Defeating Depression: Understanding what it is

What is depression?

It is the most common psychological problem faced by humanity. At some time nearly every human being suffers a season of depression as he or she journeys through this life. For some it becomes a lifestyle and condition that they rarely escape. But what exactly is depression?

Depression is a deep feeling, attitude, and thought process in which we are captured by a conviction that all hope is lost. Depression is hopelessness. It is defeat projected to every possible future moment. It is despair.

Sadness is a response to some past or present loss. It can be regret over things we did not do, or people we no longer have with us, opportunities that escaped us, or pain we are enduring. Sadness is limited to things that have occurred or are occurring at the present time.

Sadness is an appropriate response to circumstances and events that bring us pain or have failed to meet our expectations. All people should feel sadness at times here “East of Eden” for even God weeps over the pain, struggle, and loses that are suffered in this life.

But depression goes beyond sadness. It extends the feelings of loss and pain into the future. It grabs hold of the not yet lived moments of our lives. It tells us that no future moment will have anything better and even suggests that it will be worst. There will be no better days, no relief from pain, and no purpose fulfilled. Every effort and experience is in vain, useless, and only promises more sadness and loss.

Depression denies that we are agnostic about the future. It claims to know what will happen and expects only the darkest answers to the question of what will be. It quenches every suggestion of a better day or a brighter future. It draws us into the quicksand of despondency.

Now there are many causes and complexities to each person’s experience of depression. It can have biological, sociological, psychological, mental, emotional, and spiritual roots. Most of the time all of these factor into the feeling of depression. There can be weaker and stronger states of depression, shorter and longer moments when such a mood dominates and many shades of this state of soul and mind. So in defining it we are not attempting to provide some simple answer to this struggle.

But it is hard to defeat something you cannot define. So the first step in defeating depression requires understanding what it is at the core of its nature. Depression is hopelessness.

Here is a thought to ponder. It is the Achilles’ heel of depression. How much does anyone actually know about what will happen in the future?

We want to think we know for this gives us a sense of security. Pretending we know the future of our lives gives us a sense of power and control. That is why we like to project even a defeated and disastrous future over admitting we know nothing about the future at all.

Yet, in reality, we do not know that all is hopeless or that only defeat will come. This is a story we are telling ourselves which encourages and fuels feelings of depression. If we can deeply and profoundly change this story we may find a way to weaken depression in our lives.

But for now, let us begin our defeat of depression by understanding clearly that it is a commitment to believing in a hopeless future.

Exercises:

Monitor your thoughts and self-talk. How many times have you been telling your self that would encourage your depression?

Ponder this quote: “It is always hard to see the purpose in wilderness wanderings until after they are over..”
― John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come

Can you accept you know nothing what will happen in your future? Why or why not? Write out some thoughts on this idea.