Tag Archives: happiness

Ramblings About How I Cured My Depression

Since Robin William’s suicide I’ve been thinking a bit more about depression and my own relationship with it. It’s always been a very important topic for me. I used to be very depressed to the point where I made plans to kill myself and I think once when I was about twelve I even walked out the door with the intention of following through with it.

One day in seventh grade I remember telling half the class that I wished I was dead. Someone told me that wasn’t cool to joke about and I insisted that I was not joking and I genuinely wished I was dead. I never heard back about that. No one mentioned it to the teacher as far as I know, or if they did, she didn’t bother to address it.

The depression felt absolutely inescapable. For many years I envisioned my adult life as nothing more than going to work, coming home and watching television by myself. My greatest dream in life was to have 500 channels to distract me from how much I hated life. Having a successful career or even a loving girlfriend seemed completely unrealistic for me.

Then I went through a magical transformation in my late teens. It didn’t feel like I overcame a chemical disorder in my brain. It felt like reality itself had altered, like the whole universe had changed shape and meaning, as though God had finally presented Himself to me. If I went back in time to tell myself how happy I would be in my adult life, there’s no chance I would have believed it. I was so deep in depression that I wasn’t able to even accept that this kind of happiness and satisfaction was possible in human beings.

I think that may be one of the keys. A depressed person must first accept that happiness, true happiness and satisfaction absolutely is possible. But how do you communicate that? Just telling someone that it’s possible isn’t going to do it because it’s a feeling and belief that lies much deeper than our logical reasoning.

For so many years I’ve wanted to try to explain how I did it but it seems like every year that goes by it gets harder to frame into words and I lose the sense of what it felt like to be depressed.

What I do know is that I made a conscious choice to stop being depressed. I know that’s offensive to many people, but I truly believe it. However, I also remember when people would tell me that I could just choose to be happy. That didn’t help me. Just insisting that happiness is a choice is not doing anything to help people with depression.

On the other hand, insisting that depression is all chemical, calling it a disease, telling people that they are helpless, and implying that the cure can only be done through a doctor, I believe is even more damaging. I think that attitude was a big part of what kept me trapped for most of my childhood. There were actual authorities on the subject telling me that I was helpless, making me believe that there was nothing I could do to affect my own life.

I know that there are many chemical and biological reasons for depression. It frequently seems like a disease to both the sufferer and the medical professionals, but I feel that reminding people of that is an extremely counter-productive approach. People should feel empowered to make changes. Calling it a disease strips people of that power.

I never went to counselors for my depression or even really talked about it beyond that one day in seventh grade. I’m certainly not suggesting that people be that closeted about it, but in a way, I think it helped me by not telling anyone. I was never put in counseling and never prescribed drugs. I came out of my depression completely on my own. I think that counseling may really have helped me get out of it earlier, but I am convinced that taking regular pharmaceuticals may have helped temporarily but would ultimately have made me even more trapped in my negative perspectives.

However, my depression left me right around the same time that I got deep into marijuana and psychedelic use and started selling drugs. You could argue that the mushrooms, LSD and other psychedelics I took at that time changed the chemical makeup of my brain and allowed me to find a better life. There’s probably some truth to that, but at the same time I’ve known many depressed people who smoke weed and take psychedelics and see no improvement. In a very small number of cases it even seemed to make it worse. So simply going out and having fun with recreational drugs is not going to cure depression.

So what was it that really ended my depression? It’s hard for me to know for sure, but I think it had to do with me just kind of giving up on a lot of stuff. Again, not something I would recommend for someone fighting depression. But in all honesty, I kind of gave up on life. Specifically, I gave up on trying to find a girlfriend, but also, in general I gave up on my drive to be happy and fulfilled. Instead, I decided to just start smoking pot until I forgot how sad I was. I figured when the marijuana stopped killing the pain I would start drinking and if that didn’t do it I’d move on to coke and eventually heroin if that’s what it took to to make myself feel good.

