Depression As Maturation
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on December 2, 2014
“To our surprise, a person may come out of a depression, stronger, wiser and more stable than before he or she went into it.” D. W. Winnicott
Depression and guilt are close relatives, meaning that the experience of depression is the experience of feeling bad or guilty about one’s past, present or imagined future behavior. Guilt is the engine for maturation in that evaluating one’s behavior requires a certain amount of maturity, and so with this observing ego, harsh as it may be initially, comes the ability to eventually forgive and love yourself.
Amir, forty-one, comes to mind. He is an attorney, hard-working, financially successful, but, by his account a “terrible husband and father.” He presents as despondent, withdrawn and, at times, very angry with himself. With exploration, Amir recognizes his selfish behavior at home, resulting in his wife feeling lonely and seeking deeper satisfaction with her girlfriends than with him. At first, he pleads for relief from his self-diagnosed “depression,” but as time marches on, he develops the patience to reflect that as he begins to forgive himself, he can then ask forgiveness from his wife of fifteen years, and they can move forward with a deeper relationship. Amir’s guilt was the portal to understanding how he sees himself, an endlessly fascinating exploration of self-definition, which, with maturity, comes the reflection on the good, the bad and the ugly. Does this mean that Amir should not go on medication in order to explore the meaning of his symptoms? No. To the contrary, medication can help Amir come to a place that enables him to develop the satellite perspective of his perceived failings. antidepressants is a misnomer. Our medications do not fight depression. They can lift the despair, allowing the patient to “fight” the depression, and thereby grow up.