This Perspective Shift Helped Me Overcome Depression
I’ve about had it with my phone. Almost every time I want to use it, it’s dead.
Some people have suggested that there’s an easy solution: “Keely, why don’t you just charge your phone more?”
But I refuse. I believe my phone should just work when I want it to work.
How is it possible that we’re this technologically advanced as a civilization and I still have to do something as tedious as charge my phone?
It’s almost offensive, if you really think about it.
Okay, okay, I confess: none of this is true. My phone practically never dies because I use it all but exclusively as a Kindle. It’s in airplane mode at least half the day, so I don’t even need to charge it daily. I never have any problems with battery life.
However, I needed an absurd situation to set up an analogy and this was the one I picked.
Here’s the thing I actually find crazy: how is it possible that so many of us treat ourselves like a phone we never charge, then feel confused and resentful when we’re depleted?
Not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s consider a real life example.
From 2013 to 2014, I had a terrible time with chronic depression. I was perpetually depleted and reaching the point of hopelessness.
Here’s what my life looked like at the time:
- I spent 9+ hours a day at a job that didn’t pay enough for me to afford to live in the area where I worked (the salary you need to live comfortably in Washington, DC: $122,900 if you’re renting, $143,200 if you’re paying a mortgage). I “knew” that I “should” feel grateful for my job and the opportunity to develop my career, but was actually deeply discontent and judged myself for it.
- I came home from a full-time job that drained me to spend multiple hours working on a full-time online degree program. I’d dropped out of college in 2010 when I went to rehab to treat my nonfunctional alcoholism and was finishing my degree online because I needed it to advance in my career. Again — an opportunity I “knew” that I “should” be grateful for, but actually resented.
- Then I logged a few more hours building websites and doing consulting gigs to quell my sense of financial insecurity and boost my resume.
- I’d go to bed bone-tired, but spend more of the night tossing and turning than actually sleeping. My high stress levels triggered my insomnia and I averaged less than four hours of sleep a night.
- Then I’d wake up exhausted and do it all over again.
Here’s what my days didn’t include:
- Quality time with friends and family
- Time in nature
- Nourishing food
- Stress relieving practices
- A writing routine
- Personal and spiritual development
- Recovery meetings
- Sufficient rest
I basically just did stuff I hated all day during the week, then spent the weekend feeling guilty that I was too tired to be any fun when my boyfriend was in town.
On top of it, I fretted about every penny I spent, so even things that could be pleasant, like going out for dinner or getting a massage, were more stressful than enjoyable. A therapist? Laughable. Who could afford the copay?
Here’s what I could afford, however: antidepressants. Thanks to insurance, they were a few bucks a month. And, as exhausted as I was, the walk to pick them up was a breeze. A time investment of 10 minutes once every 90 days? Way more doable than something crazy like exercising for an hour a day.
The weird thing, though, was that they didn’t work. For some reason, I couldn’t just pop a pill and magically be happy with my life.
I changed my prescription multiple times, altering doses and drug type to try to find a winning combination, but it didn’t help. In fact, med changes invariably made things worse for me.
From my current vantage point, I’m baffled.
I’m a relatively intelligent woman. How could I not see that my life was the problem? That I couldn’t pharmaceutical away my misery? That expecting to feel good while living my 2013–2014 life is as absurd as expecting my phone to work without charging it?
But I didn’t. It was an unknown unknown; I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I knew it.
It probably didn’t hurt that I was so busy simply trying to survive that I didn’t have time to think deeply or to question the prevailing cultural narrative. My doctors told me that my problem was my brain chemicals. Exhausted as I was, it was comforting to believe that my suffering was caused by something outside my control. It let me off the hook.
Fortunately, I’ve always been lucky. During one of my misguided attempts to fix my life by finding the right antidepressant, I visited a psychiatrist who set me straight.
He refused to prescribe for me and told me that antidepressants were never going to fix my problem. He didn’t mince words when he told me to stop trying to find the right prescription and focus on changing my life instead.
I recognize wisdom when I hear it, so I listened. Within a few weeks, I turned down a promotion that would have been a leap forward in my career, but still kept me locked in the rat race. Instead, I accepted a role based in Chiang Mai, Thailand and 90% of my discontent, including fears of financial insecurity, disappeared overnight.
Today, I spend time writing about depression and sharing what I’ve learned on my path to recovery because 1) it makes me feel good and 2) I know that there are others out there in the exact same boat.
Perhaps you’re one of them.
Maybe you’re trapped in the kind of life that I lived in 2013 and 2014. Maybe you’re throwing everything you’ve got at a life that’s destroying your well-being and wondering why conventional treatments, like antidepressants and talk therapy, aren’t making you feel any better.
Maybe you’re perpetually drained and using all the energy you have to simply survive.
Maybe you haven’t had the good fortune of encountering a psychiatrist who takes the time to study your unique case and figure out what will actually help you.
Maybe you’re one article away from a perspective shift, one that encourages you to question not just your chemical makeup, but your lifestyle and societal conditioning.
Maybe things are about to change for you. Maybe this is the day that you realize that it’s insane to perpetually drain your battery and think that, somehow, you’ll be able to keep functioning without recharging yourself.
Unfortunately, our society is not currently set up for most of us to thrive.
To feel good, we need to spend our days doing things that matter with people we love.
We need to eat nourishing, whole foods that come from the Earth, not Frankenfoods that poison us.
We need to spend time in the sun and move our bodies in ways that feel good.
We need touch and pleasure and hobbies and relationships.
We need to regulate our nervous systems and clear the issues that have been stored in our tissues.
We, in short, need to plug in our phones if we want them to work.
But, when we don’t have time for these things, because we’re too stressed, too tired, too busy trying to earn a living to actually have a life, we’re not going to thrive.
And that, my friends, is pretty easy to understand once you take the time to actually think about it.
So, here’s what I propose: if you or someone you love suffers from depression and hasn’t found relief using conventional methods, please stop feeling broken.
Instead, survey your life.
Does it make sense that you feel down? Is the discontent you’re experiencing a reasonable response to a life that’s out of alignment?
Is your depression perhaps telling you that your way of living isn’t working, that you need to make some changes?
If it is, make the decision to try something different.
Start looking for better and truer answers. The right information can change the entire trajectory of your life.
It did for me and it can for you.
Also, plug in your dang phone if you want it to work (looking at you, Julie).
If any of this resonates as useful and true for you, please share it freely.
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