I’ve made no secret of my depression, or my ADD, or my imposter syndrome, or my fight with my inner critic and the self doubt that I face regularly. I share and am open about it for one simple reason – it’s a part of the human condition that need not be stigmatized. That we can no longer afford to stigmatize. That we all must learn to overcome, whether for our own good, or for our family, friends, or coworkers.
While we should all learn to understand and accept it, depression shouldn’t be normalized as persistent as it is soul crushing. It causes unnecessary harm to everyone who suffers through it, and those who surround them. I know firsthand what it has done to myself, my wife, my startups, and indeed the world over the years. So much personal and social value has been lost and so many opportunities have been missed, while I have been mired in that fog of darkness. In that cold, dark, lonely, fear filled nighttime of the soul.
When we have the knowledge, the science, and now the awareness to improve the lives of so many as well as the richness of society as a whole, why don’t we do better? Why don’t we solve the mental health crisis once and for all, for everyone, individually and collectively?
The first ‘why’ is the stigma, which is why I’ve been open about it for so long. I had conversation with ADHD Coach Pete Quily at Northern Voice in 2007, and his insights and encouragement showed me the need and helped me connect it as one small but mighty aspect of my life purpose — to heal, unify and orchestrate a #betterworld. In whatever way, small or large that I can.
While fighting my own depression and other personal demons I have… ugh, what a terrible word. Our “demons.” How we exaggerate them and eviscerate our own godliness. Language is so important but even I misuse it frequently, even when sharing deep life long learnings that are part of every one of my days.
These aren’t demons. They’re not even challenges. They are things that happened, or often things that didn’t happen. Things for which I associated negative emotion and through the experience of which I made incorrect assumptions based on that negative feeling and mindset. You see, we each get to choose what events, words, deeds and misdeeds MEAN to us. This is at the core of Buddhism – mindfulness, presence, prayer (setting intention as well as manifesting through the “power” of your God) and most especially, psychology and psychiatry in treating depression.
This is where the Serenity Prayer really hits a home run as a global, cross religious truism:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
What a powerful sentiment. Amazing truly. In many ways, it is reminiscent of a core set of operating system instructions for our interactions with each other and ourselves. Just as with the golden rule:
Do unto other’s as you would have them do unto you.
Regardless of your beliefs or religion or culture, participants in a civil, harmonious society know these sorts of statements to be true. Maybe we should transcend the boundaries of the concept of civil society and strive for a “harmonious society?” Might that be possible, that we could strive for something even greater than civilization? Given what we have attained so far, it might not be such a bad idea to strive for an even higher model of interaction for society.
The point here is depression is normal. We need to be able to talk about it, and empathize with those going through it. We need to improve how we facilitate people discovering their own solutions. We need improve the distribution and acceptance of all evidence based solutions that produce real results. IMHO, we need to urgently work together to get beyond this tremendously costly societal challenge whether we want to sustain civilization or transcend it in the creation of a Harmonious Society.
If the internet has been declared a fundamental human right by the UN, access to knowledge and all forms of healthcare, especially mental health care in all its approached, should also be foundational rights for all humanity. Literally, this is for the good of society. This is for your best interests as well as mine. It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up. In today’s interconnected, interdependent society, if everyone is better off, I am better off, not lesser for it.
But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, so let’s start simple. We all must accept and appreciate that depression is a normal part of the human condition.
If you care about someone or something, or if you want to create something – art, a startup, a movement, a family, anything really, you will face struggles. You will be challenged. You will need to overcome adversity. You will have to learn from others and figure things out on your own.
You will lose. You will make mistakes. You will have people say mean things to you. You will face acts of God. You will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bad people may do bad things to you. You will feel mad about it. You will feel sad about it. You will undoubtedly face a moment where it will be easier to escape or wallow in the darkness then to face it, then bouncing back – learning more and taking the next action you need to take in setting your mind, and the world right in the face of it.
The thing is, as I’ve found, you not only get to choose what it means to you, you get to choose what to do about it.
With love, knowledge, care, and the support of friends, family and society, I see a day where no one need dwell in depression excessively. Where depression is normal, but suffering alone in it is not. Indeed there are lessons that come from depression too as you may have found in some of my thoughts in this post today. So it will still arise and persist, it just needn’t persist for long. For all these reasons and so many others, this is why I have found so much personal freedom and liberation and power in “The Four Agreements“.
Be impeccable with your word
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t take things personally
Always do your best
— Paraphrasing Don Miguel Ruiz
We’ve got a long way to go towards a fully harmonious society. Maybe 50, maybe 100 years, or maybe never. Or maybe something really bad happens and our leaders, and our society as a whole, wake up and start taking right actions and following the principles of the eightfold path and the teachings of their own gods. Maybe then, we can all be better off in a #betterworld.
But let’s start simple, let’s accept that depression is a normal part of the human condition, but stigmatizing it isn’t and should not be any longer. More so, let us all commit to do whatever we can to help more people find a path through it so they can get the most of life for themselves and for the betterment of each and every one of us.
— Please comment and share this post if anything here strikes a chord for you. If this post is interesting to you, you might be interested in my work on The Noble Pursuit, or on what we have started to do with Rysing Tyde. —