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3 Beneficial Lessons I Learned While Fighting Depression

Updated on January 21, 2019
Willow Shire profile image

Willow Shire is an author who struggles with depression. His non-fiction focuses on depression and the writing life.


We walked into a Pittsburgh brewery on Saturday. Large wooden tables with enough space for eight to ten people, waited for diners to fill their seats. The light brown wood shone in the dim light.

Flipping through the menu, we found hundreds of food items, but no beer list.

The waitress walked over and asked, “Are you ready to order?”

I asked, “Can I see your beer menu?”

She seemed confused.

We learned the brewery did not have a print menu. Their beer list, written in white chalk, hung from a blackboard hidden far away, probably somewhere in Narnia.

We ordered. My friends and partner purchased a flight, bartender’s choice since the chalkboard was far away in another dimension.

That’s when it hit. I fell into a newly formed black hole. Its accretion disk grew as the energy in my body pulled towards the darkness.

(For non-astronomy fans, the accretion disk is the visible matter rotating around a black hole)

Drinking isn’t something you want to do when you’re depressed. My family has a history of alcoholism, so I watch my frequency and amount. I opted out of the flight, getting a glass instead. The whole point of our adventure was to try a new beer.

As we talked, I thought about my conversation with my counselor on Friday. We talked about the good things struggling with depression brings forth. Our lives focus on the negative aspects of our struggle, but what about the good?

Fighting depression brings forth pattern recognition

By confronting depression head on, we acknowledge something in our life is wrong. It may be a health issue, an experience, a relationship, or substance abuse. There are numerous reasons for someone to become depressed, and everyone’s situation is unique to them.

We can typically reach inside and figure out what is going on. This requires a lot of introspection and a great counselor, one who believes in reflection. There is a time and place for medication, but I think most of us can overcome depression by finding the emotional source and recognizing the patterns.

For me, depression stems from my childhood. My father was an alcoholic. There wasn’t a lot of physical abuse, but there was a good deal from an emotional level.

Hiding in my bedroom was the only time I felt safe. I would read, play video games, watch TV; whatever I could do to stay away from my father.

Unfortunately, this leads to a pattern for me. I feel safe in my home, which also antagonizes my depression. It means I’m not exercising, having human connections, and most times, not purchasing quality food.

I recognized the pattern. Staying in my room as a child meant I was safe, so staying in my house means I’m safe.

When I become depressed for days on end, I usually find I’ve been in my house for more than a few days without leaving.

Not to say it doesn’t hit elsewhere, but staying in my home is a pattern that leads to depression.

I’ve also realized patterns of negative thinking I’ve been able to turn around; patterns of diet, patterns with friendships, etc. The introspective work has brought out an awareness of pattern recognition beneficial to fighting depression.

It keeps me aware and working towards a happy life.

What do you want?

Before recognizing my mental anguish, I didn’t know what I wanted.

Early on, my counselor asked, “If you could change one thing, what would it be?”

I said, “My job.”

She asked, “What would you do?”

Without thinking, I said, “Write.”

It was a wake up call. Where did that answer come from? I didn’t know. As the years went on, I discovered I love writing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been passionate about. The topic doesn’t matter. Fiction or nonfiction, I love writing.

I would have never discovered my love of writing without fighting my depression. The black hole would have sucked me in, pulling me farther towards whatever lays at the center devouring all who arrive.

Finding a passion wasn’t the only thing I realized I wanted. My top three wants, which are what I’m working towards, became:

I want my work to mean something. Web development doesn’t bring joy to people, help animals, or help the earth. My writing can bring joy in the form of fiction and help in the form of nonfiction.

I want to work towards rescuing animals, preferably older animals left to die in shelters since people adopt younger animals first.

I want to keep my freedom and grow it. I’m a freelance web developer with a successful company, but in some ways, it’s more restrictive than a corporate job. For example, I’m always on the clock. It’s been hard to take a vacation without worrying about supporting clients. Freelance writing solves this as it solves most of my other wants.

Create a list of your wants and turn them from “I want” into “I will”. Then setup and implement a plan to bring those “I will” statements to fruition. I realized my wants, implemented a plan, and now I’m shifting to writing full time.

Bringing your wants into reality will help you fight against depression, depriving the black hole of energy and forcing it to collapse in on itself, disappearing into the dimension it feeds.

What do you value?

What do you value in your work?

What do you value in your life?

What do you value in morals, actions, politics, etc?

My struggle opened my eyes to more values. If you ask my friends, most will say I know what I want and value.

Even before counseling, I was clear about my values. In counseling, I could define them more. By fighting depression and taking my energy back from the black hole, I realized things in my life I didn’t value.

For example, there was the day I found my values in friendships, a hard realization to recognize when your existing relationships don’t provide those needs, such as the simple concept of reciprocity.

I value reciprocity. I want friends who reciprocate.

Discovering what I wanted in a friendship turned into an “I will”, which turned into a new reciprocative friend.

The Point?

The point is to use your fight against depression to find out what patterns cause you depression, what you want, and what you value.

These are great discoveries that will give you weapons against depression and make you a happier, more fulfilled person to begin with.

I found my passion and beat back depression a little more every day. I hope you do, too.

- Will

© 2019 Willow Shire


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