Opinions about depression and the causes of depression seem to be divided into two camps. One group believes that someone should kick himself in the butt. Especially in schools, it is customary to say to a listless student: “Go and do something. Grab your textbook and get to work.”
Everything seems to get even harder for that student (literally). The contrast between what is expected and what he/she can handle is stark. On top of struggling with the depression, someone has to struggle to keep up with the class. In this way someone is squeezed more and more. There is no listening ear. Students are approached as if they are lazy, rather than exhausted.
With a bit of bad luck, a child has parents who do not (want to) see how bad he is and who find him unsociable. “You just hang out on the couch all day.” It is not surprising that such a person starts to consider himself worthless and does not find the strength to take something positive out of life and to pick it up again.
A different view on depression
The other view is that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. A certain substance is produced too little. That’s why you don’t feel well. There is nothing you can do about that, but medication can bring this back into balance. That second view seems kinder, but that is deception; that depression is a brain disease you either get or you don’t. It is an industry rather than medicine.
More than a million people in the Netherlands are already on antidepressants. The pharmaceutical industry and psychiatry do offer ‘objective’ information (via the Internet, for example) about what depression is, what causes depression, and what help someone needs. The side effects of antidepressants range from obesity, emotional flatness, and overall damage to your system to suicidal thoughts. Such treatment also completely ignores the core.
Admittedly, a pill can in some cases help to bridge a difficult period. For example, if I have such a headache that I can’t sleep, I also take paracetamol. Symptom relief is admittedly, but a good night’s sleep is also worth something. If I constantly feel bad, I’ll go and see what the cause is.
Causes of Depression
Depression can have thousands of causes. Something drastic, such as a death, mental or physical abuse, sexual violence, or bullying. It can also stem from something less obvious, a vague discontent. You have everything your heart desires, but there is a feeling of: is this all now?
Or the pressure from the environment is just a little higher than you can sustain so that you slowly become exhausted. Especially in situations that don’t seem poignant, depression is an insidious process, making it seem like it just happens. It can also be because of something from the past that you have not processed. Many people go on medication because their depression is a burden to others. And if you can’t keep up the rat race, you quickly fall out of the group.
Most people who have experienced it themselves see depression as a black hole, into which they are drawn. They perceive it as a threat in itself, although it is rather a natural response to circumstances. A person who experiences great fear or despair, being forced into a situation that he cannot handle, is likely to become depressed. You can often endure being gloomy for much longer than fear or despair, which seem to eat you away from the inside or drive you mad. Many people maintain that gloomy mood for years and some even hide it from the environment.
My depression and that of my father
I was once completely emotionally unstable. At home, I was constantly being chased by my father’s girlfriend. In the beginning, I was able to talk to her well, I found her an interesting personality and she thought along with me. She gave me that feeling. Later she became more and more involved in my life, criticized me a lot, and tried to make someone else out of me. More socially adapted, which she herself is not at all. She also managed my Personal Budget. Because she was more at home in it than my father, she started the process. She put a lot of time and energy into it.
Still, she was not satisfied with the guidance she had arranged for me earlier and pushed that counselor out of it. Then I was all alone because my father with whom I first had a close relationship, more and more often imitated his girlfriend. I was about to spin but instead sank into sedation. I felt much less, my stepmother could touch me less. It was the best defense I had at my disposal.
My father has also become depressed in his relationship. He got no air, no room to move. It wasn’t until he was ready to break up with him that he recovered. Becoming depressed shows a very urgent need to get out of a situation, or get something that you deeply yearn for. The condition forces you to slow down and withdraw. A person longing for death is desperately trying to find a way out. It is a longing for another life (sometimes literally). By that definition, drugs are meaningless. Is it a defense against a defense?
Such a person needs a listening ear. A fellow human being who really understands him and helps to find the cause and regain control of life. A child, young person, or adult wants to be seen and heard. That can change a lot. Locking someone up in an institution achieves the opposite, which is usually more damaging than doing nothing at all. Someone ends up in a circle of injustice, powerlessness, despair, and frustration. People who continue to worry are often better off than people who end up in psychiatry. Of course, there are people who are so far gone that they are (temporarily) unable to take care of themselves, and cannot handle anything anymore.
They often want to escape their ‘familiar’ place and not have to think about anything anymore. Sometimes it is necessary to break the situation. Convalescent homes without a waiting list, where people can go. A haven where there are honest and skilled counselors who really pay attention to their story. Who starts from what they need, instead of living a sick ideology. A listening ear and therapy that is based on the possibilities of someone, help someone further instead of suppressing the problems. The assistance should always be voluntary unless someone is a proven danger to the environment.
Causes of Depression: Childhood
Thinking along, instead of thinking for someone, paying attention to someone’s story and looking together at how circumstances can be changed. How can someone regain their power? Coercion damages people’s trust and then they are no longer open to help at all. Many people have not processed their childhood, which means that they often experience life as hopeless. For example, they were not allowed to make mistakes.
When they did something right, they were surrounded with appreciation, compliments, and love. When they just didn’t quite live up to their expectations, they were criticized and adults reacted harshly and dismissively. As adults, they suffer from perfectionism and exhaust themselves. Their raison d’être depends on it, they feel.
Therapy that recognizes the influence of childhood experiences can help to let go of the past and gain insight into their reality. Even when gloomy feelings seem to come out of nowhere, talking makes sense and looking for the causes of depression together. And some people just have an intense emotional life, with high peaks and deep troughs. There’s nothing wrong with that.