The Philosophy of Fighting Depression (Or “How One Man Proved That Suicide Is NEVER The Answer”)

Sorry, no jokes this week. This is serious business.

You may recall how I took a light break from writing last week due to stress. Well, part of the reason for that stress was that this topic was on my mind and I needed a break from outside interference to prepare for it.

You see, I’ve suffered with depression and social anxiety for some time. I often lose interest in the things I enjoy, I can’t stand noisy environments, and I panic when faced with even small crowds.

At my absolute lowest points – between 5th grade and junior high – I frequently had the uncomfortable talk with parents and teachers about suicidal thoughts; thoughts not helped by the fact that I had to deal with the news of one friend actually committing it at the time.

My thoughts have turned to this unpleasant topic because I’m currently seeing a new doctor in the hopes of dealing with these problems. In the past, I’ve been prescribed medications with little to no effect at best and even more negative effects appearing at worst.

Still, I think I may have found someone else to help me hold on to hope and happiness in the meantime and I want to share his teachings with you.

Albert Camus was a French-Algerian philosopher in the school of Absurdism who is celebrated as a Nobel Prize winning author. Despite his distaste for being labeled an Existentialist, his essay The Myth of Sisyphus tackles one of the most challenging existential problems in philosophy; the problem of suicide.

According to Camus’ philosophy, life is absurd and lacks much in the way of meaning. The problem with suicide (and depression by extension) occurs when a sudden event strikes a person during a moment of lucidity that makes them realize the absurdity of their situation and consider the idea that this is the fate they are resigned to.

But, Camus made it clear that suicide is a non-option. He didn’t consider it a solution because a solution is designed to solve a problem. Killing yourself doesn’t solve your problems; it merely negates them and possibly hands them off to others depending on the nature of the problem.

Camus also advised against the practice of Transcendence, the idea that our absurdity is a part of god’s will and that there is a greater world awaiting us should we succeed in outlasting it – the “this too shall pass” technique as I call it. He argued that it was a less than ideal answer because the vision of a different life threatens to distract us from the real world around us.

So, if transcendence is potentially dishonest and death is a non-option, how do people like us deal with the crap-sack world around us?

Camus came up with, in my mind, the most brilliant concept in philosophy; The Absurd Hero – one who, instead of being defeated by absurdity, embraced it and used it as a motivator to create art and work that expressed the nature of their condition.

Camus explains this in The Myth of Sisyphus by recreating the famous Greek myth of the man forced to roll a massive stone up a mountain for all eternity. In Camus’ interpretation, he asks us to imagine Sisyphus happy to perform this task. In doing so, he rebels against his punishment in the only way he can.

I try to define my life by my own absurdity every week with all of you by writing for this blog. All of you who read this are witnessing the end product of me taking all of the nagging thoughts and absurd challenges that assail me. I encourage you to do the same. Find some form of public expression be it, painting, photography, writing, music, construction, dance – LITERALLY any socially acceptable form. Share your view of the human condition that you may give your life meaning and help others find their own meaning.

In short, the guys from The Script had it right; the secret to fighting depression is, “[turning] the pain into power.”