Struck By Living

Coping with depression and living life to the fullest.

Innovation: An Antidote for Depression

How does exciting the brain help battle depression?

Steve Job's resignation from Apple yesterday coincided with a story I posted on Facebook about landing my first job in Silicon Valley in 1982 (http://www.facebook.com/struckbyliving). In this morning's Dallas Morning News columnist Victor Godinez quoted Jobs as saying "If you do something and it turns out good [sic], then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next."

What's next. To be honest, I've been in a severe funk the last few months, the idea of what's next playing a large role in the funkiness. Not depression, just heavy blues. Don't worry, I faithfully take my antidepressant. Without that tiny pill, depression might have pulled me under.

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I'm not sure if my blue period has been caused by talking non-stop about suicide and depression for the past two years, the death of my mother or that itch to learn something new. But until this week, the blue funk hung like the ozone orange air in the Texas heat.

So what broke the funk? Earlier this week I was asked to judge a series of short stories for a literary magazine. The stories are good, great actually, and have nothing to do with mental health, suicide or depression. A few twisted my expectations; others employed a unique turn of phrase that sounded like a new chord I'd never heard.

Inspired, my fingers hit the keyboard. When I looked up, a day had vanished and the first job story appeared. In the zone, focused, I finally allowed myself to create, to innovate without answering the questions that often deter me. Why are you wasting your time? Who will ever read this? Don't you have more important things to do?

When I read Steve Job's quote this morning it occurred to me that by focusing solely on depression, I was doing what I do well, but dwelling past the point of diminishing returns. As weird as this may sound, the depression circuit is safe for me. I know I can help others with my speaking and writing about depression, and I get a lot of accolades for doing so. Unfortunately, that safety has become a bit of a prison lately.

In my evangelical role to rid the world of bias toward mental illness, I forgot Rule 5 of my own Struck by Living Top Six: Excite the brain. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qay6Skv7Go). I know from experience I am most happy when I'm stretching my brain to absorb something new. I've been stretching my brain in the past two years, but only in the direction of mental health issues. I need a change.

What's next? That's the scary part. Stepping into something new has that element of risk and possibility of failure. I'm not sure of where I'm going, but I'll let you know when I get there. In the meantime, you can find me on the road to something wonderful. 

 

Julie Hersh is the author of Struck By Living: From Depression to Hope.

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