The Opposite of Depression is not Happiness, it is Vitality

The opposite of depression is not joy or happiness, it is the will to live. Because the person with depression does not feel only sadness, what they perceive is being trapped in a black hole where light does not enter, nor the desire, nor hope.

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The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality. Because depressive disorder is not synonymous with sadness exclusively, it is more, sometimes, even feeling sad, we perceive ourselves as vital, eager to create and express. However, this psychological condition obscures us in all senses, quenches the desire, encouragement and above all hope.

This idea, that of the lack of vitality, was put in evidence by the writer and professor of psychology at Columbia University, Andrew Solomon, in his well-known book The Demon of Depression. In this work, he spoke of his own experience with this disease and also contributed the testimony of a large number of people who dealt with depression for years.

Something we learn with this book and, above all, with the day to day of those who face this condition – in all its typologies – is that they lack the strength to live. It is a silent lament of those who feel that they lack everything, of those who do not find meaning in anything and feel trapped by a mind and a body lacking in impulse and energy.

Thinking also about depression as something monolithic also leads us to error. We are not facing the flu, it is not an infection that can be treated with antibiotics. Who faces a depression does not need to be encouraged or made to laugh, because no, what they experience is not sadness. What we need are accurate diagnoses, a multidisciplinary therapeutic approach and greater social awareness.

«Love is not enough to cure depression, but the attachment of a close being allows you to face it with more chances of success».

-Andrew Solomon-

The opposite of depression is not joy or love or happiness

People have an almost innate tendency to categorize everything that surrounds us. Furthermore, we often do so in absolute terms. An example, if you are not happy, is that you are sad; If you are not calm, you are anxious or worried; the opposite of depression, of course, is happiness.

These approaches, in addition to erroneous, do not help, especially when we talk about psychological disorders, because in this case, we undoubtedly enter into complex personal universes. William Styron, a well-known American writer, gave us an exceptional book called That Visible Darkness (1990) where he described this very subject in detail. He suffered a deep depression at the age of sixty.

He defined this disease as a gray rain that covered everything where he placed his eyes. He felt the presence of death at his side, had the feeling that some part of his body was broken; but I did not know which one. He was also certain that his brain had done an evil trick so that his mind and every thought went against him. I experienced, cold and the most scorching heat, all at the same time, as well as an exasperating loneliness even when accompanied.

Seeing this chaotic, but stark description that Styron made in his book, we understand how polyhedral depression results; It is a reality with so many corners, recesses and depths, where it does not make any sense to define it as simple sadness.

Prozac and the fruitless search for happiness

In 1988, an authentic revolution took place in the clinical field and in society in general. With the arrival of the so-called SSRIs (selective inhibitors of serotonin reuptake) and especially, with the introduction of fluoxetine (Prozac was its first commercial name) many things changed. The most outstanding, that people dared for the first time to talk about their depression without fear.

The Prozac jumped from the pharmacies to the covers of the magazines in a very short time, and suddenly, it was common to find more information about mental illnesses. Fluoxetine was in fashion, especially after the publication of the book Nation Prozac, by Elizabeth Wurtzel, in the 1990s.

At that time, society began to see this drug as the solution to all their pains, worries and discouragement. Prozac was seen as the happiness pill. Because the opposite of depression was once again that feeling so complete and elevated; hence, that many will come to their medical centers demanding this drug to feel better.

However, antidepressants do have effects on serotonin levels, generate greater well-being, but do not give happiness. Moreover, in many cases they do not even solve the problem.

The opposite of depression is the will to live

Depression is more than a chemical imbalance. It is also a disorder of the mind, the brain, the body… Dr. Alexander Glassman, from Columbia University, even points out that it also affects our cardiovascular health, to the point that someone with depression is more likely to suffer some type of heart disease.

The impact of depression is immense and its anatomy complex. But, still, it is still treatable as long as we commit ourselves firmly to therapy, to changing habits, mental approaches, purposes and internal dialogues. The objective of all this delicate process will not be to recover the lost happiness, nor to leave the sadness behind us.

“When you deal with depression, you only aspire to one thing: recover your desire to live.”