Acceptance is the first step towards getting better. You have, for whatever reasons, developed major depression. Accept it. No amount of denial is going to help. No amount of trying to figure out what happened, how it happened, what precipitated it, etc., is going to help either. You can keep cursing the genes you were born with. You can also keep cursing the environment in which your stress and illness got precipitated. You can curse the people who wreaked havoc in your life at every stage, adding to your stress. None of this is going to make you any better.
Denial is human nature. It is embedded in the collective unconscious buried inside the human mind over generations. Sometimes denial is good, as in refusing to accept defeat. It keeps the human race motivated to survive disasters, wars and other catastrophic events. It keeps the human mind going in search of better ideas and better solutions to problems. Occasionally, denial of one’s mortality even gives the dying strength to hold on and actually outlive their prognosticated expiry date.
However, in the case of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder), the denial instinct does not help. It causes more misery by throwing up the unchangeable past again and again. By saying that ‘this cannot happen to me’, you are going into victim mode. Remember the Panchatantra? It has a story in which a rabbit called Chatur is playing in the woods. Soon he hears the roar of a lion, which seems to be quite close by. The rabbit fears for his life and wonders what to do. Well, a rabbit is a clever animal. Suddenly a brainwave strikes him. When he sees the lion approaching, Chatur rolls over on his back and lies absolutely still, as if he were dead. The lion comes closer, sees the still rabbit and walks away as it does not want to eat some other animal’s kill. Chatur escaped being killed by the lion by playing dead. However, depression is not an animal of prey like the lion, which hunts for its food. It is like a vulture that feeds on carrion. The moment you go into victim mode, depression will pounce on you and finish you off. Never be a victim. Never. The moment you start acting alive, the battle with depression is half won. For depression is afraid of an alive mind. Keeping your mind alive is extremely important. And how do we do that?
By showing the victim mentality the door. By keeping self-deprecating thoughts at bay. By acceptance.
Acceptance of your illness makes you ready for the next step, which is to seek help, and the next, which is to use that help. You see the psychiatrist and come back with your prescription and medicines. The thought arises, ‘Why me? Why do I need antidepressants? I’m not the kind of person who gets depression. How can I be mentally ill?’ You begin to see the medicines lying on the table as a reminder of your disability rather than as a cure for your illness. Out go the medicines. Out go the prescriptions. Therapy sessions are deliberately given the miss. And there you are. Back to square one. Back to the darkness of depression.
However, acceptance of your diagnosis of depression will help you in numerous ways. First of all, it calms your already agitated mind. What you resist persists. We all remember our high school physics where a circuit with a high resistance attached to it consumed greater power while a circuit with a weaker resistance consumed less power. In the same way, acceptance just allows the thought, that you have a medical condition, even if it is mental illness, to pass through without any resistance, and hence without loss of energy. With least resistance comes the least disturbance, and the mind settles down quickly to the actual business of getting well.
Acceptance is liberating. It frees the mind from the shackles of years of social conditioning. You begin to see mental illness in a new way. You begin to see it for just what it is: an illness like any other. It opens up the mind to new ways of thinking. Therapies like CBT are based on the assumption that changes in one’s thinking can bring about changes in one’s behaviour. A mind open to change makes therapy work faster and better, leading to quicker recovery from depression.
Acceptance, however, does not mean resignation to the condition. It does not mean accepting depression into your life as if it were a special guest in a black tuxedo, and rolling out the red carpet for it. No. Acceptance only means being open to and accepting of the fact that you have a condition, and that the condition needs to be treated. Acceptance means being fully aware of the steps involved in your treatment, and being ready to adhere to the course of treatment by going the whole nine yards. Acceptance means getting over yourself, your old self, and being ready to embrace the changes that will make a new you.
Acceptance means being kind to yourself. Accept yourself as you are, depression et al. Forgive yourself for having developed depression. It was not in your hands. Forgive yourself for the impact of your illness on your family. You did not get ill on purpose. And since you are suffering the most, you need to be kindest to yourself.
Acceptance is empowering too. When you accept yourself as you are, you are no longer in hiding. You have equipped yourself to tell the whole world that you don’t care what anyone else thinks; that you are okay having developed a disorder, which is curable, and that you are ready to fight it and defeat it.
Excerpts from ‘The D Word – A Survivor’s Guide to Depression’ by Shubhrata Prakash
Excerpted with permission from Pan Macmillan India.
Price: INR 299. Buy the book here.