Let’s face it: living with depression is painful, frustrating, debilitating and exhausting.
“It’s complete apathy and fatigue,” Kaitlynn Kelly wrote in her article, "The Myth of 'Choosing Happiness' to Heal Depression," published on the online magazine Thought Catalog. “It’s lying in bed all day not because you want to, but because you can’t get up. It’s letting the dishes and the garbage pile up and wearing the same dirty clothes because you can’t get yourself to wash them. Depression is a terribly mundane monster that sinks its fangs into your back until you’re numb. You sit and watch your life pass you by, unable to reach out and grab it.”
I couldn’t agree more. As I write this, I am 37 years old and have been living with depression for most of my life. Fortunately, it has become more manageable over the past several years, allowing me to enjoy life more.
Over the past few years, living with depression has become much easier for me. The catalyst for this improvement came after several crises and severe mental health breakdown. At that point, I felt like I had had enough. Also, I made a solid decision to choose happiness over depression.
Once I made this decision, it lit a fire inside of me that continues to burn, even on my toughest days. This fire has driven me to explore different treatments, read many books, and talk to as many people as I can to learn how to heal my depression.
I am a big believer in the idea that we have the power to choose our response to situations and circumstances that come up in our lives. Looking at my experience from that perspective, I could easily say that healing my depression begins with choosing happiness. If that were the case, this article would end right here.
But healing depression, in my experience, is more complicated than just choosing happiness. For who haven’t experienced depression, it can "appear" to look like sadness. For those of us who live with it, it’s so much more than that.
Please understand that I’m NOT saying that you need to “snap out of it” or simply “cheer up." Those are some of the worst things that you can say to someone living with depression.
(NOTE: Here’s a list of more things you should avoid saying to a person with depression.)
What I am saying is that making a real commitment to recovery begins by choosing happiness.
This idea is critical to understand because so many people who struggle with depression feel hopeless. In fact, I have had way too many moments where I felt powerless over this illness. When you are feeling hopeless, the mere thought of "happiness" seems impossible.
As Elizabeth Wurtzel once put it: “I start to think there really is no cure for depression, that happiness is an ongoing battle, and I wonder if it isn't one I'll have to fight for as long as I live. I wonder if it's worth it.”
True healing begins with choosing happiness, but the road to recovery is a complicated process.
If you have been battling depression, I encourage you to choose happiness. This choice is not a solution, tool, or treatment, but rather a new way of thinking. As you make this decision, know that it doesn’t mean that your depression will magically disappear. Your choice, however, will be a catalyst for growth in your recovery journey.
When you make this decision, you are making a substantial commitment to yourself and your healing. Once you do this, ask yourself what the next step that you can take toward happiness might be. Your answer will be unique to you. To guide you on your recovery journey, here are some additional resources that you should read:
Powerful Lessons Your Depression Can Teach You
Depression or Just Low Self Esteem?
In closing, I want to emphasize that recovery is a journey. It’s a process, not a destination. Like any journey, it begins with a vision of the future. I encourage you to be proactive in creating that vision for yourself.
And remember bestselling author Stephen Covey's words: “Vision is greater than baggage.”
Mike Veny is one of America’s leading mental health awareness speakers, HealthCentral’s new mental health social ambassador, and a high energy corporate drumming event facilitator. He delivers educational, engaging, and entertaining presentations to meetings and conferences throughout the world. Learn more and connect with Mike at TransformingStigma.com.