When desire and energy hit rock bottom
evaporation of our early optimism can have catastrophic effects on our
desire for life and our personal energy. How can we rekindle our
motivation and reignite our energy? Michael Corry has some answers
Depression is an emotional state in
which the desire for life is the primary casualty. This is one of the
most debilitating states, since it is human nature to have desires — to
wish, want and hope to have our needs met. Isn't every child's
game-plan to be successful, contented, loved and secure? From an early
age we 'look forward': to Santa coming, to being popular at school, to
getting on a team, passing our exams, finding a job, falling in love,
having a good lifestyle.
keeps us motivated, giving us the willpower and eagerness to continue.
If it doesn't happen, there is a sense of loss as our dream dies, as if
something concrete has been taken away. In fact it is our illusion,
that our future should turn out rosy, which has been removed. Our sense
of loss is very real, and as much a bereavement as any other.
we are confronted by future scenarios which are painfully less
desirable than those we'd planned on. Life has been fired at us
point-blank. Who anticipates rejection, sexual abuse, bullying,
heartbreak, deaths, marital difficulties, failure to achieve, financial
insecurity, problematic children, disability, chronic illness, or lack
of companionship? Unprepared and dis-illusioned, it can be impossible
to find within us the desire or the will to engage with such hardship.
In shock, we wonder what happened to the game-plan. We can't go back,
nor can we go forward. Confused, lost and immobilised, the drive to go
on dries up: we are depressed, and in grief. In the words of Dante, "in
the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in a dark wood, where the
true way was wholly lost".
stages of all grief and loss unfold within us. Can this really be
happening to me? (denial and disbelief). It's so unfair, I don't
deserve this! (anger). I'll work harder, I'll turn it around
(deal-making). It's not working. What'll I do now? (fear and anxiety).
It's hopeless, what's the point, I give up (depression). If the
situation continues we face a choice point: bite the bullet, and engage
with this future we hadn't planned for (acknowledgement and
acceptance), or continue abstaining from life.
has degrees of severity in the same way that a swimming pool has a deep
and a shallow end. The less intense variety which we all know well is
often remedied by strategies in our own personal DIY kit. A holiday, a
career break, some 'retail therapy'. Or we might try distracting
ourselves with a new toy such as a car, an extension on the house, or a
new romance. Others turn to their favourite recreational chemical, such
as alcohol, cocaine or ecstasy. Many approach their GP for prescribed
versions to give them a 'lift'.
desire cannot be rekindled, and with it the will to act, we are in deep
water. Lacking motivation, and not attracted to go forward, we look
instead to the past, ruminating over mistakes, cataloguing our
worthlessness. Feeling overwhelmed and helpless to act, we withdraw our
will and energy, and feel unable to engage with the current scenario.
Movement slows down, we distance ourselves from others, finding it hard
even to get out of bed or cope with the basics of living. Simple tasks
such as washing, dressing, preparing food, and facing the public take
on Titanic proportions.
It's a misnomer
to medicalise this emotional state by calling it a 'a chemical
imbalance'. All emotions, whether fear, anger, love, or joy, rely on
shifts in chemistry. But these shifts in chemistry are always secondary
to alterations in our consciousness. It is changes in our own thoughts,
beliefs, and meaning systems - the software of the mind - which are the
primary cause. To see it otherwise is to place the source of the
problem in our brain matter or hardware. Who would leave the TV in for
repair if the programmes were not to their liking?
many a 'chemical' depression that a lotto win, a proper home, or a new
partner would solve instantaneously! In the same way, the implications
of telling a depressed individual that they have a chemical imbalance
which may be life-long, requiring the long-term use of medication, and
intermittent hospitalisation, can be as damning a diagnosis as an
incurable cancer. News of this bleak scenario can itself be a trigger
Some severe depressions
can be triggered by a source which is not obviously visible, giving
rise to dubious diagnoses such as 'endogenous' (having no apparent
external cause) or 'clinical' (needing the attention of a doctor). Many
individuals have experienced deep hurts and wounds from very early in
their lives, which remain unhealed and buried, and which they have been
unable to allow to surface into their awareness or been too afraid to
verbalise to others. These can range from childhood emotional
deprivation to physical and sexual abuse. In such cases, a present day
setback may re-ignite these past emotional traumas. As they begin to
surface, no current cause may match the depth of the response they
Many individuals treated for
years with anti-depressants may have been harbouring such old emotional
pain. The medicalisation of their depression passes up a valuable
opportunity — which counselling and psychotherapy might provide — to
permanently heal such old wounds. Even with less serious forms of
depression, the use of the popular psychic energisers (Prozac, Seroxat,
Efexor, Lexipro, etc.) may jump-start sufferers back into the fray.
With this boost they may be able to interface rapidly again with the
details of their life, but it may be at the cost of reflection and
If sufficient attention has
not been given to uncovering the source, changing belief systems,
learning new skills and re-kindling desire for life, the sufferer
remains as dis-empowered as before. Inevitably, relapse is on the
cards, with cocktails of medications in increasing doses being
prescribed, many with serious side effects, some lethal. In this way,
sufferers can become trapped in a cycle of remission followed by
relapse, otherwise known as the 'revolving door' phenomenon.