The Ingratitude of Depression

During the period in my life when I was diagnosed as being clinically depressed, the thoughts that pervaded my consciousness were always focused on what went wrong, what didn’t work out, why it would be futile to try again, and so on. I felt abused and despondent, let down and betrayed. I looked around for an understanding glance, let alone an embrace, and all I saw were judging eyes and detached hearts. There were some that acted out of obligation, and others that meant well but didn’t have the capacity to contribute meaningfully, and then there was me. Isolated in my thoughts and frustrated at the cycle that kept leaving me on my butt.

The prescribed medication helped nothing except to give me a locked jaw and a dulled mind. When I emerged from my medicated state my reality remained unaltered, and my options were still bleak. It took a while before I realised that being a victim was a statement of ingratitude. As long as I saw myself as a victim, I discounted my blessings. Any acknowledgement of my blessings was always within the context of how little it mattered in the absence of everything else that I believed I was denied. I despised my state of being, and I was intensely unhappy with the way I was conducting myself.

Despite it not being a primary concern at the time, I remained aware of the responsibilities that I had towards those around me, although it was focused on the material and physical contributions from my side and little else. Meeting people with a cheerful disposition was optional, and being pleasant when being dutiful would suffice was a state that I seldom chose for myself. My dominant state was one of being occupied with thoughts of my unhappiness with the world, and with those around me that contributed to everything that I was denied. Those that didn’t speak when their words would have made a difference I saw as cowards and hypocrites, and often as opportunists. But even they were beside the point.

Remaining in a state of depression denied those around me of my non-material contributions that they had a right to. A pleasant environment, a sense of appreciation, a visible gratitude for their presence and contribution in my life, and so much more. It sounds contradictory relative to my complaints, but the truth is that even those that stay out of obligation contribute towards my experiences in ways I mostly only realise much later in life. One story that always comes to mind on this subject is from a workshop facilitator I met very early in my career. I remember him saying that his father was his greatest influence in life. His father used to spend every day all week sitting in his favourite armchair and reading the newspaper without any meaningful engagement with him. It was that persistent sight each day that inspired him to not be like his father. In the absence of that poor example, he may have followed the mainstream and never achieved any great moments.

But more importantly, it was his choice to take something positive from that experience that made the difference. His father failed him in his right to guidance, a sharing of wisdom, healthy debates and meaningful interactions that would feed a healthy self-esteem, but in the absence of that, he did not allow the actions of his father to define him. He moved on and pursued a greater purpose in spite of his upbringing. And that is what remaining in a state of depression denies us. It denies us the ability to pursue those greater callings, that higher purpose, that vision that seems so beautifully out of reach. In our state of depression, we not only deny the reality of that which we have reason to be grateful for, but we also deny those around us the motivation or reason to be grateful for their lot as well. We will never exist in isolation even when we isolate ourselves. The very nature of our birth tethers us to the human race.

But there is a rub in all this. As nonsensical as it may sound, neither is happiness nor depression a choice. Instead, they’re both outcomes of pursuing or abandoning a greater purpose respectively. When we lose sight of our purpose, or at least the pursuit of the same, we will find ourselves suppressing our needs for being associated with something greater than our selves, all the while convincing ourselves that we’re incapable or undeserving, only to be faced with the brutal reality of our betrayal while struggling to hold on to the last breaths of our existence.

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