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Beating depression

Finding the Starting Line

“Well, that’s depressing…”

We often throw the term “depression” around quite liberally to describe events or stimuli that do not seem uplifting–or more colloquially, to describe events that seem “sad.” In many ways, a series of momentary displeasures can desensitize us to a larger and more chronic issue. 

True depression is not the same as being sad; rather it is a larger encompassing psychological disorder in which sadness is one facet. Like most psychological disorders, depression can affect each individual uniquely and can stem from a variety of different sources. While depression can seem everlasting for those affected, the affliction does provide the individual with an opportunity to reflect on his or her life and identify unhealthy sources of emotion. 

Why am I feeling this way? What’s causing me to feel low? How can I be happy again?”

Reading into and understanding depression can be one of the hardest yet most fruitful steps towards permanent relief. Rather than suffer from chronic and demoralizing feelings of listlessness, depression can ironically be the wake-up call for an individual to create a positive change. Depression is not a natural state of the mind and can be an indicator of a particular pain point in our lives that requires remedy. While overcoming depression can seem sisyphean for those in the midst, the affliction can certainly be overcome with healthy relief, positive affirmation and support. 

Depression, in many ways, is like running a seemingly never-ending marathon. Once we can find the starting line, we must embark on a journey towards relief and improvement. While the steps on this journey can seem small and sometimes inconsequential, a finish line does exist and is always within reach. Although depression feels perpetual in nature, it can be beaten–for good. 

Marathon instead of a Sprint

Depression can seldom be cured by the snap of a finger. While the modern world has conditioned us in many ways to seek instant gratification or “the wonder cure”, we must be cognizant when facing internal demons related to our perception of self. While we can ignore many external demons and sources of stress, escaping from ourselves is much harder and not necessarily the healthiest option. Overcoming depression is an exercise in mental strength and support, which could take weeks, months, and even years. Put differently, overcoming depression in a healthy manner is very much like running a marathon–it requires careful pacing and a fair bit of mental fortitude in the form of reflection. 

Your Toughest Opponent is… You

Depression can have several trigger points that can be both materially internally and/or spiritually externally driven.; regardless of depression  that ultimately manifests in severe dissonance for the person suffering. For the person suffering from the throes of depression, the journey back can seem almost impossible–filled with anxiety, fatigue, and agitation amongst several negative feelings. Given the psychological and internal nature of depression, the person suffering must confront and overcome the negative of him/herself in order to achieve relief. In fact, this constant battle with one’s own self is what makes depression particularly difficult to overcome. 

A Mental Race

Depression presents a person with a chance to reflect on his/her current situation and identify sources of unfulfillment. From a spiritual perspective, pain and disappointment can often be life’s greatest teachers. With respect to depression, perhaps the feeling of emptiness can help us identify a particular source (or lack thereof) of discontent–material or spiritual. Identifying the root cause or stimulus can be a major step in the direction back towards fulfillment. 

Pain and Growth

In most archetypal spiritual belief systems, pain or suffering is generally seen as a prerequisite towards revelation. In Buddhism for instance, Siddhartha’s recognition that suffering is an intrinsic part of life was critical to his enlightenment as observed through meditation and detachment. Across Hindu Mythology, spiritual suffering also plays a recurring theme. In the renowned spiritual classic, Bhagavad Gita, the protagonist Arjuna faces anxiety and depression over an impending war with his cousins. He loses his motivation when faced with the prospect of a no-win situation–win the war and lose the family, or lose the war and lose his throne. Ironically, the deity Krishna is this instance, while generally lauded for indulgence, preaches detachment and self-control. In particular, Krishna notes that whenever the mind wanders due to its flickering nature, we must bring it back under the control of the Self. 

In the literal sense, both spiritual archetypes of Buddha and Krishna practice a form of detachment and mental self-control to overcome the material suffering. More importantly, however, we can also extend this message of detachment to the internal struggle of suffering. Put differently, when faced with such internal demons, we must exert control over our actions and thoughts. While this is easier said than done, it is nonetheless possible. 

Recovery, Support and Victory: A self-care plan 

Good support, treatment and mindfulness can go a long way in the holistic recovery from depression. While there are certainly clinical and over-the-counter options available for quick and/or momentary relief, we must be cognizant that true healing must focus on the “self” from the inside. Depression can be a sign that we need relief from certain stimuli on our lives and thus may help us uncover a higher sense of awareness, purpose, and fulfilment.

The American Institute of Vedic Studies succinctly notes: 

We must learn to withdraw from external stimulation and develop our own internal creativity, motivation and discipline. Depression may be a sign that you need to detach and move on to a new level of awareness. Depression may also hide deeper fears. Without challenging our fears, depression may shadow us along with them.

To get beyond depression we must take karmic responsibility for who we are. We must begin to pursue a life of higher awareness rather than mere personal enjoyment and outer success. We must give up the chemical model of behaviour and accept that our state of mind is rooted in our own values, actions and motivations. We must stop blaming our bodies, our parents or even our society for who we are. We must empower our inner being. Such behavioural changes cannot happen overnight but we can introduce them gradually every day.

Chanting mantras like Hare Rama Hare Krishna, or whatever we best relate to, can help stimulate energy within and without us. Similarly, encouraging support from family and friends can help our minds decompress and refocus on more productive pursuits. Exercise, yoga, art, and music and other fruitful endeavours can also help us take control and detach from the dissonance that plagues us. 

For a person in depression, the struggle is like that of a man forced to run a marathon without the proper gear. But with the right mental fortitude and support, we can come out stronger and victorious. 

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