What’s it like being a humanist with depression?
I’m going to preface this right off the bat by saying: I am not a doctor. I’m not a therapist. I’m not a mental healthcare professional, or indeed a healthcare professional of any kind. I’m just talking about myself here, and my own experiences. I freaking hate it when people give me unsolicited, amateur medical advice about my mental health, so I’m very careful not to do that with other people. If you have depression, your mileage may vary from mine. Take what you need from this and leave the rest. (And if you’re not already doing it, get professional help if you possibly can.)
So, with caveats in order, what’s it like for me to be a humanist with depression?
As regular readers may know, I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression. My form of it is chronic and episodic: I’m not depressed all the time, I’m not even depressed most of the time, but I’ve had episodes of serious depression intermittently throughout my adult life. I had a very bad bout of it starting about a year and a half ago. I’m pulling out of it now, but my mental health is still somewhat fragile, I still have to be extra careful with my self-care routines, and I still have relapses into fairly bad episodes now and then. And I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be a humanist with depression, and how these experiences intertwine.
For the most part, my humanism helps. For one thing, I don’t experience any religious guilt—or religious anger—over my depression. I don’t have any sense that I’m letting down my god, that I’m doing something horrible to him by feeling glum and crappy about this wonderful gift of life he’s given me. I don’t have any sense that my god is letting me down. I don’t think my depression is divine punishment or some sort of obscure lesson, and I’m not racking my brains trying to figure out what I did to deserve this. I accept that my depression is a medical condition, and I have it because of genetics, early environmental influences, and other causes and effects in the physical universe.
Thus begins my latest Fierce Humanism column for The Humanist magazine, How Humanism Helps With Depression — Except When It Doesn’t. To read more about some of the ways that humanism affects depression — mostly for the better, but in some ways not so much — read the rest of the piece.