The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What has lifted you from depression?


Just heard that Charlie Brown, publisher of Locus SF magazine, died a few days ago. Wow. Talk about an era passing. He was about as true a fan as has ever existed, and seemed to live his life on his own terms. Died coming back from a convention. That's just about perfect. RIP, Charlie.


So...who's excited about the new Potter movie?Nickiis just about vibrating, and I guess I'll take a couple hours off tomorrow to visitRowling'suniverse again. It's been fabulous watching those kids grow up. Not one of them has done anything other than mature as a performer. Whoever did the original casting deserves their own Oscar.


Studying the Hero's Journey, one of the things that must be carefully considered is the "Dark Night of the Soul", which is the seventh step (in the way I reckon things.) This is the moment in any life path when it feels that all of your innate capacity is insufficient to life you to the next level. The interesting thing is that this state of despair, depression, doubt (and probably a few other "d" words) is totally predictable. We've all been through it countless times, and yet every time it happens it seems people act as if this is the first time in the history of the world that someone has felt down. My attitude is: you got out of the depression before, you can do it again. The trick is to see how quickly you can get out and "back on the horse" for another try. One effective approach is to specifically remember what got you out of your previous "dark nights." Was it something you did? Something a friend did? If it isreplicable, can you set it up yourself? The valuable thing here is that if you understand the path to growth, you know that every single time you head toward a goal that will shift your life to the next level, you will exhaust your current capacity (the only thing that triggers the inner "growth button") and feel that you have reached the end of your resources. The ego always wants you to believe that there is nothing beyond its reach. And it is always lying.


So...if you know this, then it's possible to collect your resources and have them in place BEFORE you begin the journey. For instance: you could write a letter to yourself, reminding yourself that you've been through thiscrapbefore, and made it just fine. Then at the depths of your next pale mood, you just take the letter out and read it. Or you could alert friends that the next time you're "down" to take you to the zoo, or dancing, or whatever. You'll need techniques that you can implement without outside help, as well as those that include family and friends.


The question of the day is: what has worked in the past to lift you out of depression?


Rocky Sullivan said...

"what has worked in the past to lift you out of depression?".

Proportion. How bad is it? How bad can it be? How bad can it GET? Can I survive it for the next five-minutes, and if so, then what? Is this as good or bad as it gets? And though I don't necessarily advise it for others to try, a little comparative misery or happiness testing. Perspective works well, too.

Mike R said...

I look forward to every Pixar and Harry Potter movie, but I can vividly remember how genuinely _excited_ I was for a host of movies from Jurassic Park to Return of the King. After that though, while I still look forward to a lot of movies, the genuine excitement hasn't really happened in a while.

To me the Harry Potter movies are probably what the Bond movies were to an older generation. A series of movies that I can look forward to, fairly confident that each will be quite enjoyable. I totally agree on the casting thing though. Someone rolled three sixes in a row on that one.

Looking back, exercise has probably been one of the most useful thing in getting me out of funks, combined with activities that get me out of the house and interacting with friends.

When I'm depressed I can hunker down and often avoid doing things that I enjoy, thus making me more depressed. And the cure for me not doing things that make my life enjoyable seems to be to go do the things that make my life enjoyable. Crazy huh?

Rocky Sullivan said...

Forgot something.

Hot sex or a demanding workout, like a mild jog or 180 step per-minute gait, works well when I'm down in the dumps. I have yet to experience anything but joy and excitement having an orgasm. I wonder if it's even POSSIBLE to be depressed or even angry (barring weird psychological issues) during orgasm. Be sad or mad getting a nut? HOW? And when excercising, who has the time to be depressed? Dopamine must come into play somewhere in all of this.

Unknown said...

"what has worked in the past to lift you out of depression?"

Drugs :-). No, seriously, antidepressants were what got me out of one particularly bad depression - the one that included the guy who was my last boy friend before my husband suddenly dying in an accident. There are times when medication of some sort actually is a necessary step.

Another time, what got me out was a different drug: an antibiotic. The thing was, I had an infection that turned into a kidney infection before it got diagnosed properly. Finally being physically well again made a big difference in my mood.

On a more lifestyle level, music, talking to friends, walking, and swimming all help, and so does checking my thoughts for negative overgeneralizations and reframing.

Unknown said...

As Rocky said, proportion and perspective help. As Mike said, doing the things you normally enjoy. Basically, when I feel a depression coming on, I just do the opposite of whatever I feel like doing: I want to lie on the couch, so I go to the gym; I want to avoid people, so I socialize; I want to frown, so I smile; I want to wallow in self-pity, and dwell on the bad things, so I embrace gratitude, and reflect on the good things. And so on. That seems to work for me. Whatever you want to do, do the opposite.

Christian H. said...

I don't get depressed per se, but the last time I felt at the end of my career rope, I found screenwriting. The time before that it was software. I can also say that Obama was a high point for me. Huhn, maybe people get depressed because they haven't learned the Golden Rule.

Education, formal or informal, will make you. Lack of same will break you. And that includes forwarding your skills at work. I know too many stagnant people who seem to be unhappy and have to make everyone else an underachiever so they can feel better about themselves.

As afar as Potter, it's the first time I've been able to stand all English accents for a whole movie.

I usually can't.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

I'm a pretty cheerful guy -- it's taken pretty big life events to get me depressed. Suicide of a friend, breakup of 1st marriage, father's death, going blind in one eye ... I think that's the list.

Time fixed it. Basketball helped.

suzanne said...

I don't take my "downs" very seriously
because there is so much to be up about

some years back though
I noticed that buying cookbooks
was a sign
that I was down

(I haven't been on that kind
of cookbook buying routine
for more than a decade now)

I don't have enough time remaining
to ex-spend it being down

Shady_Grady said...

Exercise or doing things for other people (volunteer work or familial obligations) usually help depression.

Of course it depends on what caused the bad feelings and how real it is.

Anonymous said...

Got a puppy. Seriously.

Feeling down, nothing a few licks can't fix. Don't want to exercise today? Too bad, puppy turns into a bad dog without exercise.

Pagan Topologist said...

Not taking downs very seriously, as Suzanne suggested above, is something that gets easier with age. It is one of the reasons I think life gets better with each passing decade.

suzanne said...

Not taking downs very seriously, as Suzanne suggested above, is something that gets easier with age. It is one of the reasons I think life gets better with each passing decade.

yup it's one of the greatest surprises
of my entire life
how much better it gets
with eah decade

who'd've thunk it!