Hello everybody, welcome to episode 48 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions on life you may have and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
We’ve got an extremely important question sent in today about depression and how to live with it. If you listen closely, you’ll find that this question and, hopefully, my answer pertain not only to depression, but to anyone facing any kind of setback and wondering how to work with it. Let’s take a look…
QUESTION: “Simply put, what can I do with my depression? It is such a barrier and there seems to be no way around it. What do I do? Where do I go from here?”
Depression and Having Courage to Seek Help
A powerful question.
First of all, I want to applaud you for sending this question in. Depression can be so debilitating — it can render us so useless that putting forth the energy to get help or reach out at the risk of coming up short with answers for the umpteenth time can be almost impossible to do.
So I admire you for summoning the courage to send in this question and recognizing that maybe, just maybe, there is still something you can do.
I can’t tell you the ins and outs of depression, whether the causes of your depression are environmental or genetic, whether antidepressants are a scam or actually useful, and I certainly cannot tell you how to solve depression in the span of a 10-minute podcast.
And though a psychiatrist could help you with the first three, I’d argue that no psychiatrist, or even Sigmund Freud could offer a quick, blanket formula for solving depression.
And the same could be said of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, or dementia. As far as I’m concerned, these, and all other debilitating mental illnesses have two things in common.
Mental Illness is Unique to Everyone
The first thing mental illnesses have in common is that they’re unique to everyone, which is why there are no simple formulas to get rid of them. Different forms of therapy can help those suffering get to the crux of how they’re uniquely affected by any issue such as these, but depending on the severity, some may never be fully overcome.
The Benefits of Mental Illness
The second thing they have in common is that, like any roadblock, they come with advantages that must be recognized and acted in accordance with for the best shot at happiness. It’s a sad truth that some of these illnesses are unbeatable, but the acceptance of that and willingness to find ways to work with the cards we’ve been dealt is what separates those who make progress from those who don’t.
The Benefits of Depression
What my advice to you is going to be about, then, is the advantages that come with depression, and how you can live those advantages while you suffer from it. It’s hard to believe that the soul-sucking, energy-extinguishing, seemingly inescapable lack of hope and connection that is depression has any upsides, but I can compile three for now, so get out that pencil and paper.
1. Sympathy for Others
The first upside of depression, and thus, what “to do” with it, is the ability to better sympathize with other people, especially those who have depression but are not revealing it to others or maybe even themselves.
Depression is something that many are unwilling to open up about, and it often takes someone who’s been through it to recognize that soul-sucking, energy-extinguishing, seemingly inescapable lack of hope and connection in someone else. Nicely repeated, Greg.
I did a little extra prep for this one. One of the articles I found is called “3 Good Things About Depression,” which, in spite of the title is quite different from what I’ll talk about today. But in it, the author and licensed clinical social worker Bob Taibbi further discusses this physical element of depression and how it can be yet another benefit.
He says, “The desire to be alone, the decrease in libido, the lack of energy, sleeplessness, actually reinforce the focus. Our bodies are actually joining forces with our minds to keep us moving forward in dealing with our problems, keeping us from being lured away by additional distractions.”
So whether it’s sympathizing with someone else who is legitimately depressed or someone else who is not, you, as a person struggling with depression, typically have a strong understanding of struggle and humanity, and you’re better equipped to communicate with others and grasp where they’re coming from.
However, this upside, while extremely valuable, is only attainable when you’re able to successfully look beyond your own pain and put focus onto others, which can be difficult when it feels like your entire world is crashing down around you, I know.
2. Critical Thinking Skills
The second upside of depression is the increased ability to think critically. Depression is essentially the byproduct of not being able to make sense of our own struggles, right? But like dogs chasing their own tails, we still try.
This leads to excessive amounts of thinking and strategizing. It leads to strong focus on large, singular issues. Though it’s quite hard to find these answers without the help of someone else, and we can fight secondary battles with ourselves for our INABILITY to find those answers, we still get into the habit of thinking creatively and critically.
We get into the habit of strong analysis and looking towards different kinds of solutions. These habits translate into other areas of life that require thinking beneath the surface — whether it be financial strategies, equations, workplace problems or any complex issues in between.
3. Better Ability to Question Your Inner World
So while that second upside of depression is the ability to better question these issues in the outside world, the third upside of depression is the ability to better question issues that exist in YOUR INSIDE world.
If we are depressed, something is missing from life. Something is not where it should be. In order to figure out what that something is and attempt to identify that void, we start to ask big questions of ourselves. We ask questions about our values, our habits, our relationships, our choices, our time.
Though the nature of this self-questioning is extreme for those who are depressed, like yourself, truthfully, it’s healthy questioning and questioning that, depending on who you are, might’ve prevented you from becoming depressed had you done it before.
To ask these questions means to get closer to the truth of ourselves, and once we identify that truth, it’s easier to live by it.
Depression forces us to do the self-work necessary to progress, the only difference is that people who are not currently depressed don’t always know or feel inclined to do it.
This was a great question, I’m so thankful that it was sent in, and it was a privilege to answer it.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone listening, again, that this stretches far beyond depression. Some of us are put into painful situations in which healing is a long or impossible process. Others are still put into painful situations that are much more temporary.
Regardless, there is always something useful that can be extracted from difficult times. Yes, these times come with long-term lessons, but they also come with advantages that can be added into our repertoire right away. They strengthen us in addition to teaching us.
So consider what skills you’re learning at any time and how to maximize your situation as opposed to changing it is beyond an incredible tool.
That said, we’ll wrap things up here, folks. You can email us your own questions by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
We love helping as many of you out as possible, so if you’d like your own episode, keep the questions coming. We also love having you join us online for more content. You can find me at gregaudino.com and the whole team can be found at oldpodcast.com — a great place to learn about our other shows, other work, and get that much more support.
We’ll see you next time for another episode of Optimal Living Advice, until then, take care everyone and bye for now.