On Saturday, I felt the onset of what I’ve come to know as an episode of depression.

When it happens, whatever I’m doing doesn’t matter — the world is just an awful place to inhabit, at least in my own head.  Nothing can cheer me up, even a great joke or the cooing sounds of my infant daughter. There’s no point in trying to sing about sunshine and lollipops. I feel worthless and completely undeserving of all the good fortune that has come my way. I’m inconsolable, and all I can pay attention to is the negative.

I’ve learned that the best way to deal with these “attacks” is be honest with myself and not try to hide it from those around me, lie down and then feel and confront the sadness.

Anyone who’s been through it — and there are millions of you out there — know the experience. In my case, the real misery lasted about an hour this time. This was bad as any back spasm or leg injury. I had to cry. Then I fell asleep and it passed. Later I woke up, spent hours organizing the kitchen of the new place, played with the baby and slept contentedly.

It’s hardly a tragedy and I’m lucky this one was so brief. These attacks don’t happen every day, and most times they’re pretty controllable. The real tragedy is to know that people endure these episodes for days, months and years because the right combination of medication and emotional support isn’t working,

The next day gave me some much-needed perspective on what had happened. We went to our Hindu ashram’s monthly congregation meeting, which had a rare lecture from the “Gurudev” or leader, Swami Ramakrishnananda. I was touched that he remembered our prayers for a child, made long ago.

The man is shy and retiring and prefers to let his disciples run things, but his lectures are awesome. The essence of what Gurudev said is that the mind can be our worst enemy.

“Be very careful of the stories you tell yourselves,” he said in concluding the lecture.” They can cause a great deal of destruction.”

Like many, I come from a culture, family and professional background where the greatness of the mind and achievement with it took precedence above all else. Hearing those kinds of words in the past had been a rude shock, but yesterday it all made sense.

With depression, too much of the emphasis has been to “make it go away,” mainly through medication. Confronting the sources of those untrue the stories we tell ourselves really aren’t always part of medical practice, especially in a healthcare system demanding instant cures.

As the American Psychiatric Association debates its proposed changes to the diagnosis of depression, my hope is that they also take a closer look at the games our own minds play with us, or as Gurudev calls them, “the stories we tell ourselves.” Millions of people could benefit.

 

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