Chipping Away at The Iceberg of Depression

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     James Hollis, Ph.D., the noted psychologist, once said that we spend the first half of our lives accumulating accolades for our resumes.  These same achievements, he opines, then become the biggest impediments to our making real and healthy changes in our lives.  It’s as if we are at an existential crossroad:  we look back –north for the sake of this analogy – and see what we have accomplished. We then look forward – south – and see an unknown and scary future as yet undefined.   “The past is who I am”, we think.  It offers us a sense of stability, a history and a comfortable life.  Nothing bad in and of itself.  Yet, we may be deeply unhappy and unhealthy.  We may even be suffering from depression because of the stress involved in accumulating these accomplishments.

     The prospect of real change is frightening.  We worry: “What if I make these changes in my life and things don’t get better.  Maybe they’ll even make my depression worse!” Yet, depression is a terrible liar; its voice drips with a corrosive inner directed sarcasm that seeks to undermine any meaningful recovery from it.  It disempowers us from seeking a way out of its meaningless labyrinth.  Its sole agenda is to keep perpetuating itself.

     In some real sense, we must stand up to our depression.  We must disassemble it piece by piece and try to understand what we are dealing with.  We must know its ways and how it manifests in our daily lives.  There are things that we do that propagate it; other things that let it wither on the vine.  

     I used to unwittingly feed my depression with my pensive nature.  In some dreamy sense, I thought I had some dramatic and sad existential take on the human condition.  Sort of like a modern day Tolstoy.  The problem, as I see it now, is that this propensity was not constructive and helpful.  It could, when fueled by the various conniptions of life, be overly dramatic.

     As I’ve previously blogged, pessimistic or distorted thinking is a hallmark of depression.  While I don’t think existential musings make one depressed, I do believe that when we take such thoughts too far or too seriously, we fuel depression. 

     I often think of depression as an iceberg.  We envision these monoliths as permanent, imposing and unshakable.  Yet, we know that they really aren’t.  An increase in temperature (e.g. think global warming) causes chunks of ice to start falling away from the iceberg’s hefty girth.  By standing up to depression, parts of it too begin to fall away.

     We don’t have to take our depression on all at one time, but take it on we must. I like to think of it as a kind of vow we make to ourselves .  Mahatma Gandhi once wrote:  “A vow is fixed and unalterable determination to do a thing, when such a determination is related to something noble which can only uplift the person who makes the resolve.” 

     Standing up to our depression is ennobling and courageous.  Rather than being a victim of depression – and there are sure to be times we feel that way – we can take a vow to stand up to it.

     Please try to be one of the thousands of people who stand up to depression everyday. I have been privledged to know some of these everyday heroes and it always reaffirms my faith in humanity.

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5 thoughts on “Chipping Away at The Iceberg of Depression

  1. ” Please try to be one of the thousands of people who stand up to depression everyday. I have been privledged to know some of these everyday heroes and it always reaffirms my faith in humanity.”

    I’m placing you in that category. Of all the things I’ve sought to read for help, this blog is most singularly helpful.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this horrible experience and condition that is too common.

    No matter how successful you are, depression can arise. It’s then that you have to rely on the knowledge that things can – and will – change.

  3. I can’t quite grasp what to do when I’m in the fullblown grip of depression, which I am right now. I’m not most of the time, but frankly any more travel and court time just sends me into the depth of depression. I hate being in court, just hate it. And I hate traveling. Working up to it sends me into despair, and I can’t ever see being able to escape this situation. I know that I’ll come back out of it, after the travel or court time is over with, but that’s a week or more away, and I’m worried about repeating this again and again.

    I really feel that there’s a sort of litigators PTSD. I have all the symptoms of it, but I haven’t experienced a life threatening injury. I’ve only suffered a psychological injury, and nobody appreciates that easily. Particularly from a lawyer.

    1. Wow, I really understand. I, too, am a litigator veteran. Despite many warning signs, I just kept plugging along. Until things just didn’t work anymore. I started saying to myself, “this job is going to kill me.” I would be miserable every day . . . for years! It got to the point where I said to myself, “there’s got to be a better way to live my life.” I was afraid, but I changed my life. I’ve left the firm I founded and am starting a small practice with my wife. I’ve just begun, but I feel alot of excitement and good that I’ve finally done something about my unhappiness. Think about why you remain at your present job. Ask yourself, and I’m not presuming any answer, if it is truly worth it. If it is, you’ll have to develop a skill set and things you can do when not at work. I can give you some ideas. If it isn’t, that’s another ball game and I might have a few ideas too.

      Hang in there. Be kind to yourself. I’m on vacation with my family. I only check my e-mails in the morning, but please feel free to e-mail back. Warmly, Dan

  4. Thank you so much for replying, it means more than I can say.

    Where you described yourself is exactly where I am. I hate my job everyday. I’m not always in despair, but I’m never happy there. The only reason I stay is I don’t know what else to do. I’m afraid to start a small practice as the only work I have is litigation, and leaving my current firm would scare my family to death, but I do feel like this job is going to kill me.

    Today I’ve been up since 2:30 am tossing and turning about litigation events next week, and stuff I have to get out today. It meant so much to me that somebody else understands this that I actually teared up just reading your reply.

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