Can Depression Be A Positive Learning Experience?

Scranton Depression Fight, Date taken: June 06, 1950, Photographer: Walter Sanders

A decade ago, I went through a bout of depressionDuring the experience, I wondered whether or not it was an opportunity for a positive learning experience. At the time, my brain felt like it was overloaded and generally, I constantly felt overwhelmed. So, is it possible for something, that makes me feel so overloaded and overwhelmed, to ever be a positive learning experience?

I've heard that everything in life can be a learning and/or growth experience.

I’ve heard that everything in life can be a learning and/or growth experience. Many times, no matter how positive or negative the experience is, I have not, consciously, tried to make it a learning/growth experience. For example, I recently came to the realization, after having a negative experience with a person for the “umpteenth” time, that I should learn from my experiences with the person and CHANGE. The question is, “Why didn’t I think of doing that a long time ago?” The answer – ???? I think, now, that I have decided to change, the negative experiences with the person will cease.

It’s a nicer experience to learn from a positive experience, but for this post I will focus on the negative. Why? Well, I believe depression is negative and how can I address the question in the title without dealing with the negative? I’m not going to search for painful experiences just to have a learning experience, but if I have such an experience, why not learn from it? If I can, then I will be turning a past negative experience into a future benefit. So, let’s press on with depression! :-)

When depressed, the heart feels like it is yearning for something that is impossible to have.

When I was depressed, I felt like my heart was yearning for something that was impossible to have. This yearning was like having a bad nightmare and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t wake myself up and end it. As you read this, I can imagine that you would like to know more specifics. Due to the sensitive nature of subject and the feelings of some of my friends, I have chosen not to be specific regarding the details of my depression. Besides, in my opinion, the question I’m addressing doesn’t require me to be specific regarding my personal bout with depression.

A popular psychiatrist in the 80s, Dr. David Viscott, suggested that depression can be used as a sign that a person has reached the point where the “yearnings of the heart” should no longer be ignored. Depression is a sign that something very important is going on in your mind. Usually, depression involves loss. In my personal case, loss played a big role. My life had changed and the loss of my “previous life” left me with what Dr. Viscott calls, a yearning of the heart.

Depression was like being stuck in a "deep dreary winter scene."

So, how can depression be a positive learning experience? Well, after I realized what I lost and how I was blaming myself, over and over and over again…, I realized I was just wasting my time AND health. After reaching that realization, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy with my new life and I immediately started working toward changing it. This meant I had to get rid of the thinking that kept me locked up in my depressing life. I had to “clean-out my mind” and change my thinking. You see, the depression was like being stuck in a “deep dreary winter scene.” Later, after realizing that blaming myself was getting me nowhere, the depression became a “mental spring clean-up.” In other words, I went from depression adding clutter to my mind, to depression cleaning-up my mind. Now, how’s that for spring cleaning? :-)

Helplessness is a feeling and NOT a lifestyle.

Depression, though it’s a very negative experience, can also be a positive learning experience. In my case, I discovered some strengths I never knew I had. Actually, the word strength doesn’t necessarily describe what I discovered. You see, it was the weakness I felt that really became a strength. The “weakness” feeling of helplessness, which was overwhelming during the major part of my depression, became a strength later. I now realize helplessness is a feeling and NOT a lifestyle. Helplessness is temporary and is generally in the mind. Instead of being helpless to myself, I focused on being helpful. Help with less less and more ful! :-)

Can depression be a positive learning experience? Yes!

How can you turn depression into a positive learning experience? By being Helpless Helpful to yourself. You might start by not blaming yourself, changing the thinking you had while depressed, and using depression as an incentive to clean-up your mind.

Simple? Absolutely not! Reasonable? I hope so!

Since depression is part of life, “Let’s Keep Improving With Life!” :-)


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