Depression is a liar. It tells a story with great conviction. The story is this: “This depressed me is the real me. Sometimes I feel temporarily happier, but I know I will just return to this real self. I can fake it, but it’s not genuine. Nothing will ever change. No matter how hard I try, I’ll always be defeated. All I can do is just tolerate it.”
It’s a big fat lie. The truth is, life has its ups and downs. Good things will happen; bad things will happen. We will be selfish and destructive, and we will be heroic and talented. We will fall down and not want to get up. We will play and be joyful. And we will help other people and inspire them. We will be loved and rejected. Worried and confident. We will be depressed and happy.
Sometimes we think the river that runs through our lives is hopelessness or sadness or ultimate defeat. “That’s just how I am,” we say to ourselves. But that is not true. The truth is, the river that runs through us is the self that has continuity over our lifetimes. It is not our moods and it is not our actions. The river is the deep convictions and ideals we care about.
What we pay attention to grows in strength and consistency. We keep coming back to what matters. We put our focus on what we care about; we remind ourselves to inhabit the joy when it happens. We appreciate the good in our lives and recognize the losses. We get back up and keep making effort. And the quality of our experience gets better. Incrementally. Two steps forward and one step back.
And weirdly, the actual structure of our brains changes. The chemistry in our heads is altered. And we find, after all, that we are in charge of our lives. Not in the ways we thought. Not by controlling the world and not by giving up. Not by insisting on the outcomes we want. But by little by little constructing ourselves to be the persons we want to be and appreciating–not just accepting–the richness of this journey of being alive.