I hesitate to tell this story because it sounds like absolutely horrendous advice to give to someone with depression. And it would be. In no way am I advising folks to take this approach.

On the other hand, it’s what worked for me. Life is such a strange, backward, counter-intuitive experience. Perhaps realizing that was part of my solution. I had to recognize that there is no logical road map for life and there never will be. Each and every person must carve their own path.

There were other things during that time that I think kept me safe from dangerous drug addiction. I got some minor drug addictions to marijuana and tobacco and may have felt myself becoming addicted to a couple other things like a form of speed that was still legal, but nothing that would kill me.

But I think what it came down to was that I was willing to make the decision to end my depression. I was willing to make the sacrifices. I was willing to give up all respect from my family and society as I went down my path of illicit drug use. I was okay with the risks. I knew I might go to prison or wind up dead in a ditch. I accepted that. At the time I didn’t realize how safe marijuana and mushrooms really were so I always felt like I was taking this huge risk. I think that sense of risk helped tremendously. Even though the fear was unpleasant at the time, the next day, after facing my fears of trying that new mystery drug, I felt empowered, like I’d overcome something, even if I hadn’t enjoyed the high. In the long run I think that was a major player in the end of my depression.

Another thing I think, was simply the marijuana community in Bellingham, Washington. That was just a unique and happy coincidence that the small-time drug dealers and users in that town were such supportive and caring individuals who accepted me for who I was without judgement. I guess that’s one solid piece of advice I can give in all this rambling: surround yourself with people who support you and accept you for who you are. Reject the others… but reject them compassionately.

On the other hand, you also want to surround yourself with people who are honest with you, who aren’t going to lie to you to protect your feelings. For me, I am happiest and most comfortable around people who I know aren’t going to sugar-coat things. If I catch someone lying, even if it’s coming from a place of love, I lose trust in that person and I lose a measure of self-respect. If I see them being brutally honest with someone, even if they’re being harsh, that can make more comfortable knowing they probably aren’t harboring unspoken judgments.

Is that good advice? I don’t know. It seems so counter-intuitive. Many folks insist that you should be supportive and make people feel good even if that means not being totally straight with them. That doesn’t work for me but it might for other people. But I wonder if many people who take that attitude are also suffering depression. It does seem kind of rare to see someone who is ruthlessly honest and straightforward who is also suffering from deep depression, but maybe that’s just my own perceptions fucking with me.

But maybe the best advice I can give is to experiment. Don’t just accept your depression lying down. Try new things. Try new ways of looking at life. Get to know new kinds of people. Gauge how all this makes you feel over time and keep experimenting. If something helps you feel empowered or like there’s a beacon of hope, then explore it further, even if it doesn’t directly help your depression. Search for new and different ways to truly convince yourself that escape is possible and that you deserve that escape, and that your friends, family and society are all rooting for you.

On the other hand, I’m no psychologist or counselor. I’m just one dude who happened to cure his own depression and is now writing a rambling, disorganized blog post about it. Who knows if I have any idea what I’m talking about.

Happiness Is A Choice

This Is Scientific Proof That Happiness Is A Choice.

This is an article I found that sparked my thinking about this concept. I don’t like the idea of ‘proof’ since I don’t think there is such a thing as proof since there is always the chance something in our reasoning is incorrect and I think it’s dangerous to think of things in absolutes like that. However, I do truly believe that happiness is a choice. Furthermore I believe many other things in life that people believe they are stuck with are also choices. I know that’s an offensive thing to say but I don’t say it because I want to hurt the feelings of people with chronic depression, attention-deficit disorder, insomnia or members of the gay community, but I say this to empower people. I do not understand why so many people take so much comfort in this idea that they are helpless to change who they are…

…well, I heard a theory once. I believe her name was Carolynn Myss or something like that–but I may be confusing her with someone else, but I rented this video of a speech she gave about people hanging onto their pain and emotional and physical injuries. She described this concept of “social currency”, the idea that people hold onto their problems in order to gain that sympathy that they crave from society, that they make subconscious choices that undermine their attempts to heal so they can prove that they are helpless, that they are just a victim, to gain that sympathy from people and to feel comfortable in their place in life.

