Ok, well, I seldom get depressed any more. That's not to say I never do, but it is rare.
On the other hand, when I was younger, it was a very serious issue for me. Even when I was a very little kid, I got depressed. I can remember very vividly this one time I was on the couch in the living room, in a fetal position but on my stomach, and this blanket pulled over me so I was like totally enclosed, like back in the womb. I have no clear memory of what triggered this but I know I was SO unhappy, so sad, so scared, felt so fucked up, all I wanted to do was shrink down into a tiny dot and disappear from this earth. I couldn't have been more than 6 or 7 years old. So that's my earliest memory of it.
Of course I didn't 'live' in that state. It was one of many little kids go through. But it continued and got worse as I got older, especially in my mid-teens up through I'd say, about age 30. I was an extremely introverted, shy kid and although I had quite a few adventures in my late teens going on into my 20s (it was the 60s after all!) the depression would sometimes take hold and not let go. I remember this one time in like 1970, I was out of school and had a job, living on my own, I got so depressed I couldn't leave the apartment. I didn't want to see anyone, talk with anyone, didn't even call in sick at work. I just literally HID. Eventually my boss came to my apartment and knocked on the door to see if I was alright. I didn't open the door but just told him to go away! He eventually did, at least he knew I was alive. I didn't even get fired! Eventually I surfaced and told him/them (it was small family owned business) that I was just fucked up.
It was not long after this, though, that I began to seek psychological help. My first therapist was a man who had been referred to me by an anthropology professor that had befriended me in college. Interesting experience. And it was through him that I eventually met the woman therapist that I moved to California to work with on a regular basis. He had met her at Esalen
and invited her to Chicago to give weekend workshops. Moving to California to work with her turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
It took years for me to come to terms with my depression (and social anxiety) and what all was behind it. For example, one of the things I learned in therapy with her, through regression therapy
techniques, was that a lot of my depression came from my birth experience. I know, weird, but here's what had happened: My mother was in her 40s when she was pregnant with me and when the birth time came, they shot her up with a lot of anesthetics. These drugs went through the placenta into my body so… where the birth experience is supposed to be an exhilarating challenge for an infant that engages his senses directly as he passes through the birth canal, for me it wasn't. The fundamental pattern that was laid down for me at birth was: When you feel stress, go numb! Pass out!! When you're about to be born, shut down, DIE!
So this is what my fundamental neurophysiology had "learned" from the first moments of my life. This is how it dealt with stress, it regressed to that 'shut down' state. Later as I grew older and began to 'think' about shit, it became a vicious cycle, like a vortex of thoughts and feelings, that circled round and round and sucked me down into myself and trapped me there. In my later teens and early 20s I often felt suicidal, like life was just 'too much'. I couldn't handle it.
So, therapy for me was not just 'talking' to someone, although obviously there was a lot of that, too. But a lot of it was literally going back and re-living these early experiences, getting 'inside' them, so to say, so it wasn't just 'remembering' them in some abstract sense. I literally re-lived them as a young adult.
It was through this that I began to understand why I was the way I was, why I was afraid of people in general, why I hardly ever said a word (my family was a dangerous place for me, this not to mention my sexuality) to anyone. Why I kept myself 'stuck' (not really moving forward with my life), why I felt so confused, alone and alienated. On and on. Lots to get a handle on.
And as I came to understand all this, I learned to see it for what it was: Survival mechanisms. THIS is how I learned to cope with the stresses of life. Ways that no longer *worked* as an adult. They were holding me back, keeping me 'stuck', preventing me from *finally* being born and *finally* being fully alive, awake, and aware.
Now there were actually a lot of things that helped me go through the inner changes I needed to go through. Therapy was only one of them but it was a big component. I'll say that taking psychedelic drugs under the right conditions also helped… but they are dangerous shit. Don't go there if you're emotionally or mentally unstable and *especially* don't go there if you don't have the right 'guides' to pull you through your shit--because chances are very good that inner shit is going to get very thick and very real for you.
Another thing that helped a lot was meeting new people. People who hadn't been apart of my 'growing up' world. People I could relate to and be open and honest with.
So, although it took a long time, eventually at some point I realized I seldom got depressed anymore. I still do, even today, but rarely. When I do, I'm very aware of what's going on, very aware of my mental state and the thoughts going on in my brain. I've learned NOT to take them TOO seriously. It's just a chemical reaction in my brain triggered by stress (usually, for me anyway). I give myself some time to 'indulge' the crap but don't get 'stuck' there. I keep moving, keep my attention on stuff that gives my life meaning.
When we get depressed (at least this is true for me), we get so overwhelmed by the experience. It is like THAT is all that is real to us. Everything else seems to fog over or become invisible, retreating into the background of our moment to moment experience. It feels like a trap, like there is no way out. (This is how the baby feels just before birth, trapped in a 'womb' that from his perspective is getting smaller and smaller.)
I'm always reminded of Alice in Wonderland frantically shaking the door knob trying to get out of the garden, and the door knob eventually points out to her, that she already IS out. It is kind of like that. What is SO REAL to us, isn't actually real in the outer world. Not to say it isn't real at all… of course it is… but it has more to do with us, our state of mind, than what is going on outside. Mostly, anyway. The outer world can trigger the inner response. The question is, can we *see* that triggering happen, can we be a *little bit* objective about it and see that what is *actually* going on in the depression is what I call "an emotional memory". We are remembering FEELINGS from the past that become so real in the present that we can't distinguish these feelings from the past from what is actually going on right now.
I know this is way long but I'm writing all this out so those of you who struggle with depression can hear from someone who has gone all the way through it. Hell, I'm an old man now and have lived an amazing life in a lot of ways. It has NOT been perfect, far from it. I've dealt with a LOT of crazy shit, both in myself and with other people. But the point is, I'm a totally different person than I was when I was in my 20s. You see how I am here on this forum… fairly outspoken. I can write at length like this, for example. BUT it din't used to be that way. I couldn't write one coherent sentence when I was 25 years old and I'm NOT joking. It would take me hours to write one paragraph. It was extremely difficult to gather my thoughts, let alone sort them