Depression is on the rise. Rates were increasing in the US long before the pandemic, and after COVID hit, they tripled, with one study reporting that 27.8% of adults experienced symptoms in 2020.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for almost 30 years, and the one question I’ve always had was the one nobody could consistently answer—
Why? Why do some people get depressed but not others? And why have rates been increasing globally, even before the pandemic?
Despite decades of study, answers remain elusive. Theories have emerged only to be disproven or discarded. According to Jonathan Rottenberg, Stanford PhD and Director of the Mood and Emotion Lab at USF, “No one has identified the…underlying defect in mind or brain that causes deep depression. For example, after a series of false leads, the field of genetics has backed away from approaches that hold single genes responsible for many or most depressions. A similar story could be told for neuroimaging, endocrinology, or cognitive approaches to depression: despite promising suspects, no definitive causes have been identified.”
This resonates with my own experience. Over the years, patterns in my struggle have made me question the common belief that depression and anxiety are defects or flaws. It’s not that I think the current theories are wrong, but they seem to me to be incomplete.
So a few years ago, after re-reading my childhood journals, I wrote the story of my depression to seek answers of my own. I put into words how my depression began, how exactly it broke me, and how that breaking revealed an essential part of me I’d long forgotten.
It was an incredibly painful, incredibly difficult, incredibly healing process. Eventually, the part of me I’d forgotten helped me forge new connections with myself, other people, and the wider living (natural) world.
Which is why I have hope despite the rising tide of pain. Because in my experience, depression, anxiety, and other forms of misery have the potential to reveal to us where we’ve lost what’s most important—not just individually, but collectively as a society. And I believe that if we pay attention, they can also show us how to find it again.
After years of putting it off, I’m finally sharing my story. If you’d like, you can read it here.
The Dark Light of Depression
Thank you for listening. I’m grateful to be connected to you. Telling stories is important, but having them caught by somebody else is what really makes the difference.