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

8 thoughts on “Insight

  1. Brain chemistry is a mystery. Have you tried any anti-depressants that work on dopamine or nuerepinephrine? I take welbutrin, because SSRIs can trigger mania in me. Some doctors mix welbutrin with SSRIs. As you say, it’s only a bandaid, but it’s nice to have the best one possible.

    I like the way you’ve linked depression with salvation by grace. It’s another area that the western world is convinced we can conquer by sheer will.


    • I’ve yet to find a doctor who is savvy enough to persist beyond initial assessment, Alice, and I gave up altogether when I asked if there was a chance (as I’d been promised years back) that I could have some therapy, and was told that since I was now walking wounded there was no funding. The whole point of the drugs was to stablise me enough to face Gestalt or whatever. I was furious. It seems over here if you make an effort for yourself, you get less than those who sit around and do nothing for themselves.
      I’m glad you’ve found a bandaid that works!


  2. Seems like you have made a really major insight – and one that relieves you of a lot of internal pressures. You have arrived, by your own efforts, at a position of understanding of your life and your situation. Maybe the attainment of constant ‘happiness’ is unrealistic.
    Accepting that you are not always going to feel ‘happy’ (whatever way you choose to define that emotion), and understanding that this is a normal way of being for you (and maybe for many others), seems a very positive outlook to me.
    Continuing with all the creative and professional activities in which you already engage, things from which you may derive a sense of achievement or contentment as you strive towards them, put together with your recent insights about the nature of the depressed feelings, gives you perhaps an acceptable framework for living your life. You can fully appreciate the moments of peace and joy without thinking that this needs to be a constant state.


  3. I wonder if happiness is all that it is cracked up to be. I think that the pursuit of happiness is the surest path to being unhappy. It’s enough for me to be able to think, to write, to feel. The alternative is “nothing.”

    Making peace with being myself, living with myself is the best I can do. Perhaps that is the best anyone can do.


  4. Great Viv.

    “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”

    These aha moments are when suddenly the dark room gets lighted up . The knots get untied and the questions become answers!

    Just simple acceptance and moving forward. This is the lesson I am learning. Life is a continuous learning process. I suppose we keep on learning and evolving till our last breadth.


    • I hope so. The friends of mine who choose to stay in one place (not literally) are the ones I often feel are the least interesting too, because their learning process is so limited.
      I’m soooo tired though now and I still have over a week to go before I have a day off!


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