Spoiler Alert: My answer is “No”. But before you excoriate me for not believing in the dangers and damage of Depression, please do me the favor of reading my entire opinion. I believe you will learn more about me and about a possible way out of this predicament we now find ourselves within.
What Is A Disease?
I won’t bore you with a clinical description. Rather I will simply propose that a Disease is an abnormal invader or condition within the human body. The key word being “abnormal”. Because we find more and more of our greatest people suffering from Depression, and because we see the disastrous effects it has had on them and our society as a whole, we naturally fall into the safe haven of hanging the label Disease upon it.
But is Depression really abnormal? Is it really something that has invaded the human body? Or is it more a phase of recovery that certain people endure?
Fitting Within The Norms
Many things in our world come as two different types, different forms, different expressions of being. There is hard and soft, loud and quiet, fast and slow. But even with this commonly accepted dichotomy, we frequently insist that many other things must only exist in one form. We must all be winners, must all be strong, must all follow a method of work and life and mentality that fits within one single paradigm of reality.
This extends to our expectations of the human mind. We expect, almost demand, that everyone fit within the norms of behavior and cognition. You must think a certain way, perceive a certain way, imagine a certain way … or you are abnormal. Abnormal! You must conform or you are cast out. Labeled and derided. And treated as a Sick Person.
Two Types Of Minds
We are all familiar with the “normal” mind. The person that thinks within the bounds of conformity. We arrange our lives, our social mores, our professions and families to these norms. From childhood we are taught in rote forms, schooled to stay within the lines and perform to the edges of acceptable response.
But we are also familiar with the Genius mind. The radical non-conformist thinkers and dreamers that are responsible for the great leaps of humanity. Einstein, Da Vinci, Jobs; names that need no great explanation to convey respect for the accomplishments they bestowed on all of us. They were from childhood “different”; they were often labeled as “abnormal”. Their difference from all others was the very foundation of their Genius and their greatness.
Marathon Or Sprint
I liken the “normal” mind to the marathon runner. From birth we set our goals and expectations in the far distant future. We plan our lives and expend our energies so as to make it to the end in good shape. It is a cautious conservative method of living that the great majority of people fit comfortably within.
But I also liken the Genius mind to the Sprinter. Long periods of relaxation, recovery, near zero effort. But then there are those moments, those races when every iota of energy, soul and spirit is spent in one blazing exertion. And after that moment, after the fiery explosion of effort, again the Sprinter lapses into a period of recovery.
Depression And The Genius Mind
When the Genius mind explodes, turns loose great ideas, grand solutions, amazing discoveries, there is also that period afterwards when the same mind must retreat and recover. Is it really any surprise that those periods of recovery are seen as episodes of Depression? What else could be the result from investing every bit of oneself in reaching the higher bar of Genius inspiration than the total retreat into isolation, sadness and fear?
And that makes it Normal … in every sense except …
Accepting Depression As Normal
We must stop labeling the depressive person as “abnormal”. They are not abnormal, no more than the sprinter collapsing in a spent heap on the infield after a hard race. Many people suffering a Depressive Episode are not diseased or broken. Quite the opposite, they are recovering. They are recharging and rebuilding their energies from an episode of genius, inspiration and effort.
It is my strongly held belief that we will not ever “cure” Depression until we stop treating it as a disease. We cannot “fix” what is not broken. We must instead recognize that the Depressive Person is in need of support and replenishment. In fact by labeling them as “diseased” or “abnormal” we do them more harm. We castigate them and force on them a belief that they are outside the norm and must be changed in order to reach recovery. But that only reinforces the darkness of thought that typifies Depression. It almost ensures an outcome that is horrific and unnecessary.
Caring For The Depressive Mind
We must wrap the Depressive Mind first in a blanket of acceptance and understanding, must reassure them that they are not only normal, they are quite possibly members of the community of Geniuses that are responsible for the greatest advances in our society. The societal response must change so that we coddle them, comfort them and remind them that they are full and worthy members of our race. We must love them and help them recover fully so they may once again reach for the stars and bring us all another step further in our efforts to reach perfection.
In parallel with this first stage of acceptance and caring, we must also engage in programs of reinforcement. This can be done by illustrating how the Depressive state often follows a period of Genius or Inspiration, and that another flash of genius will follow after the depression. It is not a dead-end road that ends at Depression. Our minds and our patterns exist in cycles, some up and some down. But that the state of depression is only temporary and is part of the expected cycle of performance. More greatness, more inspiration, more amazing realizations and discoveries are coming; they are part of the normal cycle.
We often only change our medical systems when we gain a new understanding of our own bodies. For many centuries we believed bloodletting to be the cure-all solution for many illnesses. We drilled holes in skulls to let out the demons that tormented people, and we engaged in practices that today are known to be ineffective or at worst deadly. I believe it is time for us as a society to stop looking at Depression and other related conditions (ADHD, ADD, Autism and others) as illnesses and start looking at them as different forms of normal function. Of all the organs in our bodies, the human mind is the least understood of all. It is also our most powerful. It is high time we stop hanging the label of “Diseased” on it just because we do not yet fully understand it.
The triggering inspiration to write this blog came from CNN Money story called “Silicon Valley’s Secret” by Laurie Segall. But it’s based on thoughts that have echoed inside me for years.