This blog will be a bit longer than usual, but read on, and you’ll see why.
My Brother, whom I love very much, recently went through an 8 year stint of depression. He asked me to write this blog to share his experience so that anyone out there battling depression knows that there is a way out. First, our story. Second, the takeaway.
He is two years younger than me. Growing up, like all little boys, everyday was a competition to see who was better, faster, or smarter. I was outspoken, he was quiet. I had lots of friends, he had a few. Everything I did, he did the opposite. This was his way of winning the competition.
Years went by and we grew into adults. We had a “manageable” relationship with its fair share of good times and bad. But all the while, there lurked something darker. Deep down inside I knew he resented me for the things I did when we were children; for the ways I made him feel. But like they always say, time heals all wounds. Right? Wrong..
He always had this dark side to him — this deeply rooted anger toward the world. It didn’t really surface much until a couple of years ago, when it came time for him to decide what he wanted to do with his life. He was diagnosed with depression. And, being the intelligent problem solver he is, he tried his best to figure it out. “Well, the way I see it, I’m sad right now because my back is always hurting and I can’t get past it,” or “I think it’s because I can’t seem to find what I want to do with my life,” were things I often heard him say. He was trying to find a reason for the sadness, but to no end.
Then, about a month ago, we had a break through. He came to me and told me, in the most honest and matter-of-fact tone I’d ever heard from him, “You know, I DO NOT like you. We’re never going to be friends.” This was a devastating thought to me. I had futilely spent the past few years of our lives trying to develop our relationship into the brotherly one I had always longed for. And now, it seemed, that would never be.
I tried explaining myself to him as best I could — saying that I loved him and wanted nothing but the best for him. I wanted to help him figure things out as best as I could. None of that mattered to him. His mind was made up. Then, about an hour later, he came to me again and said the words I will never forget as long as I live, “You know what… You’re right.”
What had happened in that last hour?!?! I was flabbergasted. How could he have changed his mind so quickly? And then it all made sense: He had confronted the root of his problem. His resentment for me, that he had held onto all his life, had perpetuated his sadness. Every action I took to try to help him actually pushed him further down. He was so caught up in that competitive mindset that he was actually doing the opposite of what I wanted; he was subconsciously trying NOT to get better. And the worst part was, that he didn’t even realize it. He didn’t even see that he was doing that until he heard how absurd his own words sounded; “We… will… never… be… friends…” So, all the times that I had poured my heart into helping him see the light, he viewed as me selfishly trying to make myself feel better. He created the issue that was pushing him deeper.
Now here we are, talking everyday. He tells me that he cannot wait for each new day to begin and he can’t sleep at night. He asks me questions about life and love and tells me all about what he wants to be someday. He is, now, the person I had always hoped he would be.
Battling the Perfect Storm
Depression, on a neurological level, occurs when there is a lack of the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for motivation, self confidence, and energy. Quite fittingly, those that suffer from depression exhibit signs of excessive tiredness, low self confidence, and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Now you may ask, how can someone battle something if its caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain? Here’s the thing to remember: EVERYTHING we see, feel, and experience is caused by a rise or subsidence of a certain chemical in the brain. That is simply how we feel emotions. More precisely, that is what they are.
The worst part about depression is that the person usually forms logical explanations for the way they’re feeling, as we always do. Have you ever felt angry for no reason and asked yourself, “Why do I feel so angry right now?” only to realize that it was because you were still heated about some guy stealing your parking space 6 hours before? Thats how our minds work. We feel an emotion, then search for a reason for it until we find one. When this is applied to depression, it’s a downward spiral. Only it is one that gets stronger and more dangerous the more it swirls, much like a hurricane: the perfect storm.
While someone is depressed, they often dwell on the issues that seem to bother them the most. These are the things that they can’t change about themselves or their lives that make them sad. In my example above, he blamed his back problems and social inadequacies. The more one focuses on these reasons for being sad, the stronger they become. Similarly, the winds of a hurricane only make the storm bigger and stronger as they blow. But, just like a storm, it eventually breaks. What I want those of you reading this to know is that everyone can find this breaking point. They just need to get to the eye of the storm.
To clarify, the eye of a storm is the peaceful, calm center (shown at the center of the picture above) around which all turmoil circulates. If you were to stand at the eye of a storm, you may very well have NO IDEA that you were in a storm at all. It would appear to be sunny and mild like any other day. This relates perfectly to depression. At the center, amidst all the swirling thoughts of anger, sadness, and anxiety, exists a peaceful eye. If the affected person could get there, it likely that the storm would dissipate almost on its own. But what if they can’t?
Usually, the reason they can’t get there is because they haven’t confronted the root of their issues. In my situation, it was my brother admitting his concealed hatred for me, which was very hard for him to do. It was so hard in fact that he went on for years holding onto it, without even knowing what it was doing to him. It took him saying it out-loud, hearing his own words, and watching my reaction to see his error. And then, just like that, he found the eye of the storm. The clouds fell around him and the sun shone brighter than every before.
THE TAKEAWAY: Depression is a very serious matter. Those who suffer from it should seek help in whatever way they can (either personal or professional). What I hope to offer here is a mindset for viewing depression — a paradigm shift, if you will. If one is able to view their own negative thoughts as winds swirling around a singular, immovable issue, then maybe then can find their eye. And, if they are able to confront the root of that issue and stand in the eye of the storm, maybe then, they too can watch the clouds fall around them… and see the sun.
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sun-shiny day.