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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The art of managing depression, not fighting it

Rika Kayama

One of the common questions I am asked is, "Can depression ever be cured?" When I ask the person to elaborate, they usually tell me a story that goes something like this.

    They, or their family member or friend is taking medication for depression, but they still feel down and can't manage to get their energy back. "Will I ever go back to normal and not need medication or doctor visits?" they ask. "Will the day ever come when I feel better and refreshed?"

    "I believe your energy will return eventually, and as for when you will no longer need medication, that varies from person to person," I usually respond. "Also, feeling 'better and refreshed' isn't something that comes easily even if you don't have depression."

    What I mean is that people most definitely can recover their depression by undergoing appropriate treatment, and the waves of bad days grow weaker as time passes. Exactly how long it will take for a person to get there, however, is something that cannot be predicted, and unfortunately, some people will also relapse. Therefore, it's hard to say if a patient's need for medication will ever completely vanish.

    At the same time, "curing depression" does not mean you will suddenly feel energetic and happy all the time, or that you will enjoy life to the fullest every single day. I don't think I have depression, but on some days, I don't feel motivated to do anything and I just lie around all day. Other days, I might feel down after getting into an argument with a family member.

    But, having these emotional ups and downs or feeling upset or nervous is just part of life. These factors should not make a person believe that their depression isn't under control.

    What's more, if a person happens to be leading a normal life while taking medication, then they have all the more reason to feel that they are in control of their condition. There are plenty of people who have jobs and go out to have fun while taking medication to lower their blood pressure or to control their blood sugar levels without paying too much attention to their illnesses.

    So why not consider depression in that way? Instead of something you need to fight, why not look at it as something that you manage?

    There are still many things that you can enjoy, even without completely recovering from depression. You can still manage to lead a comfortable life, even if you don't feel chipper all the time. There is nothing stopping you from meeting up with friends and traveling -- even while taking medication.

    It's OK not to obsess over needing to beat depression. This is what I want to tell those people who anxiously ask me, "Will I ever be cured?" (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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