Overcoming Depression

September 11th, 2008

Ever since I have memory, I’ve dealt with depression. While this is not the biggest challenge in my life, it’s certainly something I can give much insight about, having fought it for many years.

I read a book when I was in my pre-teens, that addresses this issue with an easy to remember formula:


I was amused yesterday, when I was praying anxiously about something or other, when my brain started playing “Carmina Burana” in my head. I almost started laughing outright; it was a self-pity alarm. Carmina Burana, together with the “Dies Irae” sections of the medieval requiem mass, are some of the most diabolical sounds ever set to music. Self pity is like the opening strains of Carmina Burana, a lament of helplessness, of things that cannot be changed. It is a refusal to “take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.” (Shakespeare’s Hamlet)

Consider the lyrics, and their translation:

O Fortuna, velut Luna statu variabilis,
semper crescis aut decrescis; vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat et tunc curat ludo mentis aciem;
egestatem, potestatem, dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis et inanis, rota tu volubilis,
status malus, vana salus semper dissolubilis;
obumbrata et velata mihi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum dorsum nudum fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis et virtutis mihi nunc contraria;
est affectus et defectus semper in angaria.
hac in hora sine mora cordae pulsum tangite!
quod per sortem sternit fortem, mecum omnes plangite!

TRANSLATION (courtesy this page)

O Fortune, like the moon of ever changing state,
you are always waxing or waning; hateful life now is brutal,
now pampers our feelings with its game;
poverty, power, it melts them like ice.

Fate, savage and empty, you are a turning wheel,
your position is uncertain, your favour is idle and always likely to disappear;
covered in shadows and veiled you bear upon me too;
now my back is naked through the sport of your wickedness.

The chance of prosperity and of virtue is not now mine;
whether willing or not, a man is always liable for Fortune’s service.
At this hour without delay touch the strings!
Because through luck she lays low the brave, all join with me in lamentation!

Anger is a fact of life. “Hateful life now is brutal, now pampers our feelings with its game”. There are many things we are powerless to change. But the solution is not to drown in oceans of self pity, but to find a boat.

I thought I had found mine, but a wave of misfortune capsized it and I’m in the water. I hope to find my boat again…or another.

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  • Anonymous

    ANGER + SELF PITY = DEPRESSION is one of the biggest lies. I, too, have suffered from depression since birth. It is a medical illness. Would you suggest that falling + hard object = broken leg, and that therefore you could think your leg better? Ridiculous. And, especially for a praying person, the idea of ANGER + SELF PITY = DEPRESSION only adds guilt to a physical condition. Not a nice thing to do!

  • Aaron Ortiz

    Atheist medical science would have us believe the mind is part of the body, and thus, as responsive to drugs as viruses, bacteria and fungi. I think there is more to it than just brain chemistry. Of course, medicine does help.

    Well, I did medicate myself for a few months in 2005. Antideppressants are a bit expensive, and I didn’t have medical insurance or a job at the time, so the cost became too onerous.

    I’ve found that feelings are the result of thoughts. Control the thoughts, and you have the feelings controlled too. But thoughts are based on beliefs, which are harder to control.

    Self-pity is a learned response…but a terribly counterproductive one, like guilt. I think we should avoid both.

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