside our control. The soul feels empty because the more it tries to find fulfillment in external things, the more alone and empty it feels. The soul is quite frustrated in the Capitalistic world of today.

And then there is the simple fact of our own mortality. The fact that everything we love, everything we hold close to ourselves, everything we have earned, even ourselves, will disappear. When a person really looks closely at the image being reflecting by the pool of water- depression is what they will see.

Most chose not to look at all. Just keep looking away. Say you have a metting to get to.

My mom is right though. I do chose depression because depression is what I see reflected back at me, especially in my work as a psychotherapist. I mean how could I hear about the worst things that happen to people in life, day after day, without feeling depressed? How could I be a psychotherapist and be happy? Happy Psychotherapist is just another term for Sociopath Psychotherapist, Psycho Psychotherapist or plain old Shitty Psychotherapist. If a therapist is able to be happy while hearing about the worst things that happen to people, stop seeing them. They do not care about you, even though they may act like they do.

The best psychotherapist I ever knew, who was given all kinds of awards and wrote several books and was a prestigous mentor to many including myself, jumped off a bridge.

If I am going to provide guidance to those going through the various difficult aspects of life, I want to be one of them. I want to get real with myself and stop pursuing fake dreams of Hollywood induced happiness. How else can I really help? This is what I learned from him.

In middle-age, my life has become more about learning how to live with, learn about, accept and get better at describing the image being reflected back at me, rather than trying to change it, run from it, fix it, deny it, worry about it, complain about it and/or ignore it (common stratageies in the America of today).

Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone. This is my strategy. I leave my depression alone. I see it and accept that it is there. I lean into it and learn from it. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just notice that it is there and smile at it. Sometimes I notice that it goes away.

Because of depression I am pushed further inside of myself. I am forced to let go of any kind of belief in the attainment of any real Hollywood fulfillment through economic and material gain (consumerism) and instead work towards transmuting my loneliness into real solitude.

I meditate. I contemplate. I sit alone.

Loneliness is a terrible feeling of disappearing even when we have so much and are around so many. When lonely, we can never get enough and are continually in pursuit of more. We even feel separated from ourselves when alone so we turn on the TV for company. Solitude means to be at home in ourselves. A person who is in real solitude is a person who is comfortable within themselves. A person in solitude is a person who is no longer disappearing. They have arrived. They are two people in one. Friends with themself. A person who is dealing with lonliness (which is the majority of people in American society) is no one in one. They have no friend within to sit with.

The person who is striving for happiness is often no one in one. This feeling of being no one within is the fuel that keeps us searching for more. Some of the greatest empires and fortunes have been built by these kinds of people. But this striving is an endless pursuit because it is the pursuit which is creating the loneliness.

Depression pushes us down into solitude. The person with depression is given the opportunity to become more at home within themselves by being pushed further within. The person who survives and successfully manages depression is the person who has been able to move from loneliness into solitude. Those who do not survive depression or who end up having depression destroy their lives, have not been able to move through loneliness. They get stuck in continually feeling as if they are disappearing inside because they are pursuing happiness on the outside.

So yes, I do chose to be depressed. Why not? Depression helps me to relate to the world in a way that feels more logical and sane. The happiness and positivity craze that the vast majority of people are suffering from at this moment in history, only leads a person away from themselves and towards more lonliness. Just do a Google search on the amount of people taking psychiatric medications and buying self help books in this country. The pursuit of happiness and positivity creates a superficial existence that lacks substance because it is always in pursuit of something. Depression is deepening. It pushes a person further within themselves because there is the realization that the loneliness in the outside world can never bring them the happiness they were looking for.

Fuck happiness. Stop buying their books and going to their workshops. Stop ingesting their pills. By now don’t you see that it does not work? Instead, get better at being depressed.

It is only through going further within, through the deepening of one’s relationship with oneself that real solitude can be attained. And it is when we discover solitude within ourselves, that we really start to live free.

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The Prolific Negative Thinker. Conversation #24.

You think you are a negative thinker?

What do you think? You would know best.

Absolutely. You absolutely are. I would say the majority of your thoughts are negative.

What percent?

Probably 97%.

That high?

Yes. Without a doubt. You are either thinking about worst case scenarios (worrying), judging yourself or judging others (especially your wife). This is what you do most of the time.

It’s not good.

Look at yourself now. Your wife just said to you, “I hope you have a lovely day babe,” before she left. How did you respond?

I said, “Do I have to? Do I have to have that expectation?”

Exactly. Would you not say that was negative?

Yes. It was also honest. I am a bit tired of all these expectations to be happy, to be filled with joy, to be peace, to have a wonderful day, to be redeemed.

I see.

Maybe I want to be irredeemable. Maybe this positive psychology expectation to be happy, to be filled with love and joy is just not a pitcher of Kool-Aid I am willing to swallow. It is such a California thing. Why do I have to be happy? What is so great about being happy?

You don’t. But all these negative thoughts are causing you to be unwell. Look at how your chest feels constricted right now. Notice how you are having a difficult time breathing? Notice that heavy weight on your shoulders and chest? That can’t be good for you.

I know. But I can’t seem to stop these negative thoughts. They just happen and take me over. I try to meditate, recite a mantra, exercise. None of it seems to work. I just have to wait it out and eventually it will pass. But it is true my mind seems to judge, worry, criticize constantly. Negative thought after negative thought.

Angry about this. Worrying about that. Constantly.

Yup. I don’t know how to stop it. My father was and still is an angry man. Grew up with him upset and yelling continually. My mother is and was a depressive worrier. I seem to be programed to be a negative thinker. It is in my blood.

Probably true. You did grow up in a very tense and hostile environment. There was a lot of negativity floating around all the time.

Yes. But back then it was just normal. Now I am aware that it is not normal. It is fucked up. So many years spent being unaware of all this negativity. Now at least because of meditation, I know when it is there and I try not to get too caught up in it. But it is a constant struggle. Often it wins. Sometimes it doesn’t and I just wait for it to go away. It sucks. It feels like some sort of illness.

It is a mental illness.

You think?

I do. Without a doubt. You have an undiagnosed mental illness.

Wow! That is a radical thing to say.

Probably full on Borderline Personality Disorder.

What?!

A brain that is as negative as your is is not a place of well being and health.

Well I don’t know what to say. I know I am a prolific negative thinker. Seems to be my destiny. I do what I can about it but the rest I need to accept. It is just the way it goes. All I can really do is just be aware of it and try not to get too identified with it.

As a mindfulness meditation teacher this is what you teach other people to do. So at a very intense level, you are being challenged to do the same thing.

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”

This is your favorite quote?

It is. It sums up my entire practice. I am learning how to just leave the negativity alone. Don’t need to fuck with it all the time. Just need to be able to let it be. IT will come and IT will go. This will be my life.

Probably true. It is a kind of chronic illness that at this point you can only learn to live with.

Yes. Besides, I do not want to be happy and positive all the time. That sounds incredibly dull. I like a certain amount of negativity. Keeps things dark and interesting.

But you have way too much negativity.

This is true. I know. Just talking about it now is helpful. I feel better- like I have let some things go. I will be spending the rest of today alone so hopefully I can just be with myself and let a lot of the negativity go.

Sounds good. What are you going to do with your time alone?

I just want to read, listen to some records, take a nap, meditate once more and maybe do some drawing. Just go easy.

Sounds about right. Just do the things you like to do today. Hopefully it will help you to calm some of your negativity down.

Ok. Well thanks for talking.

Your welcome. Enjoy your solitude.