If you Google for the truth about depression, you’ll be amazed: you get over 12 million results. Looking for the exact phrase (in quotes) will still get you nearly 50,000 results.
But frankly, when any website promises me “the truth about depression”, my first reaction is one of wariness. What do they mean, the truth? I estimate that at least a thousand contradictory “truths” about depression can be found online, and I’m still counting. ;-)
The nice thing about this multitude of truths is that if you’re suffering from some kind of serious depression, at first sight it looks like without much effort you can pick your own “truth about depression”: a truth (and a theory) that best suits you.
Of course the bad side of this is that many of us tend to adopt one “truth about depression” that is easy on them. A “truth” that can serve as an excuse, that is not demanding. A “truth” that suggests one simple solution to explain and solve everything. One that avoids confrontation with yourself or with others.
But in harsh daily-life reality, a one-size-fits-all “truth about depression” simply does not exist. Even though you can find a thousand different “truths about depression” online, there will be no single ready-made “truth” among them that will happen to fit you perfectly. And this is why so many well-meaning self-help depression websites often prove, from our own personal perspective, inadequate or even useless. They’re simply too general. Like a pair of shoes too big or too narrow for our own uniquely shaped feet.
According to global health statistics, at least 600 million people on this planet are seriously depressed. So in a way, we can assume there are 600 million individual depression truths: 600 million personal depression stories.
Of course all those depressed people do share some similar traits and symptoms and experiences. If that were not the case, then the word “depression” would be just a meaningless empty shell.
But this common definition is by necessity very general. In order to be applicable and shared by us all, it has to be flat.
What we really need to find out is not some general prefabricated “truth about depression”, but the truth about our own depression.
If we assume that all individual depression “truths” are like different constructions made of little Lego bricks, then the common, shared base definition of depression is like a Lego base board, on top of which we each have to reconstruct our own personal depression maze using our own particular depression bricks.
So what you would need to do is collect an imaginary box full of loose Lego bricks, all sizes and shapes and colors, that represent all kinds of problems people can have. And next, you would need to use and combine those bricks to painstakingly – with trial and error – reconstruct the maze (the shapes and corners and dead ends and pathways) of your own individual depression truth: all on top of the flat general base definition.
And you know what? This is exactly what, sometimes, a good therapist can help us to do. Reconstructing, by bits and pieces, a more complete and precise picture of our own specific personal depression situation. Analyzing what in our own individual case might be depression causes and potential solutions – ways out of the maze. Working together to slowly find out, define, recognize what might be your own depression truth.
To switch back to the shoes metaphor: on the internet you may at best find yourself some not-quite-fitting shoes; and when you try using those to walk out of your depression, those ill-fitting shoes may give you blisters, may only worsen your problems. A good, personal therapist may (after some complex measuring) help you to get a pair of well-fitting shoes. Shoes that really befit your own special depression truth, and that in the end may enable you to walk all the way to a better place.
In short: it does not always make sense to keep seeking online for that one final, definitive, complete, all-solving “truth about depression”. Such a truth does not exist. And of the many different “truths about depression” that are offered online, none may really fit your own situation. It may be better to go simply for a little bit of “truth about yourself”. If possible, with the help of someone (a therapist or a friend) who knows not just about depression, but also about you.
• Even shorter: when browsing for online advice, never forget that you (and your depression) are unique.
Author: Henk van Setten