When someone is feeling low we expect there to be some negative circumstance that is causing the depression in their mood. When encountering some effect our brain will always desire to determine its cause. We feel that we must get at the root of the problem, must discover the source of the discomfort, must name the culprit. It’s why depression is so maddening. There’s often no easily apparent cause and without it, we’re at a loss as to the solution.
I’m not saying that depression is without cause. There’s cause. It’s just that it’s not always external. There may be a biological component, but so little is understood about the mind and the body that determining what aspect of our biology is effecting our mood so negatively requires time, and patience. There’s likely to be a slew of contributing factors.
Never assume that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what is causing you, or your friend, or a loved one to be depressed. Examine external circumstances and see if there may be something there that would account for the depression, but don’t quickly name it definitively as the wellspring of the person’s internal experience. Depression may have many causes, and we should methodically and logically approach it from many angles.
The danger in being quick to assume definite cause for someone’s depression is something similar to what’s wrong with a justice system that assumes someone is guilty until proven innocent. You might end up hanging the suspect without a thorough investigation, while the true perpetrator remains free to cause even more damage.
There’s nothing wrong with offering advice when you think you have something to offer. I’ve done different things to tackle depression, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be willing to use my experience to help a friend. That said, I need to use discretion in how and when to broach that. What I should never do is assume that I have the magic pill that’s going to be take a person from depression into recovery. That approach is cheap, too easy, and very very dangerous. Instead, I need to be ready to walk with the person through a process. One that includes exploring external circumstance and biological factors with patience and an open mind. One that’s prepared, if necessary, to do no more than sit with someone who’s feeling isolated and alone.
I’m growing in this.