Is Depression worth it?

I read a very interesting article in the New York Times. It investigated a question I’ve asked for a long time: Is there an evolutionary advantage to depression? In other words, why is it still around? Does its hanging around confer an advantage to live stronger lives? Because of my bipolar disorder, I’ve lived with bone jarring depression most of my life. It’s dark, miserable, can decrease life spans, and wreaks havoc in almost all areas of a sufferers life. Is depression worth it?

I won’t bore you with the details of the article here, but I encourage you to read it. When all was said and done the conclusion stated that even if depression did give us some sort of advantage as human beings, it doesn’t make it any more desirable than other maladies such as cancer and heart disease. I concur.

Depression is an expert in wringing out hope from your life and knows exactly how to decimate one’s confidence and self-esteem. It’s all about suffering. It strains relationships and stalls careers. I have to work everyday to free myself from its persistent grasp. But I’m not alone. I have an amazing wife and family; fantastic friends, a God who cares, and the gift of treatment options that weren’t available even five years ago.  I am learning to thrive. It’s what I have to do everyday. It’s what we all have to do. It’s what we all need to do.

Given the massive disruptions of our modern world, depression is only going to increase. According to the World Health Organization depression is the leading cause of disability and projected to be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease. It’s debilitating. Does its increasing prevalence portend some hidden asset to help us through the human condition? Is it setting us up for some kind of big breakthrough? I don’t think so.

But ask me if bipolar and its depression has been worth it for me, nine times out of ten I will give you a resounding, unequivocal NO! But there is that one time, the affirmative answer that haunts me. Despite its cruelty, depression has connected me to the deep angst of people’s pain and  compelled me to be thankful for every moment it’s not around. Though I desperately want it out of my life, it has given me the passion to “re-imagine a hope-filled world”. That’s my big why. It’s my desire for every keynote I give, training I conduct, and relationship I have. Maybe depression has set me up to be uniquely relevant and useful in this shaken, uncertain, and disruptive world. Curious that.

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Posted in adaptation, Attitude, depression, Depth, despair, Hope, resilience
3 comments on “Is Depression worth it?
  1. Doug Gertner says:

    Some great posts lately, Jeff, and this may be the best of them. Raw and honest, with wonderful, authentic insight, based in your own experience and with added cred from the recent article. I enjoy your blogs, and am touched and inspired, especially by this one. Hoping to hear you speak soon. And looking forward to having you as my guest on The Grateful Dad Radio Hour, Monday, March 5, 1-2:00 p.m. MST, on http://www.castlerockradio.com

  2. Ken Dengerink says:

    Thanks Jeff! This is an interesting topic and one which resonates with me. I can not imagine how depression is in any way advantageous for us. I am told that it is primarily a “first world” problem. As I face my own battle with depression it is good to know that I’m not alone…..

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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