The Cure

My head was a mess, paralytic self-doubt, negative feelings, root level discomfort. I went for a run, and I felt much better. It settled me down, clarified things.

“Action is the cure for depression,” say Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. It features in some of their ads. Chouinard is one of those charismatic personalities. He thinks big. He does things other big corporate people don’t. The words filter through my brain. He gets the benefit of my persistent doubts.

I have quibbles, but essentially I think he’s right.

To say something is a cure means that it causes whatever the problem is to go away permanently. There is not a cure for depression that I am aware of. I think it’s closer to correct to say that action is an effective treatment for depression, the predictable irony being that the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed is anything. Inaction feels most possible.

I have been at this rodeo a long time. 40 years? I have tried a lot of things. I know that inaction is inertial. I know that medication has helped me, if not cured me or even completely freed me of symptoms. Meds take the sharpest edges off a depressive episode. They raise the floor, but don’t guarantee perpetual contentment. I have come to see the episodes I have as like a cold, temporary illnesses. I know from experience they will pass. I know not to invest too deeply in the negative swirl that accompanies them.

Just wait. Just wait. Things get better.

And action. Action helps a lot. Keep going. Run. Ride. Hike. Get out. Do something. Anything.

There are reasons for that, that I think are probably chemical, or at least chemically measurable. Action changes your chemistry, your hormones and neurotransmitters. Action broadens your view of the world, where depression narrows it. I am never not better outside than in.

I also know that a depressive episode can have a series of false dawns. I can take action, feel better, my head more clear and positive, and I can wake up the next day back in the shit. It doesn’t mean anything, just that I need to keep going.

Action isn’t the cure for depression, but it’s not not the cure either.