Friday, January 23, 2009
My friend Tom Wootton has published a book called The Depression Advantage.
Whoa! I hear you saying. What can possibly be advantageous about depression?
Mania? The creativity, the productivity, the good times. You can make a pretty good case for some kind of mania advantage. Indeed, Mr Wootton's earlier book is called "The Bipolar Advantage."
In my own case, depression has left me for dead more times than I can count. "Finish the job, yourself," Fred (my name for my depression) keeps mocking me. Fred has left me alone, washed up on a strange shore, lost, disoriented, isolated. He has stolen time from me, years of it, lost years, years I will never get back.
As for the years I have remaining, Fred says nothing, just gives me that look.
So, again, what can possibly be advantageous about depression?
Believe it or not, I have two concrete case studies from my own life. Case study number one:
My first marriage broke up in the 1980s. Because of a precious young daughter, the break-up was especially rough on all of us. This occurred several months into a new job. I was one year out of law school. It was my first management position. It involved a discipline (journalism) I had no training for, working in a field (finance) I had no inkling of.
In short, I was an impostor. I had no hope of keeping the charade going. Any second, I was going to call attention to my total incompetence and lack of experience. Any second, someone was going to lower the boom. Since the economy was in a severe recession, losing my job would amount to the equivalent of being pushed from a plane without a parachute.
The stress was getting to me. My behavior was bordering on unpredictable.
Then came my marriage break-up. Once I got over the initial shock, a numbing thudding depression settled in. Oddly enough, a protective depression. In my slowed-down state of mind, the rest of the world no longer seemed so threatening. Likewise, my equally slowed-down behavior brought me into sync with the people around me, allowed me to fit in, settle down, buy precious time.
Make no mistake. I was alone, unhappy, miserable. But my depression acted as vital mental ballast that steadied me, allowed me to keep my cool, to buckle down and learn on the job. I made it through my first year, then my second. After three years - with my reputation firmly established - I was able to move on to greener pastures.
Don't get me wrong. I hate depression. I wish I never had it. I wish no one ever had to experience it. Ever. But if you were to challenge me to name one good thing about depression, well, I just did.
Lots more on this in future blogs ...