Why friendship and love is the cure for depression

The words “depression” and “loneliness” are no longer uncommon today and their presence among the younger generation has been increasing by the day. Different people have different reasons for depression, and loneliness is often one of the major factors causing depression. It’s not a coincidence that this increase has come at a time when there are a lot more people living alone, far from their families and friends, accompanied with a steep decline in the number of people engaged in truly meaningful relationships. It has been shown that being in a relationship is the strongest contributor to decide whether you feel lonely or not and the odds are against men where if a woman is not in a relationship, she has a 4x chance of feeling lonely while the chances become 10x for a man who is single.

I have been going through depression for the past few weeks as well. And the thing about depression is that it keeps compounding every day you don’t talk to someone about it. Also, it’s very important that if you do choose to talk to someone, they should be willing to hear it and not start cribbing about their own problems or start relating their situation with ours. That never helps. You need to be felt heard. After a lot of self-reflection, I have realised that one factor is the true source for my depression: the need to be around like-minded people. If someone had to ask me what I’m doing today, from the outside, I literally have everything that past me would’ve wished for — a nice home, a supporting family and work that I love. But the past me forgot the most important ingredient that gels all this together: friends.

All of us have our own type, and I believe it’s fair to say that I can’t be close to people who don’t match my type, people who don’t share the same values as me and hence, I’ve always been quite picky in terms of friends (that certainly doesn’t help me now). Having graduated just a few months ago, I never understood how important a role my friends played in my life until today. I have always had them beside me and had never imagined a life where seeing them would become a luxury.

The best thing that my college gave me was my best friend, someone who is like my brother and someone that I genuinely love and respect. Although we stay in different cities now, we keep talking to each other quite regularly. For some reason, it happened that as I was going through these feelings of depression, it never crossed my mind to talk to him. Until yesterday. It’s hard to express the power of a familiar voice comforting you during times of stress. The power of someone whom you trust reassuring you that everything would be okay, and that they are always there for you. On top of that, when they call you back the next day, just to check up on you, that feeling gets reinforced.

Even though talking to someone very close to me was a major factor in making me feel a lot better, there are a few other ideas that gave me direction too and I’d like to share that with you.

You might have come across this question a lot of times if you’ve been reading
about tackling depression. The question is:

If you had a millions dollars in your account today, would you be doing what you are doing today? If not, then what would it be?

I am here as a witness to say that asking yourself this question REALLY WORKS. By saying it works, I don’t mean to say that your depression would go away, but if you tackle the resistance to answer this question and pen down the answer, you will open the floodgates to your imagination and get a clearer picture of what you feel you are missing today. Not only that, you might even start writing about the kind of lifestyle to want for yourself (I did) and the best part is this:

You would realise that out of everything you dream to have one day, you can have most of them TODAY.

Yes, that’s true. For me, some of the examples were: having a healthy diet, being a minimalist, learning something new each day, playing the guitar, focusing on mental health, reading more books and having enough sleep. It’s amazing how powerful a simple act of writing your aspirations is and how it makes you realise that you can have a major chunk of whatever you seek from now itself. You just need to action it.

One way to look at life is that it is a constant suffering. The benefit of this is that it breaks the fantasy that we attach with life being all fluffy and comfortable, with surprises all along. It helps us to really value the happy moments we have, either at work or meeting a friend or spending time with family. But the hard part is this: how do you get past the period of suffering to land onto those happy moments?

A common answer to this question that I’ve found from many sources comes from the book: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, who describes his experiences as a prisoner of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. During those times, cigarettes were a form of currency that could be used to trade for extra soups (for example) which could easily become the difference between life and death. So, people who had hope for themselves used to save their cigarettes and trade them continuously to help them survive longer.

Once a man loses hope, he turns to pleasure.

But the camps imposed a lot of strain and very few people were able to keep their hopes alive. Whenever Victor and his friends saw someone smoking their own cigarettes, they would understand that the person had lost hope for his future and is biding his time until death arrives for him. A common denominator among those who managed to survive the camps was that they attached a positive meaning to their suffering and immersed themselves into that outcome. That’s what we have to do now too. We need to find the meaning to our suffering every day. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. You can always change it later. But for now, to get you going, you need to find a strong reason as to why you are doing what you are doing. For me, it was to support my family and contributing to making the world a harmonious place to live in.

Nothing matches the rush of actually making something that you can say is your own. This something can really be anything. It doesn’t have to be of any specific form. Being a tech guy, the obvious first choice, for me, is to build a product. Something that I am really passionate about. But these things take time and it doesn’t need to be restricted to being a product. I love playing the guitar, and that is music that I am creating. That is mine too. Some years ago, I was into art as well, drawing cartoon figures, sketches, and that used to give me immense happiness as well. So, the point being, chalk out time to spend time on building something you’ve always wanted to. You don’t do this for anyone’s approval or anyone to use. You just do this to make yourself happy. You just do this because you want to do this..

This takes me back to how the article began. Once you do the activities above, you’ll realise that most of them would involve people (family & friends) as part of them. This is because, we, as humans, are social animals. We crave a social connection, and that’s why social media applications are omnipresent. It’s time we accept this reality and channel it in the right way. We have become very distant from each other although we are the most “connected” than we have ever been. We need to embrace our need for real human connection, and that can only come from making ourselves vulnerable to others, at least to the people whom we trust. The most effective way to get rid of depression is to actually talk about it and let people around you know about it. We don’t need to show ourselves living an amazing life if that’s not true. It would be better to actually talk to people and seek guidance on making it true. Friends are such an important part of who we are and it’s important to let them know how valuable they are to us. Friends that truly love us are a blessing that we should be eternally grateful for. My life will never be truly meaningful without having my friends around to share both the highs and lows that life presents. So, talk your heart out. Trust me, you’ll feel better.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but it’s something to start with. Depression should not be taken lightly, and it needs to be treated with as much care as any other ailment. I have taken my first step towards talking about it, and I wouldn’t have been able to do so if I didn’t have faith in the people in my life. I hope this encourages you to do the same and talk about your insecurities. We have spent enough time running away from things that bother us and until we face them head-on, they’ll keep bothering us. Special thanks to Aravinth for encouraging me to post this. No more running away!

We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money”

- Stressed out, Twenty One Pilots

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Trying to be helpful. Do not hurry, do not rest! amandalmia.com