July 25, 2017

The surprising upside of depression

The surprising upside of depression

“I’m done,”

I announced, as I closed my laptop and curled into a ball in the corner of the couch. My husband put his hand on mine knowingly, not saying a word. Despite the sadness that swelled in my belly, I felt at peace. It had taken six months to accept that I was in way over my head — that I had set an unattainable goal, starting and growing a business that required more resources than I could afford, and needed to let go. But it wasn’t a therapeutic talk or a drained bank account that brought me to a place where I could finally disengage.

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It was depression.

The “never give up” mentality was drilled into my head early in life. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and abandoning ship isn’t an easy option. When I’m not feeling blue, I push myself — even when a little voice inside says, “Give up, woman. There’s no light at the end of this tunnel.” During periods of depression, which I was diagnosed with 20 years ago and appears on and off for me  (and can come out of nowhere), I find it much easier to let go of things that are weighing me down, particularly goals that are simply out of reach, and move on. But I’ve never understood why. I thought there was something wrong with me. Was it undiagnosed ADHD? A way to satisfy an incurable need for accomplishment? Acceptance of defeat?

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Turns out, for someone with depression, letting go is often easy and completely normal. In fact, it can be a big psychological win. A pioneering new study from researchers in Germany suggests that letting go of unattainable goals may be an adaptive perk of depression. This is a sharp turn away from the mainstream notion of perseverance and the “never give up” mindset I learned as a child. Read more 

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