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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.

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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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    • Willow Shire profile imageAUTHOR

      Willow Shire 

      7 months ago from Central Pennsylvania, USA

      Thanks for the kind words, Cecil! It's those responses that give me more motivation to write about my depression and hopefully reach others.

    • SgtCecil profile image

      Cecil Kenmill 

      7 months ago from Osaka, Japan

      When I was a medic, I saw a lot of depression. Today, I see just as much. However, I rarely see it addressed so poignantly and honestly as in your articles. Well done! Keep up the good fight.

    • Willow Shire profile imageAUTHOR

      Willow Shire 

      7 months ago from Central Pennsylvania, USA

      Thanks for all the kind words, Kimberlee! I'm glad my writing is reaching people. I can relate with everything you said on family and writing.

      I wrote several articles about how I was feeling while being depressed a few weeks ago. This time, I figured it would be beneficial to write something a bit more positive.

      I still struggle with confidence in writing, but I don't think that will ever go away. The depression is something I know I'll battle everyday, but the hope is that I'm on the winning side and shortening the number and length of episodes.

      Thanks for your comments! They made me smile! : )

    • kimberleeaine profile image

      Kimberlee Aine 

      7 months ago from London

      The chalkboard was faraway in another dimension.

      Will, your work truly does mean something. Not only have you overcome the ache of depression to write, but you have amazing talent. I love your writing style, it’s really engaging and fun! I’m glad you were able to make something of your adventure, thank you so much for sharing.

      Like you, I discovered drinking isn’t something you want to do when you’re depressed. And I also have a family history of alcoholism. I figured going sober would sort me out. I'm now twelve years sober and if anything, the depression has worsened.

      Thank you for sharing your contemplative thoughts on what depression may be actually pointing to, in terms of something good.

      I too love to write, but my passion was quashed by an over-riding feeling my words were never good enough. My father was a narcissist and emotionally abusive, which no doubt chipped away at my self-confidence.

      Your article also helped me to see a pattern of wanting to stay safe. I tend to self isolate a LOT. Introspection gets stretched into an unhealthy pattern of negative thinking.

      What do you want? Such an interesting and loaded question. For a long time, I didn’t know. Instead my mental focus fixated on what would he want me to do. Which brings us back to the point.

      Thank you for showing me it is possible to beat depression more a little every day - and for helping me see, I too, can write into the possibilities. Stay strong, kindred friend.

    • Willow Shire profile imageAUTHOR

      Willow Shire 

      7 months ago from Central Pennsylvania, USA

      Hi Denise,

      Writing to get through depression was one of the reasons my counselor wanted me to start, just with a simple journal, but subconsciously I knew I wanted to write. I think the creative writing helps deal with some of the past issues, providing a meaningful release for that negative energy and turning it into something positive.

      It took a long time for me to build confidence and to share the work. I didn't let my girlfriend read any of my material until I had written constantly for almost six months.

      It's unfortunate that we both had to be depressed to find our passion, but I'm glad we found it. : )

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      7 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is interesting. It took me being depressed to find my passion for writing as well. I haven't been able to get past that, however, I do most of my writing when I am depressed or anxious. I am finally at the point in my life that I want to do something different, like writing because I want to write rather than writing to work through something. It is a whole new concept that I haven't been able to get comfortable with yet. It means a whole new level of creativity.

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