How do highly-successful people deal with their depression when it strikes? Do the types of traits that help a person attain uber-success in the first place – i.e., motivation, determination, resilience – also enable one to fight depression better? There are two opinions on this. Some say, “no,” since depression strips away those qualities as soon as it strikes, wiping out the very coping mechanisms needed to recover.
Others disagree, arguing that very successful people have larger reserves of resilience and motivation to begin with, and that these qualities remain at least somewhat more intact when depression strikes. So let’s consider this: There are some ways in which the super-successful may have a leg up when it comes to recovering, and these qualities are worth paying attention to, and perhaps even learning from.
Many people go to therapy with the foggy notion that they want to feel better – but they aren’t exactly sure what that looks like. One of the biggest differences in whether therapy is successful or not is whether a person outlines his or her goals before they go to therapy, or very early on in it. The power crowd is used to outlining goals, and therapy is no different. You have to find a psychiatrist who’s not only well-meaning, but actually has the ability to get results you want to get. And, you have to know what it is you want before you go in.
Figure out what you want: You want a loving relationship with your wife, to really take each other in, and breathe each other in? You want a good relationship with your children; you want to be at peace; you want genuine happiness? You can’t be in the victim position. That’s the most disempowering place you could be. You have to take care of your own side of the street. For a long time, it’s little wins, little wins, little wins – and then all of a sudden, you realize you’re changing, and you start to know how to act when depression hits. When you get in that space, you recognize it, and you know how to identify what’s going on, and move out of it.
Funnily, when the super-successful come to grips with the fact that they’re going to have to delve into their pasts and figure themselves out, they’re often totally down with it. The big difference in the affluent individuals – they’re ironically more eager to explore that area than others who may not have means. It’s kind of like using the narcissism in a good way – like, ‘we’re gonna talk about me? Great!’. And once they really start to do this, to think more deeply about their pasts and presents, it usually works out pretty well in the end.
Exceedingly successful individuals are usually exceedingly intelligent, so when they stop self-sabotaging (and they are often very good at that, too) and start thinking about themselves and their lives in new ways – à la therapy – it can have powerful effects.
When it comes to recovering from depression, you have to figure out the best combination of therapies – sometimes it’s individual therapy alone, sometimes it’s medication, and sometimes it’s both. Or maybe it’s other methods. And then you have to figure out, along with your therapist, what will work for maintenance – and it may have to be tweaked every now and then. You start with a couple or a few sessions a week, depending, and, then you titrate back. Not everyone may have the luxury of three or four therapy sessions a week, but if you can put as many “treatments” into a week as you can – therapy, running, knitting, journaling, meditating, praying, yoga for depression treatment – that will set you up well for recovery.
Any psychologist you ask will tell you that depression isn’t about a person being weak or flawed – it just happens, and it takes a lot of work to recover. With depression there are some people for whom biological factors appear to be overwhelming. They respond so well to medication or to TMS that it seems to be almost wholly biological. For other people, they’ve suffered a series of blows and losses, so it’s more psychological. But no disease has a singular cause: Just like the idea that pneumonia is pneumonia is pneumonia is inaccurate in medicine, it’s also not the case with depression. Whatever the cause of your depression, it’s easier to recover when you view depression as a true disorder, rather than a shortcoming.
Once a person admits he or she is depressed and commits to recovery, the “fake it till you make it” approach can be helpful in overhauling negative thought processes. We know from research that negative thoughts are a huge part of depression, so recovery, then, requires an overhaul in thinking. Learning how to stop the loop of negative thoughts and reframing them to realistic, positive ones is the goal. If an uber-professional wants to “Fake it till you make it”, it can be helpful if they’re *not* in denial of their depression. Otherwise, it can spiral toward serious, life threatening levels if untreated depressive symptoms are ignored. People in highly competitive business arenas may be particularly endowed with this capacity, since they are used to problem-solving on the fly. But as for anyone, getting help to replace old, negative thought processes with newer, more positive ones is an important first step in depression treatment.
This is probably the most critical point, for any piece on depression, and for any person who’s depressed: Before you can get treated for depression you have to know that you’re depressed. But as simple as that sounds, it can be easier said than done. You first have to realize that there’s a better way to go through life. Many times, it takes a wakeup call like a trauma or a momentous event like the birth of a child, to make you realize that life doesn’t have to be blah, or worse, all the time.