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how to be depressed

“Depression was, indeed, the hand of a friend trying to press me down to the ground on which it was safe to stand–the ground of my own truth, my own nature with its complex mix of limits and gifts, liabilities and assets, darkness and light.”
- Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

I don’t think I’ve ever been “clinically” depressed. Well, maybe I have, but it certainly didn’t feel clinical. It felt morbid, cosmic, and unavoidably essential. When I was thirteen, my parents split for the umpteenth and final time and a few months later, my dad brought it to my attention that I’d been wearing the same hockey jersey for weeks and that I needed to start doing the dishes again. I was definitely depressed.

And there was the dark night after Magic Man flew back to London and the apartment felt like a keyless heartbreak hotel with barred windows. But my last extended dark night was about ten years ago. It was a new depth of crushing aloneness. Another break up, this time with Hot-but-Needy Actor Man in LA (I was equally needy, duh,) which triggered an exorcism of self doubt and psychic bile that, being thirty-something and ambitious, I just needed to get out of my system. {Note: it’s often not the actual loss that causes the depression – it’s all the crap that’s tied up in it that you needed to deal with anyway.}

In that spell of depression I wore the same pair of ass-ripped Levi’s for weeks. I’d lie in my backyard at two in the morning in nowhere New Mexico, smoking Marlboro’s, looking up at the stars, wondering about the fatality of scorpion bites, and praying for aliens to abduct me. {Not joking in any way.} I cried every single day, sometimes twice a day, for weeks. I felt profoundly unheard…empty. As I’d fall asleep I felt as though chunks of my being were decomposing into the bed. It was a brutal ordeal of the psyche, but I knew I was being reborn. I did have faith that whatever new face was emerging, she would eventually smile back at me.

I learned a thousand subtle and mighty things about Life from those existential passages, but what I learned about depression itself is that, the more you resist it, the longer it lasts.

When depressed, I find it’s best to just be…depressed.

Happiness returns more quickly when you give yourself permission to be blue…or any shade of black you need to be.

I understand that for some people, depression can be so severe as to be life threatening. It can grip a soul for decades. The kind of depression I’m addressing here falls somewhere within the category of disparaging life passages to profound melancholy…which is to say, likely manageable without drugs and positively surmountable. But I will go on record to say that, while I think meds for depression can be a viable option to break a cycle and regain one’s footing, I think we’re a culture overly prone to numbing out. And in doing so, we not only deny our own power, we carry our demons with us far longer than we have to.

HOW TO BE DEPRESSED SO THAT HAPPINESS HAS A BETTER CHANCE OF RETURNING — SOONER RATHER THAN LATER
  1. Give yourself full permission to be pathetic for a short period of time. In fact, relish the pathetic-ness. Enthusiastically wallow in self pity. If people let themselves have downer days more often, there might be fewer heart attacks and road rage. Being a total loser for a morning or a weekend isn’t the slippery slope to despair. It’s a direct route to what your emotions are trying to tell you…feel, heal, know thyself. And move on, more empowered than before.
  2.  Watch or read something depressing. Rent some heart wrenching documentaries like, God Grew Tired of Us or War Dance and bawl your eyes out. Chances are that your life will be looking pretty damn good in comparison.
  3.  Be incredibly, sublimely gentle with yourself, like you might be with a child or dear friend whom you deeply adore.
  4.  If someone who loves you asks how you are, admit to being blue. When a girl friend calls, let her know that it’s a dog day afternoon and that you’re happily in despair.
  5.  When the novelty of being depressed is starting to wear off, shake your arms above your head like you’re being saved by the Almighty Holy Spirit itself, turn on some loud Opera music, and shout, “I’m depressed! I’m sooo depressed!” Gauranteed: you will start laughing smirky giggles to deep belly laughs and you will decide to listen to the rhythm of your blues and keep on walking…more empowered than before.
  6. Break your happiness fast with a treat. Write a kind note to yourself about how brave you are for being still in the dark, for standing down a monster or two. Dress up even if you work from home. Bring a plant to work and water it. Freshen up. And give yourself full permission to just be … deeply happy.