The Romance with Depression
I was in a romance with depression for over 25 years. But more about that later. Let me ask you, are you depressed? Then, write about your depression! (Maybe you’ll write a novel.) There is a wealth of emotional turmoil that over time becomes like a romantic relationship. When we are depressed, the only person we want to be with is our depression. For better or worse, you are dating and in some cases, married to depression.
The relationship may start out innocently enough, in your youth, with a brush of a melancholy mood. You may not even have recognized it but the “signs” were there: Negative, self-defeating thoughts … Obsessively finding fault, failure, while your world slowly gets hopeless. Yes, depression has begun to woo you.
Back then, you might not have known the relationship could be lifelong. As you matured, you may have been able to tap into the creativity that stems from depression. Yes, creativity is one of the most endearing qualities of depression. During periods of your deep depression, you tap into that experience with a creativity ability. Some write songs, poems, journal or blog to highlight feelings of pain and loss. This is nothing new, and it’s part of the romantic bond between depression and us. It is what I like to call “the love letters.” Yes, the real “visible” sign of our intimacy with our melancholy can be seen in the words we write to express our feelings. Here is one quote from one such letter:
I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.
Do you know who said this?
On January 23, 1841 Abraham Lincoln wrote that in a letter to his law partner, William Herndon, in Washington.
“I must die or be better, it appears to me.” Yes, our romance is one that we want to divorce. Even Lincoln understood it was “till death do we part.”
Why are so many people fixated on their romance with depression? Could those feelings be classified as relationship-contingent self-esteem? The University of Houston psychology department defines relationship-contingent self-esteem as “self-esteem that depends on one’s relationship, and reflects a particular kind of unhealthy relationship investment. When one’s self-regard is hooked on one’s relationship, one is strongly influenced by relationship events and outcomes because of the implications those events have for the self.”
Wow, I don’t know about you, but to me, that fits the description of a romance with depression! Think about it: Our “investment” is the time we are depressed. We have an “unhealthy” view of depression as something that must be; it is who we are. We think of ourselves as “depressed” but that is not who we really are. It is the strong influence of this psychological condition that encourages our self-defeating thinking. We become ineffective in our ability to determine the best course of action to solve the matter.
We use medications or therapy to dull the pain. In some cases, it is able to break this unhealthy romance. Then when it’s gone, something strange can happen: You miss it. Not the hopelessness or despair, but the familiar setting you’ve known for so long.
This is what has happened to me. For over 25 years, my closest friend was depression. We had an intimate and volatile relationship. My self-esteem was never built up, but always torn down. The hopelessness became my identity and periods of clarity were infrequent. Depression was my partner. We were like an old married couple who fought all the time but never split up.
That was until I found a combination of medications that did the unexpected — they worked. Yes, from years of trial and error, from one med to another, I’ve found a combo that, almost overnight, divorced me from my depression. I am now living single and I like it.
The moral: Nothing is forever. Don’t give up; recovery is possible. It might not be a full divorce from depression right away. It might be more of a trial separation. But, it can happen, so keep the hope alive.
Stewart, C. (2013). The Romance with Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 7, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-romance-with-depression/