As I promised, but later than I wished for, here is the follow up. “The pickle” with all my advices, the most important, the critical aspect I left for now. Nothing is worth a dime without the most important one of all –WILL/DETERMINATION. And, hey, that is exactly where depression attacks – the WILL. Most of us, let’s be honest, are lacking this in the best of times.
That is why self-help books, gurus, don’t really help – because people don’t need to be told what they are doing to mess up their lives; they need the WILL to stop doing it. You think obese people don’t know they eat too much?! Or smokers don’t know that their habit could lead to cancer? Or debt-ridden people need a special news bulletin telling them “Reduce spending”?
People tend to do what they want or feel like and, in many cases, this turns out to be the WRONG thing to do, often SELF-DESTRUCTIVE. Doing the right thing is hard, it is tedious, and rewards are too far in the future for the “instant gratification” society we live in. As children (at least in past times) we used to have somebody to guide us, to force us to eat right (not only candies and burgers and pizza), somebody who forced us to go to sleep at a certain time, learn well and have accomplishments we could be proud of. The 60s and their well-intentioned, poetical sometimes BS, changed all that. We don’t even do that to the children anymore so how can we do it to fully grown, self-appointed responsible adults?!
I studied myself. I don’t want/feel the need to go out for a walk although I know staying inside for longer periods makes me feel bad. I stay late at night although I know that I will be busted in the morning. When I was depressed, all I wanted to do is watch TV 16h/day and sleep the rest. I know my tendencies and I am not even saying that they are not natural and understandable – but they are still DESTRUCTIVE.
Well, the solution comes from history as well. We were talking about Fabius Maximus – he was a DICTATOR. In times of crisis, Romans used to appoint dictators. Full-blown depression is such a time of crisis and it needs a dictator. I honestly believe that I could “cure” 70% of cases of modern-day depression… if only someone would sign their life over to me. Force depressed people to wake up at a certain time, to eat right, to sleep as much as they should, to exercise, and combine all these with helping them discover the truth about themselves and their problems… If only things could be this simple, but they aren’t! In a world full of free, independent, intelligent individuals, this is not a fathomable solution.
So, in the end, the only viable solution is to become a dictator yourself. Stop being permissive, indulgent, and understanding to yourself! I know that it goes against everything that modern society teaches us. But the modern society is exactly the problem. Do you remember this epidemic of depression during our parents’ time?! Yes, they were frustrated, had their issues, sometimes they would be angry but I don’t remember so many people letting themselves go and saying “What is the point of all this?”.
I am well-acquainted with the voice that tells you – “it is ok to become a couch potato because you don’t feel fine, and you are going through too much” or “it’s ok to binge on ice-cream because nobody loves you” or “You should go shop something nice because you are too upset over the debts”… but that will compound the issue, will grow it out of proportion. Like in any “instant gratification” system, it will make you feel fine for a short moment but much more miserable on the long run.
Here are the principles of this self-dictatorship:
- Stop blaming ANYONE and ANYTHING but yourself for the situation you are in. Accepting responsibility is the first step into doing something. Don’t feel too bad about it. We all make mistakes and poor choices. It is what we do to correct them that differentiate us but we can’t fix something we would not admit is wrong. If you accept you are to blame for the problem, you start understanding that YOU can change all that – got yourself into trouble, you can definitely pull yourself out of the problem. Once you accept the blame, you made the first step on the road to recovery.
- Shame and kick yourself into doing what you HAVE TO DO because, in that hardship, being mean to yourself is actually being good and beneficial. No more “I will jog tomorrow” or “I will get that second job next month”. If you have a lapse of will, the next time remember it and feel that constructive shame “I screwed up yesterday and didn’t jog, today is a MUST that I do it!”
- To be able to go through this, reward yourself: set yourself goals and reward their accomplishment. I.e. tell yourself “You clean up the kitcken, the garage, do the laundry – then it is ok to watch a movie”. DON’T reward yourself with the same behavior that got you in this dark place: if you got here because you are an addict, let’s say an alcoholic, don’t allow yourself to drink because you did something good. If spending is to be blamed, don’t celebrate at a restaurant the new-found savvy attitude! (I feel ridiculous to even have to say this but people ARE ridiculous).
- Stop being an “adult child” and stop whining that you should not go to sleep because you can go whenever you want. You HAVE to go to sleep at a certain time even if you don’t feel like. Stop giving yourself excuses! A dictator dictates, does not negotiate, does not bargain!
- If you have a hard-ass friend (like me) who will spill out the beans and tell it to you as it is (no, you don’t have a syndrome; you are just lazy!), keep in touch with him/her. It will help you keep a realistic outlook over the problem, and will not let you slide in your fantasy world where you are doing everything right… and somehow, things come out wrong.
If you are trying to help someone, the same principles apply. If they have been laid off and you allow them to sleep until 11 Am and then watch movies/play games until wee hours of the morning, you are not helping or understanding them – that is NOT normal, it is NOT a behavior that one can or should understand. Be firm, point what needs to be done and stick to your rules. Again, it’s the same idea: in such times of crisis, being good is actually detrimental and being mean will turn out to be helpful.
It is not rocket science but it requires essential components – and will and determination is probably the most important ingredient! Cultivate will and decision making and don’t forget – DEATH is the only problem that doesn’t have a solution! Depression has and it’s up to you to implement it.
andiJune 30, 2011 at 10:02 am
Thanks for commenting. I guess one has to keep calm and repeat the message until the depressed person gets it. I did the same thing with friends (and yes, sometimes I lost my patience and blew some steam) “It’s you choice! If you want to feel better, do what you HAVE to do! If you don’t, that means you CHOSE to be depressed!”. “And what good will it do taking vitamins/doing sports etc.?!” “Maybe it won’t but what is the harm in trying?”. Btw – it is not me or you; it is also the line of psychologists when dealing with emotional and mental issues, addictions etc.: if you help and condone the behavior of somebody with a visible problem, they say you are ENABLING them to continue this destructive behavior. And yes, I believe too that close people can lend sometimes their will to the ones in distress. They can force them somehow – calm, strong pressure to do what there is no doubt will make them feel better!
MadaApril 24, 2012 at 11:49 pm
I’m mean too, sometimes, with my mum… for her though the medication took control… I’m mean to her when she’s depressed and when she’s euphoric, it’s 30 years of illness already… I didn’t realize why I was being mean, you sorted out for me… because I raised myself up with the idea that I will not be like her, I will not let myself fall… and I was being mean to me all the time, when I felt I was going on the wrong path… nice to have it explained, it was instict for me… I’m too lazy to look it up in books or on the internet… sometimes the info is not even correct ….anyway, this is a nice piece of your mind you’re speaking here. Great job!
Only thing I disagree with is the Death part… 🙂 Can’t figure out why is it a problem without solution?! you want to live forever? :)) Joke! 😀
AndiApril 25, 2012 at 7:57 am
Thank you, Mada! I don’t really think being firm, having a no-nonsense approach, is being mean. I was with somebody sunken in a deep depression and I noticed that people who kept her side, “Poor you” didn’t help one bit, but instead encouraged her feeling sorry for herself, perpetuating the circle. A “drop this bullsh*t! You have so many things to be grateful! Live your life, have fun, make the best out of it!” seems better. One Saturday morning when she woke, first thing she said (the depressed gf) was “Ohhh, I don’t feel well!”. I told her “If a splendid summer morning – birds singing, sun shining – doesn’t do anything for you, I am sorry but it’s obvious that I cannot help you!” 😀