Yeah, I get that the title of this entry makes no sense at first blush. But I mean what I’m about to say: There’s a lot of positives about having depression. The trick, of course, is finding it.
I started thinking about this concept after my wife sent me an op-ed by Kevin Dean, a nonprofit officer in Memphis, who discussed his own experience with depression. One of the things he mentioned is the concept of “depressive realism,” which is the idea that those with depression are better at viewing others and make decisions and observations which are more realistic than those without it.
The evidence for depressive realism is conflicting. But what isn’t up for debate is the concept that depression can make a positive difference on someone’s life.
How? Well, a few thoughts, garnered from my own experience and that of others who have shared there’s.
First – a concept I’ve spoken about regularly – is the idea that depression can make you more resilient. Resilience, at least as I am describing it here, is the idea that having depression makes you realize that you can survive anything. I mean, obviously, having depression sucks. It sucks away joy, interferes with your social relationships and your perception of the entire world. At the same time, people who live and thrive with depression – and there are many of us – have come to the inescapable conclusion that you CAN live and thrive with this disease. If you can survive your own mind working against you, you can survive anything. That, in and of itself, can teach resilience.
Second – depression can teach empathy stronger than many other experiences. If you have depression, you know how painful that experience can be. That, in turn, makes you more sympathetic to the rest of those who suffer. From a HealthTalk article on the subject:
Sophie said in the past it was hard to know what to do when friends were having problems, but depression has made her “more empathic towards people who are going through it as well.” Jeremy says he has learned to put himself “in other people’s shoes.” Several people described becoming less likely to “judge those who have mental illness” because they realize that “no one is exempt” from depression and everyone is deserving of compassion.
Along the same lines, it also makes you more compassionate. You know what you look for if you are depressed: People who are kind. Good listeners. Understanding. As a end result, you know that these are the qualities you need to possess and demonstrate, because you want to show others the same positive attributes which have been showed to you.
I’d also make the argument that depression has forced me to have a more productive life. It was in high school and college that I realized I could stave depression off, to an extent, but sublimating it. My depression has been kept at bay with a rigid schedule that keeps me busy. Productivity forces the mind to stay active and not ruminate. I’ve become a gym nut and have gone there 4-6 times a week for the past six years, because keeping up my physical health keeps me in better mental and emotional condition.
This schedule has enabled me to do things I would never have been able to do otherwise: Hold public office, write books, etc. Are there downsides to this? Yes. I feel like I am constantly being chased. But depression and mental illness has made me be a more successful person. It’s driven me. I can’t deny this positive effect.
Are there more? Heck yeah, and if you’ve got more to share, I’d love to hear from you below.
The chief reason I’m writing this entry is this: There’s positives and joy to everything, even depression. If you can find it, and recognize the good, you can let go of a lot of the bitterness and sadness that comes with depression. Find the positive. Find the good. You’ll be happier.