Everyone talks about the downside of depression. But is there a good side at all? Anger and stress, for example, can help us adapt to external threat and protect ourselves. But depression? Is there any actual benefit to it? In this article we will discuss the bright side of depression; how in the midst of a storm, we can sometimes catch a glimpse of a rainbow.
1. Depression helps us build stronger relationships
At some point in our life we experience the pain and grief associated with the loss of a loved one. We feel depressed, our life seems empty, we are stressed, and what seemed interesting in the past, now appears meaningless. This pain makes us understand how close we were to this person and how important they were to our life. it is during this depressive phase that we acknowledge how significant our relationships are to our well-being.
2. Depression helps us find meaning
"What's the meaning of it all?" That's the question we keep asking ourselves when we are in a depressed state of mind. It is then when we start asking ourselves whether it is worth investing in relationships, since, in the end, -one way or the other- we are going to lose the people we love; and whether we are worth other people's love and care. We start questioning how much we actually invest in our relationships and in the people we love, and how much we should care. Intimacy is under the microscope during a depressive phase: we so much want it but we are not able to get it. When we start getting out of the depression, we start being kinder to ourselves, we start believing that we deserve to be loved and love again, and slowly we start building stronger and healthier relationships again.
3. Depression keeps us down to earth
What if we believed we were able to achieve anything we wanted? That we were super-power people and nothing could stop us? That going slow and being patient is pointless and everything has to happen at once? Probably we would waste a lot more energy working all day on multiple projects simultaneously, and in the end be disappointed when our not-so-thoroughly-thought plans failed to succeed.
Depression keeps us grounded. "Am I able to go for that goal now?", "Is the timing right?”. "Do I have the skills for that?" are some of the questions we ask. Of course the answer under depression is: "No, I am useless, I cannot pursue my goals and protect myself right now, so I'd better go to sleep again". However, there is a turning point to that. It is when we move away from the extremes (neither "I can succeed in everything" nor "I am going to fail in everything"), we adopt a more pragmatic and realistic point of view. We stay away from tasks doomed to fail, we don't invest more energy than we can spare, we play our cards more carefully and measure the risks and the possibilities in a more balanced way. And then we proceed with our plan.
4. Depression helps us love ourselves as we really are
That's the challenge but also the gain in going through depression: loving ourselves seems to be the most difficult thing in the world, but at the same time it seems to be a one-way road - we don't want to do otherwise. Depression empties our positive "storage room" and fills us with feelings of inferiority and shame. We feel defeated by others and, as if we were not (emotionally) exhausted enough, we constantly compare our lives and our achievements with others', brutally criticizing our decisions and ourselves.
However, at the same time we switch into self-protective mode: "If I cannot change things, then I should accept life as it is." It sounds like giving up, but actually it is not. It is about seeing things from a different perspective, where we do not consider ourselves less capable than others anymore, but we accept ourselves with what we have and make the most of it. Why strive to be someone else, when what we are is already enough? Yes, we are enough.
Does Depression Have Benefits?
As we have discussed, depression might help us become more aware of what is important in our lives, what and who we appreciate and why. It can help us foster gratitude and build a more mindful life where we are more compassionate towards ourselves and others. However, this is not to say that depression is inherently a good thing. Depression can brings us down, make us suffer, and struggle with everyday tasks. If you are struggling with depression, please remember, you are not alone. Seeking help from your loved ones and professionals is the most self-compassionate action you can take. Take care.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.