Have you read many articles about how to deal with depression? If your answer is yes, then you are not alone. Reading such articles is a good start, but we need to go further. Thinking positively is good, but we need more than positive thoughts or actions.
If you are suffering from depression, you know the depression is a medical illness. It’s more than feeling sad for one or two days. You need to fight it every day.
This is why I want to share with you what helped me to battle exhausting and terrible depression. Some people take pills to treat their depression, but I prefer natural remedies, so I want to recommend a book.
Being introduced to Viktor Frankl’s work
When I was at university, I took a Communications course in my last semester. In the first week, the professor gave us an assignment to read Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book called Man's Search for Meaning, which is classified as a psychology book.
Frankl was a Vienna-based psychiatrist and neurologist. In the book, he wrote about his ordeal while imprisoned in concentration camp inmate during the Second World War. It is truly amazing how you can imagine the whole situation, and feel that you are in the concentration camps. I won’t tell you more about it.
While this book certainly helped me to deal with my depression, there’s a lot that it can offer and teach all readers. You can find it online (for free!) in .pdf format. Make sure you have Kleenex beside you for the entire 200 pages of the book as I guarantee that it’ll have you in tears.
There is a second book by the same author called Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning—published in 1997—which I haven’t yet read. The book is a sequel to the first one and consists of nine essays that focus on a person's spiritual rather than existential striving. In the book, he makes some profound observations about the nature of religiosity.
Symptoms of depression
You don’t know if you have depression or if it is just sadness or a dislike for something. It’s okay; with a little education, it becomes easier to differentiate between them, but there are some symptoms that serve as common indicators. For example, you feel hopeless and helpless, and you’ve lost interest in friends, activities and things you used to enjoy.
There were days that I didn’t want to do anything because I felt helpless. I used to dance a lot before my depression, then I stopped. I asked my stepfather about his depression, and he says that some some days you have a desire to do things and other days you just want to be in bed. It is hard to find excitement again, and you feel everybody around you is aware of your illness.
Other common symptoms include: feeling tired all the time, your sleep patterns and appetite have changed and you can’t concentrate or you find that previously easy tasks are now difficult.
Some people lose weight while others gain weight, but this is not always related to eating less or more. It’s also common to suffer from insomnia, and—no matter how hard you try—controlling negative thoughts is impossible because reality punches you really hard.
Not everyone who is depressed experiences sadness, though. Instead, they become short-tempered, irritable or aggressive than usual.
Some people will also turn to alcohol to deal with their unpleasant realities or problems while still others start to behave more recklessly. So, if you notice any distinct, and negative, changes in your behavior, there’s a good chance that you may be depressed even if you don’t feel sad.
How the book helped me
Knowing that there are people suffering more than me makes me feel grateful about the things that I have. However, finding a meaning for my life is one of the biggest things I learned from this book.
The people who survived the camps all had a reason to fight and live. Those who survived the camps were not always the strongest physically; it was their mental strength and purpose for living that helped them to survive. In my case, I have two very important reasons to live: my little brother and my mother.
If you find that you don’t have a clear meaning in life, Frankl mentions that you can find this by experiencing reality and interacting authentically with the environment and others, or by giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression.
It’s also possible to change your reactions to your situation and surrounding circumstances—even when the situation itself is unchangeable—by having a strong reason or motivation to do so. The stronger the reason, the more successful it will be in helping you change your view of things.
It’s also important to be a little selfish in this regard. I realized that by finding a balance is good for myself and for the people around me, it’s possible to care more and live more peacefully within yourself.
Depression is not something that should be taken lightly, and this article is certainly not intended to replace the advice of a qualified professional if you suspect that you may be depressed or if you have been diagnosed with depression.
However, I strongly recommend reading Man’s Search for Meaning—even if you are not depressed—because it offers valuable insight into the way people deal with even the most horrendous situations and come out stronger than ever.