According to the World Health Organisation, depression has become the leading cause of disability worldwide (1) – Brisbane multilingual counsellor Nenad Bakaj shares his very personal experiences of moving from depression to happiness …
I was in my twenties when my wife and I lost our 4-month old baby daughter Vanja and it was an unbelievable shock to me. I took immediate leave and did not work for four months. Then I decided to undertake some radical changes in my life, and asked my doctor to send me back to work as I was not feeling any better, and thought that my regular work routine might help. I also decided to change the sport I had already invested 12 years of my life into, to try something very new …
In his bestselling book “Learned Optimism”, Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD, the father of the new science of Positive Psychology, wrote about two ways of looking at life:
- Whenever something bad happens to us, we can imagine the worst, be helpless and be prone to depression and illness;
- Or, we can see bad events in their least threatening light – as temporary challenges that we can overcome.
We start our lives as totally helpless creatures. A newborn baby cannot help themselves and is almost completely a creature of reflex. When the baby cries, their mother comes, although that does not mean they control their mother’s coming. Their cry is a reflex reaction to discomfort and/or pain. They have no choice about it.
However as we mature and grow older, we attain more control of ourselves and our world.
There are many things in our lives that are still out of our control, such as our race or our eye colour, but there is a wide territory of actions that we can. These actions involve the way we decide to live our life; how we deal with people around us; what we do for living; and many more.
Approaches to Depression
Until relatively recently, there were only two major accepted ways of thinking about depression: the psychoanalytic and the biomedical.
The Psychoanalytic Approach to Depression: The first is based on a paper that Sigmund Freud wrote about a hundred years ago. The depressive, Freud said, learn to hate themselves at their mother’s knee. In his view, it is not easy to get rid of depression.
The Biomedical Approach to Depression: The other, more widely accepted view of depression, is biomedical. According to the biomedical approach, depression is an illness of the body, therefore a psychiatrist using this framework may treat depression with drugs or “shock therapy” – electro convulsive therapy.
The biomedical view is partly right as some depression does seem to be the result of chemical imbalances or dysfunction in the brain, and to a certain extent these may be inherited. However, antidepressants and shock therapy can have nasty side effects, which some people just cannot tolerate.
But what if depression is not an illness, but a severe low mood?
In his book “Depression – The Way Out”, Dr. Neil Nedley, a leading American physician in mental health treatment and research, offers valuable knowledge that can help people not only identify and correct the cause of depression, but improve their overall mental health.
Dr Nedley has also created a comprehensive Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program (available in Australia), covering topics such as: How To Improve Your Brain; Lifestyle Therapies For Depression And Anxiety; Nutrition For The Brain; How Thinking Can Defeat Depression Or Anxiety; Making And Staying With Positive Lifestyle Choices; Stress Without Distress; Overcoming Loss; and Enhancing Frontal Lobe Function.
Depression has been on the rise since World War II. The current generation living in the 21st Century is a lot more likely to experience depression than their grandparents and grand-grandparents (2) – for example, today one in four young people will have had a depressive disorder by the time they complete adolescence.
Taking Charge and Moving from Depression to Happiness
When depression strikes, some people give up easily, saying: “It’s going to last forever”, or “there’s no light at the end of the tunnel”; while others resist giving in to misfortune, and seek ways out, as they believe: “There is much more in life”.
On which side are you?
Many years ago, when my baby daughter died, life looked extremely painful and miserable (although I should mention, it was not the worst event I have experienced in my life.) Yes, I did reach out for and receive help. However, I was the one who decided to make changes and take charge of my life:
- I changed the sport I’d been involved in for years, and became a national and international champion six times in a row.
- I also decided to leave the country of misery and hatred, and decided to come to Australia where I received a warm welcome and bright future. This does not mean that everything here was just perfect. In fact, I experienced some of the most painful moments of my life here, but I have learned how to bounce back and live a successful and fulfilled life – and you can do it too.
If you already live in Australia and feel depressed or anxious, you do not have to leave your country. Pessimism has a role to play, but you do not have to dwell in its dark shadows. Help is within reach.
Author: Nenad Bakaj, MHumServ(RehabCouns), BSocWk, DipAppSci(Comm&HumServ), AMHSW, AAC, MAASW.
Nenad Bakaj is a Brisbane based Rehabilitation Counsellor, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker and Life Coach with a keen interest in positive psychology, mental health and wellbeing, and is continually developing his professional skills and knowledge. Nenad enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, as well as older clients, and feels it is a privilege to be able to support them. In the counselling room, Nenad aims to build rapport with his clients to assist them to reach their health, relationship, personal and life goals, and a happy and fruitful life.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Young Australians: their health and wellbeing, Canberra, 2007.