October 13, 1995


No problem is so big or complicated that it can't be run away from.

Charles Schulz (Linus in "Peanuts")

It's hard to pick up a magazine these days without an article on depression. It seems to be the disease of the month -no it is the disease of the decade. All of those articles leave the impression that if you are depressed, you should seek the help of a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or a physician. Why not? The people writing the articles are short on clients. If they weren't, they might not have time to write the articles.

The helper priesthoods would have little to do if people took care of their own problems. If you have an infection, or heart disease, or cancer, your physician can do you lots of good. If you are depressed, a doctor is likely to give you some pills which will dull your sensibilities, or give you a lift or something. It will not get at the source of your depression.

Depression is a part of the human condition. It is as normal and natural as joy. I suspect that the average philosopher knows more about it than the average physician. The reason that elation is not considered a disease is that no one wants to be cured of it. Everyone would prefer not to be depressed, or melancholy, sad, unhappy, miserable etc.

People who have learned to live successfully accept depression for what it is: a big pothole in the road of life. They have a variety of devices that they use to help to dispel it. For some it's chocolate, buying clothes or tools, seeing a comedy, sports, music....and on and on.

"But," you might say, "That is for ordinary depression; what do you do for severe depression? What about the kind of depression that makes you think that you would like to end it all?"

Severe depressions usually have a cause. Sometimes it is the death of a loved one, sometimes it is your spouse divorcing you -or not divorcing you- or being infirm. All of these things, except getting old, will pass with time. Even old age will eventually pass. The key is patience and distraction.

The first question that a psychologist is likely to ask is "What is bothering you." If you are depressed, ask yourself the same question. If you can give yourself an honest answer, you're half way to being able to deal with it yourself. If you don't know, maybe a competent shrink can help you to find out. Sometimes a perceptive friend can do the same thing.

When I'm depressed, which is often, I write. Sometimes what I write gives me a clue. Once I find out what is depressing me, I try to figure out how to solve the problem. If I can't solve it, or if it is unsolvable, I try to figure out how to avoid it.

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