I had a bit of an aha! moment this morning while slurping over-hot coffee to try and kickstart brain and body to face the day. The coffee didn’t really work and I’ve been dragging myself around all day; I was virtually Neanderthal by the time I walked home.
The aha! moment came when I realised that nothing I ever achieve in this life is ever going to make me happy or cure my depression. Achievements are irrelevant to brain chemistry. I bet most of us have had that secret thought now and again that says, I’d be happy if I could only….. win the Lottery, get a better job, lose weight, stop smoking or whatever you like. Well, it ain’t going to happen.
My personal dreams and ambitions are utterly irelevant to whether I am happy or not. If I achieve them, great. Wonderful in fact. But they aren’t what is going to make me contented, at peace with myself.
I guess I’ve always known this. But today I felt like I knew it for the first time. It’s a total sea change for me, because I’ve frequently felt that when I achieve certain things I will be magically cured.
This doesn’t mean I stop seeking and trying and striving to get there. But it does mean I don’t have the same agenda and the same scope for disappointment either.
You see, I’ve begun to believe that for some barmy reason my brain uses up the feel-good chemical serotonin far faster than it can replenish it. I have taken SSRIs off and on for years (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors for the uninitiated) and they are a mere band aid to the problem. Something goes wrong in my grey matter. Maybe thinking too hard does it; maybe it’s purely genetic. But the fact remains that at regular intervals I am unable to feel much happiness in anything.
To realise that my goals in life will not have the power to change that makes me feel rather less pressured to achieve them. I’m not a believer in the whole pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps attitude to depression, nor for that matter in the medicate-till-you-ache method either. But it does give me a somewhat Zen stance on the whole thing. It still matters whether I get there (wherever THERE is) but not because of the depression.
It’s a wildly liberating idea for me. I’d felt for so many years an intense pressure to achieve certain almost unobtainable things and every time I had a set back or a knock, it made it worse because I’d unknowingly tied up all my feelings about curing my depression in achieving that goal. I’d beat myself up far worse than any disappointment could, simply because I felt I’d failed (yet again) to find the Holy Grail.
In religious terms I might say I felt my salvation lay in works. But any mystic will tell you this is Bullshit of the worst kind. Salvation is by grace.
So God grant me courage to change the things I can change
May He grant me the grace to accept the things I can’t change
And may He grant me the wisdom to know the difference