Boats aren’t built with the idea that they will leak. But if a boat springs a leak and begins to fill with water, a bilge pump will solve the problem. Using a bilge pump isn’t the ideal situation for any boat though. No, the ideal is for the boat to float and keep the water out without a pump. Likewise, a car isn’t supposed to leak oil from its engine. We can pour a liter in every month to fix the problem, to keep it running, but this isn’t the ideal. The original intent for these items is for them to work like they were designed to work.

Shouldn’t humans inherently work without needing any fix-er-ups too? I realize that like cars and boats, humans can spring leaks. We can become unbalanced mentally, physically, and emotionally. We can cut ourselves, develop diseases and ruin our bodies by choice of activity or inactivity. The natural tendency when we break down or spring a leak is to take something to cure ourselves. We love our medications. But isn’t using medications the same as using a bilge pump or pouring in a new liter of oil every month?

Medications are great. A good medication really helps the body fight a cold or an infection. It can relieve swelling and numb pain. But can it help something like depression? Certainly, medication can help for a time to give the body what it is not producing naturally, whether it is the chemical balance that the brain needs or the physical injection of energy. However, I don’t believe that medication is the best or the intended cure for someone suffering from depression. Medication is just a temporary resolution.

I understand that depression is a severe problem of exquisite pain, loneliness, and a way of living bereft of hope and satisfaction. Any solution should sound good for this problem, especially for those mired in it. But the idea that medication is the solution frustrates me.

Why we must take something to be happy, to feel normal, to feel good?

The body is able to produce chemical impulses and physical stimulations that naturally do what medications artificially try to reproduce. I think most of us prefer real sugar to saccharine, so why do we prefer a pill to a natural physical reaction that can do the same thing?

What do I mean? Maybe people suffering from depression are just missing some vital stimuli that can create the same effect the drug is supposed to. Maybe it is simply laughing more which releases endorphins and adrenaline (a physical high) into the bloodstream, directly affecting the nervous system and ultimately the brain. Maybe it is the physical intimate touches of a husband or wife that stimulate chemical reactions of affirmation and desire and excitement. Remember your first kiss? Remember how a simple touch turned your knees weak and made you want to dance all at once? Maybe it is an hour of good exercise that burns the accumulation of deadening, heavy molecules that suffocate the regular flow of blood and nerve stimulation. Maybe it is a good hour of sleep untroubled by dreams. People don’t realize how much sleep goes toward realigning the body’s natural chemical and emotional balances. (Have you ever noticed how headaches will disappear after a good night’s sleep, or how an emotional injury doesn’t seem quite so strong in the morning?)

People need these actions, and hundreds of others in their life to be chemically balanced.

Perhaps understanding four vital points can help all of us who feel down at times, maybe even those who suffer from depression.

The “Who Am I?” question. So much of who we are is linked to where we are. We get a sense of being by the things around us. Like the ugly duckling, if the people around us seem different, we can feel isolated and alone, like no one knows exactly how we think or feel. If their actions are different than ours we also question ourselves. Especially the older we get. Which brings up another problem. So much of who we are is related to what we do. A frog is supposed to croak and eat flies. But what if I’m a frog and don’t like flies? What if I’m a frog but don’t know it yet? What if I’m a frog, but want to be a turtle? Most people experiencing depression have undergone a recent change in location or a recent change in everyday activity. Gone are the friends, the stores, the locations of personal satisfaction. Gone is the occupation that they derived so much pleasure in, that they learned the ins and outs of, that they knew the pressures and responsibilities of. The shock of such changes can easily make someone forget who they are. And when you don’t know who you are, and aren’t satisfied with what you are doing or feel you do it poorly, it is difficult to be satisfied.

Vision – Imagine if cars didn’t have headlights. Would people still drive at night? No. They would be blind. They would crash into other cars. They would drive into the ditch or off the edge of the cliff. But with headlights, the person driving a car knows where to go. Likewise people need vision. They need a vision of their future. They need to know where they are going so they can formulate steps to get there. A vision gives people motivation. It lets them know what to do when they wake up in the morning. We’re not paintings on a wall, just supposed to look good. We’re humans. And humans are supposed to do something. When we don’t have something to do, we can think too much, and thinking too much is like eating too many sweets. It causes unnecessary indigestion.

Intellectual Stimulation – We need to keep growing as people. Anytime we stop, we will not be happy. Remember that stagnant pools ferment. There is either growth or decay. Our minds and our bodies are the same. Our body needs food everyday. If it gets food, it grows, and we keep on living. If it doesn’t get fed, it dies and we die. Why do we think that our mind doesn’t need to be fed? We need to read books. We need to get around people that stimulate our thought processes and give us new experiences to mull and matriculate. We need to be challenged, because being challenged allows us to accomplish things. Accomplishing things brings personal satisfaction. Remember as kids how we liked to measure every month (or week in some cases!) how much we had grown by drawing a line on the wall where our head reached. That satisfaction of progress doesn’t disappear with age, only the kind of growth changes.

Personal Affirmation – We need to know we are wanted, needed, loved. And often for who we want to be or should be, not for who we are. It is great to be loved for who we are. It is great to be accepted for who we are. But how many of us are happy with who we are? Sure, we can be satisfied with our shortcomings, who we will never be, how we look, and what we have accomplished. But we all have dreams and goals and desires, a future we would like to see happen. So why would we want someone to be completely satisfied with exactly what we are and not hope that we get to where we want to be? I remember a girl I loved very dearly, whose opinion and affirmation I desperately wanted and needed at that time in my life. I wanted her to think I was the best stuff on earth. I wanted to take her breath away every time she saw me and impress her with everything I was. She understood and gave me great big kisses and said, “Baby, I love you. You’re my man. But you’re not that great.” She wasn’t tearing me down by saying this, she was reminding me that I still had better days ahead and ways to improve. She let me know I was important, and then let me know that it was important to her that I not stop striving, and then helped me get there.

Depression is a tricky thing. And I am not attempting to make light of it, or pass it off as something that you can simply overcome by will power. We all experience it by degrees, and there are definitely certain things like weather and catastrophe that can bring it on or make it worse. But doesn’t that offer us hope, that similar acts can bring us out of it? Because even the worst leak can be patched up again as long as you know how and then make the effort.

© Seth Crossman