Recently I spent a bit of time with a friend who had just fought a week-long battle against a severe, crippling depression. Eight pounds or more lost due to a lack of appetite type depression.
Depression is an insidious affliction. It's largely invisible, but can be as debilitating to those who suffer from it as having every limb in a visible sling or cast simultaneously, or worse.
Because what is happening in the mind of a person who suffers from depression cannot be seen, they are largely scoffed at as attention seekers who just have to snap out of it, or even worse, accused of being charlatans playing on the sympathies of those around them.
Which, of course, only makes it worse for those who suffer from depression. Because their condition(s) frequently leads to being castigated or ostracized, many people who suffer from depression learn at an early age to put on a happy face for the general public. They construct personas for public consumption that reflect what they believe people want them to be, but which are nothing like what they really are.
I know this because I did this. I tried to relate this to the friend who had been fighting depression, but unfortunately, now that I am regarded as a happy go lucky person by most people, including the friend in question, it's difficult for others to see me any other way than that.
But that's not how it always was for me. Being happy was not part of my life until I had made it past the first three decades.
It wasn't until I was in my early thirties that the constant desire to either run away from the world or to lash out at it inexplicably left my consciousness and I felt a true sense of well being, of being not only worthy of a place in the world, but being entitled to it.
For most of the first three decades of my life I had always felt out of place, and not just in social situations. I could be all by myself in as safe and neutral a place as possible and still feel as if I didn't belong there.
And I was angry. Extremely angry, at the hand I had been dealt in life, and at the world in general.
Then one day I just didn't feel that way anymore. I wish I could claim that I knew what had happened, but I actually don't know what happened. If I knew I would write a book or two about it and make a pile of cash. But I don't.
I've a few a ideas about what could have contributed to the resetting of my worldview, but it's all conjecture on my part. I spent a great deal of time and effort trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and part of that time and effort was devoted to reading the works of a few pioneering Psychiatrists, especially Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Frankl was a fairly unique man. He survived a Nazi concentration camp (which his parents and wife did not) and in the aforementioned Man's Search For Meaning, which he published in 1946, he wrote about his experiences during his time in Auschwitz, the importance of hope, and about finding a reason to continue living, to continue fighting for life, in the face of the most dire of circumstances.
Frankl's work and words had an affect on me, and no doubt contributed to the seachange in my mindset, but I cannot say it was the single thing that did the trick. There was much more, from the writings of James Allen to the mere presence of good friends, that also have to be considered contributing factors.
And that's all I had to offer; read the works of people who have survived worse horrors than you can imagine or who have observed the human condition and somewhat figured it out, and surround yourself with good friends.
Not much I realize, but at least it's something.