The Journey out of Depression

Leah Piekarski, Brooklyn
Essays 2018

Depression has always been a constant problem in our society, as we continuously modernize ourselves and evolve, so does it spread. The constant connectivity to others and the vast information that electronic devices and the internet provides to us, makes us more greedy for instant gratification through likes and upvotes. With the luxury we’ve acquired through constant modernization we’ve also acquired time which we fill with empty pastimes like social media or television. We constantly seek the opinion and acceptance of others and in turn we ourselves become more shallow. The extreme connectivity makes us in a sense less together. We’ve become accustomed to having someone there constantly commenting, and that constant commenting becomes an addiction. But the addiction isn’t to the persons comment or personality, it is to the attention they give us. As addicts, we have a constant craving for that gratification.

Along with the longing for praise, comes extra time that we have on our hands while waiting for it. It is this extra time, which comes along with introspection, that leads to depression. But it is unlikely that society at large will give up on these habits any time soon. As we can see there are always more advancements in technology and the luxuries it affords us, and rather than becoming wary of the dangers, people only become increasingly excited and devoted to these advancements. The more we become addicted to the instant gratification, the less happy we are as a society, and as individuals. But how can we transform these useless distractions into productive means to reach true or at least partial fulfillment?

In the world of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a concept called the 12 steps to getting over your addiction. The first is to admit your powerlessness over the addiction and the second step is to admit there’s a higher power at force, one that can restore us to sanity. This is also true in chassidus, which states that you should always remember that your creator, Hashem always watches over us individually. That everything has a rhyme or reason. That term is called “Hashgacha Pratis”. From that assumption we can trust that Hashem has a plan for us and with that trust we can push ourselves to move forward towards the goal of getting over our addiction, which is instant gratification.

It’s very nice and fun to just say that we can realize that Hashem is real and suddenly our problems are solved, but that’s not realistic. People with depression cannot make that type of drastic change. So how are we going to be able to apply this to real life?

Baby steps. One step at a time, first you must contemplate your life. What has your life amounted to so far? What have you done in your life? Why are you living? How are you still living?

If you cannot answer these questions with either logic or reason, maybe it’s time to seek the answer in a different medium. Belief. But becoming a believer is not easy, it requires immense effort on the individuals part and assistance from your surroundings, such as a community of people who can help. Once you acquire a decent amount of belief you are ready to move onto the next step. To focus on the small things. Once you focus on the little things in life your quality of life will become richer, at large it will become more shallow but if you focus on the smaller things like the mail being delivered on time or even the fact you woke up in the morning and feel thankful for god, you will slowly improve your mood in a daily setting.

Improving your mood is only one step of the way, also disconnecting from social media and picking up a good book about philosophy and life (like the tanya) can help you become more in tune with your nature. Although you should disconnect from social media that does not mean you should disconnect yourself from the outer world as a whole, because part of the problem in depression is the lack of interaction with other individuals. So becoming involved in activities such as communal events and charities can be profitable to your state of mind.

Another way to improve your mental health is to take a trip, but not a vacation. A vacation implies that you need to escape, a trip is for a reason — there is a goal in mind. Travel to places, maybe even go on shluchos, spreading happiness and faith may even contribute to yourself personally.

A personal story of mine was when I volunteered for a holocaust cafe name “Cafe Europa” or “Cafe Europe” when I resided in Israel, at that time I was 15 years old and immensely depressed. When I volunteered it wasn’t because I wanted to help anyone or listen to the stories of those holocaust survivors but because it was mandatory to volunteer a certain amount of hours in order to graduate. But over time I came to appreciate those survivors and those who volunteered, it gave me a social outlet where I could openly express myself and talk to others. I was a very socially awkward person and I did not really know how to interact with others but that situation forced me to cope with being around others constantly, and having to care about the little things like how the tables should be set or how to clear up the stage area so the elders could see the performance in the clearest way. I never experienced that before in my life and it led me to see how spoiled and self obsessed I was. I went to Cafe Europa for about a year until I graduated and then moved to here but I can still vividly recall the fond memories that I had of that time.

As a person who suffered and is still in the process of getting over depression the only way to do it is to believe in something bigger, something that tells you that there’s always room to improve. That you are here for a reason and you matter.

A way to improve yourself is to set short or long term goals for yourself. Like organizing your room or even graduating college. Personally I set a goal for myself to play guitar over the course of a year, I went from barely even playing a chord to focusing on strumming patterns and barre chords, song came along on the way. I was surprised by how hard it was to stick to this but once I did i felt a huge amount of accomplishment and pride which led me to have more joy in general Focusing on the things can lead you to having a sense of accomplishment and pride in yourself.

To come to a conclusion where you are satisfied with your current lifestyle and that you always have a goal in mind is ideal, but not expected of you. Just always try to improve yourself, step by step. Slowly reveal your path and keep moving forward. Don’t forget to bring people along on your journey and always remember the key to success is to believe.