I see overweight people with unhealthy lifestyles who fall and hurt themselves, get headaches and regularly feel ill and tired, then wonder why they have such bad luck and imply that they are somehow cursed instead of admitting that their unhealthy lifestyle is affecting their health. They get offended when people don’t show sympathy or recommend changes they could make to improve their health. It’s so simple to drink enough water or balance your protein intake yet they refuse to do it and roll their eyes when someone suggests that one thing affects another, just insistent that they are powerless.

It seems like when I was a kid we still had people in the gay community considering the idea that they had made a choice, saying “well, maybe when I was a little kid I just saw the way this society works and the way men and women treat each other and I saw the overpopulation and this static, plastic society we live in and I just decided I wanted something better for my life and it just stuck in my head and it became a part of me over time. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell.” But now they won’t even consider the idea, and anyone who suggests that there’s an element of choice in our sexuality is just an asshole, hate-monger republican. This attitude, I think, makes the whole situation worse for the gay community, increasing their sense of helplessness and increasing homophobia and decreasing individuals and society’s ability to understand their own sexuality.

Instead, I believe in choice. I was NOT born this way. When I was born my brain was unformed, as I heard in some documentary about childbirth. When we are born, our brains are simpler than just about any other mammal. Everything we are, everything that makes us human beings is formed after we are born, through our environment and our choices. Nothing is completely out of our control. You can show me scientific evidence of how wrong I am, because I’m sure there is lots, but all that will do is empower you to be powerless and meanwhile those of us who believe in choice, will be capable of figuring out ways around our problems, to deal with them, eliminate them, or turn them to our advantage.

When I was a kid I was very depressed, and granted, part of it was school. Just being trapped in a classroom every day without ever given an opportunity to feel like I was actually accomplishing anything or feel like I had a choice, that was much of what made me depressed, but the core of my depression came from me. I could have dealt with it if I’d had the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and be the person I wanted to be instead of embracing the idea that this was just who I was and I’d be depressed forever. I remember watching Herman’s Head and thinking that’s all I wanted out of life, was 500 channels on the TV and if I was lucky I could find a girlfriend who didn’t get mad at me for looking at porn. That was the extent of my ambitions. Today I have accomplished all of my childhood goals plus so much more.

When I was 18 I started smoking pot, and I don’t want to imply that marijuana cured my chronic depression but it did open pathways in my mind that allowed me to think about life and the universe in a totally different manner. It allowed me to accept the fact that I’m just a human of flesh and blood and that my life really isn’t worth a whole lot, which sounds depressing but in my situation it was freeing and empowering, knowing that if I had an accident and killed myself, it would not be a travesty. I started taking risks in life and started going out to enjoy myself. Instead of blindly following society’s standards I started selling weed and making friends, many of whom are still good friends today, putting an end to the loneliness that had plagued me my whole life.

I recall after I’d been in the drug community for maybe a year or so, around early 1998, and I broke up with my girlfriend for unrelated reasons and I had this night where my depression came back. It was really weird as I still did not have a solid understanding of how my mind worked. I don’t remember what exactly happened that night but I remember taking a large dose of mushrooms by myself, as I was still under the mistaken impression, inspired by my old DARE classes, that drugs just “make” you happy, like they can just kill the sadness the way ibuprofen kills physical pain. Of course, this is a dangerous fallacy but something many drug users fall into. So I took shrooms by myself and walked to the graveyard where I had happily tripped  with friends a few times before. It was a mile or two away and as I walked I became more and more depressed and dejected, thinking of how all of society hated me for being a drug user, how I had not yet become open about it with my family and of course about how I’d finally had to end it with my girlfriend who I cared about very deeply but just wasn’t sexually attracted to anymore.

