Depression - a waste of time?

“I don’t want to waste another year!” a client said to me recently.  When we explored what this meant, it seemed she felt that being depressed – which she had been for the better part of a year – was not something that competent people did with their lives.

We talked this through.  How did she think “competent” people conducted themselves?  Well, it appeared they were busy building their bank balances, their careers, their friendship network - in short, the kinds of things that look good on Facebook, or make for dazzlement at a cocktail party (do people still have cocktail parties?).

This conversation prompted me think a lot about the idea of “wasting” time.  What is time for?  What are our lives for?  Put this way, I could see that a lot of my work with clients consists of exploring exactly this question together.

I wonder what happened to the wisdom contained in the observation that you never see the epitaph “I wish I’d spent more time in the office”?  The world seems to have turned, for many people, into a daily grind of personal display, the message of which is, basically, “I spend all my time in the office”.

So sometimes it is helpful to pay close attention to the bad and sad patches of our lives, rather than just wishing them to be over.  I don’t deny the dreariness, the hopelessness, of being depressed, and I certainly don’t think that suffering is noble.

However, when depression comes along, it can be fruitful to pay attention to whatever morsels of information it can give us about what is not working for us in our lives.  Left to its own devices, depression can rob us of the will to explore, experiment or try changing things.  But interrogated, in a supportive environment, it can yield up valuable ideas for growth and change.