Depression can often give important insight into your needs, dreams and hopes.

You’re depressed. You feel like nothing makes sense. You’re tired. You try to be happy, but it’s impossible. The whole world looks like a grey damp hole. You want to curl up in a human-shaped ball, stay still and wait it all out.

You are ill and all you need is treatment

From a medical point of view, you would be told that you suffer from a disease that should be treated. There are pills and therapies that will help you climb out of the black hole. The underlying imperative being: you need to be brought back to society and made productive again. Back in the world you’ll continue your pursuit of happiness.

This is the wold you are being pulled back to:

Ever increasing pace of life, ruthlessness of the capitalist mindset with productivity & effectiveness being valued the most, increasing social and economic stratification, rapidly progressing environmental destruction, and diminishing connection with nature.

Some people benefit from calling depression a disease. This gives them hope that things can change and they can get better. A lot of people struggle with an overwhelming feeling of guilt and responsibility that they somehow made themselves depressed. It’s their fault, their weakness and they should get their shit together for once. Thinking about depression in terms of illness can let them off the hook and help realise that they need support.

Medical labels can be useful, but I hate it when they get in the way of recognising the individual experience of a person in distress. Yes, we can call your experience “depression”, but then we need to listen what it has to say and understand where it came from.

One of my teachers once said: the biggest problem with depression is that nobody wants it.

You don’t want it, your family doesn’t want it, the society doesn’t want it, because it disturbs the “normal life”. But unless you find courage to explore why it’s there, what does it say about you, your needs, your dreams, you will not truly heal.

What your depression has to say?

If we listen with courage and openness to what the depression has to say this is what we might hear:

I can’t stand being told to be happy when I see that the world is a fucked up place.

I’m being told to pursue happiness, but there’s this dark part in me and in the world, I don’t want to ignore it anymore.

I want to do something that will make me feel fulfilled, but I’ve wasted my best years doing what I was told.

I want to connect with what makes my soul sing, but I have no idea how to do it, since all my life I’ve been taught to behave well and do what was expected of me.

I see that the world is a fucked up place, so I try to disconnect from the feelings it evokes — but I can’t do it anymore.

I’ve been doing a job that turns out to make no real sense. I want to do something meaningful, but I feel helpless about it.

I’m stuck in a relationship that sucks, but I’m too scared to get out of it.

I feel disconnected from the world and I long for connection. I used to numb out this longing, but I can’t stand it anymore. Internet connection is not enough.

I feel that I’m not good enough, not pretty enough, not successful enough since I’m constantly being bombarded with unrealistic images & exhausting expectations.

There is this harsh critical voice beside me that constantly puts me down and it makes me feel worthless. I just want to hide from it.

I want to be still and quiet and to listen to myself, but the world keeps pushing me outwards.

I see the cruelty of people and feel helpless with all this suffering in the world.

You get the idea. Such thoughts usually are not the most welcomed ones. They are not pleasant, they are uncomfortable and they usually call for some sort of change. It’s easier to not listen to them or try to keep them quiet with an array of substances and/or behaviours.

There are reasons to be depressed

We live in a world where a lot people have bullshit jobs that do not enrich them in any meaningful way. What those jobs do is they bring profit to a selected group at the top. Fake needs sustained by the consumption culture and lack of social security force us to stay at our meaningless jobs.

We are hostages of a system that makes us pay the mortgage for most of our adult lives.

We destroy our environment, bringing our planet to the verge of total ecological destruction.

We are told how to pursue happiness (which became just another commercial buzzword), yet we have every reason to be depressed. Maybe we should be.

Maybe those, who are depressed are the sensitive ones who carry an important message about the state we all are in?

Embracing our feelings

Blocking out dark moods, difficult feelings, despair, outrage, sadness, loss, whether with meds or with a commercial version of meditation, makes us poorer as human beings.

The so-called “negative” emotions are an important inner mechanism signalling that something is wrong. There is a tendency to dismiss them, constant pressure to be “positive”. But as fear helped our ancestors survive in the ancient savannas, triggering the life-saving fight/flight/freeze instinct, today we also need to hear our emotions out.

Only when we recognise what’s wrong and let ourselves get deeply touched by that, we will be able to act on it. If we numb ourselves, we not only get cut off from the richness of our inner life, but we also turn away from what might be a powerful change agent. It requires courage, inner power, and support to act on it, but I strongly believe that’s the best way to deal with depression.

So why do we need your depression?

Your depression should be considered in a variety of context. It may carry a very important individual message for you and be a call for personal change. But as well as that, it should be considered an important voice in our communities. If we marginalise people who are depressed, as a society we are ignoring something very important. Healing should happen on a communal level as well.

We need to stop considering psychotherapy and psychological suffering just in individualistic terms. The dark side of individualism is the growing human disconnection from nature, each other, and the deeper meaning of life.

Depression is not just “faulty thinking” or “chemical imbalance”, it is a cry for change.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.

— Rabindranath Tagore

Cherish idle time.

We live in a world where most people have bullshit jobs that do not enrich them in any meaningful way. What those jobs do is they bring profit to a selected group at the top. Fake needs fanned by the consumption culture force us to stay at our meaningless jobs. We are hostages of a system that makes us pay the mortgage for most of our adult lives. We destroy our environment, bringing our planet to the verge of a total ecological destruction.

We are told how to pursue happiness (which became another commercial buzzword), yet we have every reason to be depressed. Maybe we should be. Maybe those, who are depressed are the sensitive ones who carry an important message about the state we all are in?Blocking out dark moods, difficult feelings, despair, outrage, sadness, loss, whether with meds or with a commercial version of meditation, make us poorer as human beings. Because only if we actually recognize what’s wrong and let ourselves get deeply touched by that, we will be able to act on it. The world epidemic of depression did not appear out of nowhere. We need to listen to what depression says, take it seriously and try to do something about it. The so-called “negative” emotions are an important inner mechanism signaling that something is wrong. There is a tendency to dismiss them, a constant pressure to be “positive”. But as fear helped our ancestors survive in the ancient savannas, triggering the life-saving fight or flight instinct, today we also need to hear our emotions out. If we numb ourselves out, we not only cut ourselves off from the richness of our inner life, but we also turn away from what might be a powerful change agent. It requires courage, inner power and often support, to act on it, but I strongly believe that’s the best way to deal with depression.

And why do “we” need your depression?
Because it is often not only about your personal situation (although the personal level cannot be underestimated) but also about the world’s situation. We need to stop considering psychotherapy and psychological suffering only in individualistic terms. The dark side of individualism is the growing human disconnection from nature, from each other and from the deeper meaning of life.

Of course, this is only one aspect of the issue. Depression, or any other symptom for that matter, should be considered on all levels — of the individual, the family system, social, economic and political contexts, historical background (inherited traumas) and environmental aspect (the emerging field of ecopsychology).
My main message, however, is this: depression is not just “faulty thinking” or “chemical imbalance”, it is a cry for change.