I think that may have been the night when I started to really understand that pot and shrooms tend to act as enhancements to the feelings you already have and do not change your emotions. I tried and tried to get into the trip like I usually could when I was out with my friends. The more I tried to make myself happy, the more depressed I became. So I decided to just go the opposite, explore the depression and just become as miserable and unhappy as I possibly could, thinking that at the very least, in the future, I would be able to tell myself “well, at least it’s not as bad as that night I went to the graveyard by myself on shrooms”. It rapidly became a horrible experience and I remember sitting on someone’s tomb, smoking bowls, dwelling on my ex-girlfriend, dwelling on my lack of accomplishments in my high-school years, dwelling on how my writing wasn’t progressing as I’d hoped, and dwelling on how I’d decided to become one of the most hated members of society, a drug user and beginning drug dealer. I told myself how worthless I was, how everyone hated me for who I was, how politicians campaign on their desire to destroy my life because society blames people like me for all their problems. I felt like I’d sink into this pit of tears and horribleness but I was so angry at my mind, so angry at my depression that I just pushed harder, saying fine, if I’m gonna be depressed, I might as well go all the fucking way with it.

Then I hit a wall, a place where I found that could not get any worse, a place that started to finally make sense and it was something that could not be put into words, an understanding of how the human mind works, how our emotions drive us, how they were created through millions of years of randomness and evolution to serve certain purposes but were not specifically designed and don’t always make sense. I learned more about myself that night, high on shrooms, alone in a graveyard than I think I ever have on any night before or since.

And all that depression reformed itself into a thoughtfulness, a revelation that I wish I could put into words. What I was feeling ceased to be depression and became a new perspective and a desire to make a positive change in my life… but not the kind of change that society demanded of me, the kind of change I wanted for myself.

I remember walking back from the graveyard after I had peaked and wondering what the hell had made me so depressed just a couple hours earlier. I saw the cars passing by and thought about the internal combustion engine and how spectacular it is that human beings could create something like that, how we could take charge over physics and our environment to benefit everyone (not that I think automobiles are such an awesome invention now. That’s just what I was thinking at the time.)

And I got back home and started listening to Weird Al Yankovic thinking that my life would never be the same, that I would never again feel that low, never again feel so helpless, feeling like I had finally, after all these years, made a conscious choice to take control of my mind and soul and that I finally had the power to be the person I want to be.

Anyway… I’ve been rambling. I wanted to talk about how people use this “born this way” attitude to justify being an asshole or being closed minded, saying “I can’t help it I’m a music snob” when they say hurtful things about your choice in music, just as an example, or in some cases, when they’re just a selfish asshole but instead I went off on my own little story. I keep wanting to remind my readers that I do not edit these posts any more. I just write and get my thoughts out without worrying about it, instead trying to have a free-flow of ideas, so as a result, shit like this happens.

But back to the point of the story: that you can’t just wake up and decide, “Okay, I’m gonna be happy today” and just make it happen. Maybe that’s what many people think we mean by “happiness is a choice”. But no, it’s much more complicated than that. Sometimes you need the courage to leap off that emotional cliff, the courage to give up everything you believe in and everything you think makes you you in exchange for the things you’ve always wanted but thought you didn’t deserve or otherwise could never have. You might argue that it was not my choice, that it was the shrooms and the weed that saved me, that my brain was simply missing whatever chemicals those drugs provided, but I do not believe that. I think those shrooms could have just as easily done harm, could have sent me in the opposite, unhealthy direction if I had chosen to allow that to happen… on the other hand, I don’t think I would have realized these things until many years later if I had not been experimenting with drugs.

So if you want to be happy, you have to get off your ass and do what you need to do to make it happen. Research the science behind happiness, explore your mind. Figure it out. Don’t just listen to Lady Gaga and tell yourself you were ‘born this way’ and give up. We all have it in us to change who we are and become better, happier people if we put forth the effort and make the decision to make it happen.