An Act of Cowardice

By Bret Burquest


Depression is a state of despair and hopelessness many of us go through from time to time, including a friend of mine who recently turned to me for some advice.


My friend merely assumed I’ve had more than my share of depression. After all, I live alone in a rural setting, talk mostly to my dog and don’t think too highly of the human race. Plus I’m a writer and everyone knows that writers are full of angst. Although I’ve had many ups and downs, I’ve never been happier.


But since I’m full of many things, including advice, I gladly gave my friend the following opinions.


People with a strong sense of destiny never become depressed. They realize their fate is beyond their control and are willing to accept whatever happens as justice even if it seems unjust. These are rare human beings, mostly Tibetan monks, blind musicians and bartenders.


The larger group of people who never get depressed are those who see everything through rose-colored glasses. They refuse to see reality for what it is, preferring to see only good and never acknowledging evil. They would rather be dishonest with themselves than accept a life of misery.


Most everyone else has had a bout or two with depression sometime during their lifetime. It usually happens when you are overcome by surrounding events, often during a time of change or grief or a recent revelation.


Life becomes overwhelming. Sometimes you fight it; sometimes you just want to give up.


Evil and injustice exists, even close to you. This frightens, disturbs and eventually angers most people.


But the anger originally started in childhood. We all enter this world as innocent beings. Before long, you become the victim of an unjust parent or teacher or bully or whomever. You could not confront these tormentors because you were helpless against them. As you grow older, this feeling of helplessness surfaces once again during a period of crisis or change. So you become angry all over again. But you also realize that anger is not appropriate behavior. So you repress the anger, holding it deep inside. Thus you become depressed.


Depression is withheld anger. It’s probably also a primary cause of cancer, heart problems, etc.


While some people react to the anger with acts of violence and stupidity, only making matters worse, most prefer to suppress anger by escaping reality. Alcohol and drugs are the most popular choices. However, overindulgence in just about anything will do the trick, such as food, TV, music, hobbies, partying, shopping, sports, work, cars, etc. But all this does is treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause. The anger still exists.


Suppressing anger is not the solution and expressing anger is not the solution.


The medical profession treats depression with drugs, restoring a chemical imbalance that often accompanies depression. In all likelihood, the depression causes the chemical imbalance, not the other way around. Once again, you’re treating the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. Prescription drugs are not the solution.


The solution is not indulging in the anger in the first place.


The first step is to forgive all of those who have hurt you in the past and present. You can do this in your mind instead of in person – the effect will be the same and you won’t have to explain yourself.


Next, you must understand that it makes no sense to be angry at anything you have no control over.


If a branch falls from a tree and hits you on the head, will you be angry at the branch?


If an insect bites you, will you be angry at the insect?


If another driver cuts you off on the roadway, will you be angry at the other driver?


You have no more control over a dangerous driver than you have over an insect or a branch. The branch doesn't know, the insect doesn't care and the erratic driver probably enjoys upsetting others anyway.


There are only two things in this existence – you and everything else. You only have control over you.


Most importantly, depression is basically an act of cowardice.  You can deal with your problems or you can allow your problems to overtake you.


In the end, depression is a choice. 


Choose wisely.


* * *


Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. Contact




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