Depression is a very controversial topic. Many argue that psychology and psychotherapy have failed to effectively address and treat its destructive symptoms. Today, drugs are most often used to help patients overcome these sensations. Rates of psychotherapy are dropping, while rates of drug therapy are increasing.
The purpose of this article is to share how I have overcome depression with four tools:
1. Transcendental Meditation
2. Regularity of Routine
3. Choosing a Supportive Social Environment
4. Frequent and Regular Cognitive-Transcendent Experiences
Although these tools are valuable, professional help should be sought when symptoms are serious. I do not claim to have the knowledge to cure or prevent any disease, I am only sharing my life experiences in hopes of enlightening others. This post was originally inspired by coach Nick Horton's fantastic article "Managing Depression with Weightlifting? Or, How You Feel is a Lie."
My Experiences with Depression and How They Contributed to My Psychological, Moral, Political, and Intellectual Development
Although I do not consider myself ill, I personally have had experiences with depression. These emotions do return occasionally, but with the strategies I’m sharing here, I have learned to maintain higher states of consciousness in complete bliss.
My mother has struggled with depression as long as I remember. I didn't start having issues until I was in my late teens. I really feel that the primary cause of my mother's depression was (the stress associated with) poverty. It really took a toll on my entire family (myself included). She was actually hospitalized for several weeks as her bankruptcy was unfolding.
It was this series of experiences which gave birth to my relentless drive against global capitalism. As this seed sprouted, I began my debate career at Idaho State University, specializing in anti-capitalistic arguments against traditional methods of political engagement. Eventually, my coach introduced me to Slavoj Zizek, Zizek led me to Lacan, Lacan to Freud, and now I study all of the authors I mention on this site.
Simultaneously, my mother's depression re-emerged as she lost her job during the financial crisis of 2008. My inability to cope with being around her negative emotions forced me to leave Idaho State University, and my crisis drove me to Maharishi University of Management. There, I learned Transcendental Meditation, I studied Maharishi Vedic Science, and I began my research on personality development (2009-2010).
The powerful tool of Transcendental Meditation - combined with Ayurvedic diet, a regular routine, a safe dorm room, and 20-hour-per-week drum practice routines - pushed me into higher states of consciousness. I literally had no idea that complete, true, and deep-seated happiness was possible until it hit me head on. This profound experience of continuous inner bliss forced a re-orientation of my life goals around the promotion of individual and collective joy.
However, financial ruin forced my mother to leave my hometown just as my younger brother entered his senior year of high school. His stubborn 18 year old mind left him homeless in Pocatello as school started. This led me back to Idaho State University to support him and re-engage It was upon my return to Pocatello that the negative influences of social environment became threatening. Pocatello is filled with poverty, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Although I am now capable of transcending these influences, many do not have this capability, and I refused to watch poverty continue to devastate my younger brother and tear apart my family.
Now that my brother has graduated, I am ready to move on. Although I'm less than a year from graduation, I've been bureaucratically exiled from college (loss of financial aid due to my mother's remarriage) and am moving away from Pocatello to continue my work as a freelance writer and continue my studies in personality development outside of academia.
Initially, this was very shocking for both myself and my family, but I am ready for the break and seek financial freedom before re-entering college at Maharishi University of Management. I was very angry, bitter, and upset as I was forced to drop out despite working hard, staying focused, getting good grades, etc. Soon, I realized I had to redirect this energy into a new adventure. Now, I am more energetic and excited than I have been since I left MUM because I have made plans which are far more exciting than staying at ISU.
There is a very specific anatomy to this shift of negative emotion into progressive drive.
Confronting the Violence of Depression with Developmental Psychology
It is important to keep in mind that there are psychologists who argue that many symptoms associated with depression actually fuel psychological development. It is only when we become aware of our personal and societal shortcomings that we have the opportunity to make changes. Many of the emotions that I cope with I now understand thanks to studying Lacanian psychoanalysis and Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration.
In fact, Dabrowski reverses the traditional view of mental health by arguing that psychic stability and personal satisfaction are often superficial, marking stagnation in personality development. And, even when we have achieved the higher levels of our developmental potential, our awareness shifts to inadequacies on a societal level. In our happiness, the suffering of others becomes unbearable, and our focus shifts toward promoting the development of society as a whole.
Over my short lifetime, I have developed ways to deal with negative emotions and depression. I certainly feel times of depression, but I have learned effective methods of handling them.
Again, here are the four tools which I believe can effectively tackle many instances of depression:
Transcendental Meditation is proven to reduce symptoms of depression - this was certainly the case for me. I suspect that this is due to the way TM triggers activation of the prefrontal cortex, which is not fully functional in those suffering from depression.
Regularity of Routine
A regular routine promotes healthy physiology. Normalized sleep cycles are prerequisite to mental clarity and all transcendental experiences. Fatigue is the antithesis of happiness.
Choosing a Supportive Social Environment
Social environment is identified by nearly all developmental psychologists as a key factor to personality development. Surrounding yourself with positive people is uplifting and gratifying - new projects are started, success is experienced, and love is shared. On the contrary, negative social environments will hinder development. Without the support of others, our goals are impossible to achieve, and any sense of self worth is destroyed.
I did not realize the profound affect of the social environment until I moved to Fairfield, Iowa to study at Maharishi University of Management. Being surrounded by individuals who truly sought to improve themselves and their surroundings was absolutely incredible. I progressed more during that year than any other year of my life - my grades skyrocketed, my drumming became monstrous, my diet cleaned up, and my purpose in life crystallized.
Frequent and Regular Cognitive-Transcendent Experiences
I remember early in middle school when I ran distance on the cross country team. Running was my way of escaping the stress associated with my parent's divorce and my family’s poverty. This drive shifted into high school debate when I was fourteen, where I realized that I had completely lost all sense of awareness outside of my debates. There was nothing else in my mind - only the arguments at hand. I now refer to these experiences as "cognitive-transcendent." Cognitive-transcendent experiences are marked by the loss of normal waking-state experiences of space, time, stress, and any cognition outside of an overpowering state of mental focus.
I continued debating through my first two years of college, but when I broke up with my first girlfriend during my freshman year, I discovered a new trigger of cognitive-transcendent experiences - mathematics. It was during the three or four months after the breakup that I felt true depression. Before, I had negative emotions which were fueled by the depression of the people around me (my mother). This was different. I was completely incapable of feeling joy, and I really didn't have any way out other than the cognitive-transcendent experience of working on my calculus homework.
Later, I also realized that drumming was an effective way to achieve cognitive-transcendent experiences for extended periods of time.
Now, I'm focused on my body and physical health, practicing Crossfit and preparing to study Olympic weightlifting in Portland, Oregon with coach PDX Weightlifting. I will also be studying modern drum set with Randy Herbert. I haven't been this excited since I left for MUM!
Many tools are available for those suffering from depression, but professional medical attention should be sought when symptoms are serious. Negative emotions are a normal part of human life, but the overwhelming symptoms of depression may need to be treated uniquely. Developmental psychologists - especially Dabrowski - emphasize how the realization of personal and societal shortcomings is prerequisite to positive change. By recognizing our faults and flaws, we open the door to higher levels of achievement.