Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Tom Cornille
Depression is a dark cloud. Anyone claiming otherwise is either ignorant or willfully deceitful. It is hard and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. And yet, from time to time, the edges of this dark cloud light up with perhaps only the thinnest of silver linings. Since it’s so important to focus on every bit of light that gets through, I thought I’d share some of those silver linings I’ve found in my depression. The upside of being down, I guess you could say.
When I started out in this post, I thought I’d find 4 or 5 reasons, but I ended up with 13. That’s a good sign, right? Even if it is an ominous number. There’s clearly an optimist hidden somewhere inside of me.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it. The 13 benefits of my depression:
- You stop caring so much about what people think.
Truth be told, it’s not that I don’t want to care about what people think anymore, it’s that I just can’t anymore. I can’t bring up the energy to dress nicely, or put on make-up, or worry what my kids are eating for lunch. So I go out in my most comfy clothes and give them the same sandwiches every day. And you know what? People really don’t care that much. That’s something I’ll stop worrying about after this is over.
- You learn to set priorities.
My energy is so limited at times it feels like it’s non-existent. So I have to focus on what really matters. It’s more important THAT my children eat than WHAT they eat. My house only really needs to be organized when the cleaning lady comes over to clean (good thing she comes by once every two weeks or it would end up a pig-sty.) If I only have energy to make one phone call, it had better be the one that matters most.
- You learn to focus on your health.
Depression is a mental illness, and as with any illness, it forces you to stand still and focus on your health. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to make healthy choices. Many days, I have to force myself to eat something and I have to constantly remind myself to take my medication. But my physical and mental health are a priority, and thus very much in my field of awareness at all times.
- You learn to ask for help, and accept it.
There’s no way I’m ever going to get through this alone. I just don’t see that happening, and I have a responsibility to my chidren, and to myself, to get through it in the best way possible. That means asking for help. Lots and lots of help. Even if it means I become dependent on others for a while.
- It gets easier to break the spell of your addictions.
I used to cheer myself up with chips, a youtube binge or buying office supplies. But the stuff that usually worked doesn’t really work anymore, I know because I keep trying and finding that it doesn’t make me feel better. Stuff that still makes me feel better are things that are actually good for me: like walks in nature, creating art, writing and spending time with loved ones.
It’s the reason I’m able to stay away from alcohol, too. I know it won’t make me feel better anyways.
- Therapy becomes the norm, not a luxury.
Therapy is not cheap. I’m lucky in that I can afford it, but I’m also choosing it over doing things I used to prioritize in the past, such as renovating a bathroom that’s been on my to-do list every since I moved here 8 years ago.
I’ve learned that therapy, at least for me, is not a luxury. At this point, it’s what I need to stay healthy, and there’s no shame in that.
- It deepens your empathy for others.
If someone now told me “I was physically okay and yet unable to unload the dishwasher because I just couldn’t organize my mind around how to start” I would understand. I’d get it because I’ve been there. It becomes easier to allow the suffering of others when you’re suffering yourself.
- You start focussing on what causes your depression.
As long as I was working and taking care of my children as best I could, I somehow managed to run away from all the feelings on unhappiness, doubt, grief that were hidden underneath. When the depression finally washes over you, you can’t really run anymore. Nothing really helps. But for me, at least, since it’s dark already, I’m less afraid to dig in deeper and find what’s at the root of this. I’m looking into what created my first depressive periods as a teenager and at how my outlook of life impacted my mental health. And yeah, sure, it’s really painful at times. But I’m already in pain anyways, so that’s not quite as big a deterrant as it used to be.
- You are forced to make different choices.
I don’t know if I’d have ever stopped living my life the way I was if I hadn’t broken down the way I have. There’s such a long list of criteria I’ve made for my life, that I don’t think I’d ever have stopped trying to meet them if it hadn’t just become completely impossible, like it has now. And I don’t think I could ever step into that insane rat race again. Depression forces you to take a really good look at what is going on in your life, and to weigh the pros and cons of everything, not from a societal point of view, but keeping in mind who YOU are as a human being with specific wants and needs.
- It kills your perfectionism.
Nowadays I’m happy if there’s any food on the table at all around dinner time. I don’t mind the spelling mistakes in my blog posts so much, or the run-on sentences. As long as I’m able to relax in it, my room is clean enough. I can’t dot the i’s the way I used to, so I don’t expect myself to either. My perfectionism has taken a holiday, and for all I care, it can stay there for now.
- You learn to question your thoughts.
I recently wrote this blogpost about lies my depression tells me. I’m not completely new to not believing my thoughts. Since I struggle with fear of attachment and anxiety, I know that in those moments, I also think thoughts that at other times I know to be absolutely ridiculous. But if you’re not lucky enough to also deal with other issues that make it clear that your mind is lying to, a depression will do the trick. It becomes obvious when you find yourself caught in thought loops, or notice how you believe one thing at one time, and the complete opposite at another, or when you hear yourself reiterrating the thoughts out loud to other people who look at you questioningly. Not having to believe your thoughts can be a really great relief when they are trying to take over your life.
- You learn that it’s okay not to be okay.
It doesn’t feel okay to be depressed, angry at nothing, pushing people away. But over time you learn that it’s the depression that’s making you do/feel this, and that it’s not your fault. We live in a culture that tries to shame us into being happy. You have to build a wonderful life and you have to enjoy it. If you’re not happy, something is obviously wrong with you.
Speaking with others is showing me that there are sooooo many people who feel unhappy for parts of their lives. I’m pretty sure everyone goes through dark moments. And that’s okay.
- Depression makes you feel weak but it takes a helluva lot of strenghth.
I don’t feel particularly strong these days. But I also know that this is not who I am. I’ve run out of energy because I’ve used so much energy in the past. And someday, I’ll have that energy again. Being in a depression is also really hard, so being able to stay standing, to get up, to go on walks, to talk to people, to write about it here… these are things that make me strong, not weak.
There are people who consider their burnouts or depressions a gift. That’s not me (or at least, not yet). I still think it’s a really nasty, horrible nimbocumulus.
But from a certain angle, the sun does trace pretty golden lines along its edges…