I agree with the meme that, “before you diagnose yourself with depression, first make sure you aren’t just surrounded by assholes.”

I would add the following, though, “and also, first make sure you aren’t the asshole yourself.”

I suffered from two major depressive episodes. The first lasted about three years and was clinical. By “clinical” I mean that it interfered with my basic ability to live daily life. I remember when I was so depressed that I was sitting in a chair in my basement apartment. And I couldn’t get up. No matter what I tried to do, I could not force myself to rise from that chair.

I can still remember so clearly how the light shone through the windows, the pattern it made on the floor. Finally, I fell out of the chair. I hit my head on the ground. Then I could get up. I guess I literally hit rock bottom.

I hypothesize that this clinical depression was a symptom of a deep, insidious family sickness. But it’s my second long depression that I want to talk about now.

During that second severe depression I could function at a decent level, but the depressive episode lasted for over a decade. And it was not a symptom of a family sickness. It was a symptom of my own behavior.

I had allowed myself to get isolated by an abusive relative. I could have just told myself I was a victim. But if I’d done that, I never would have gotten better. Because the problem was less the abuse than it was my response to the abuse.

I was tired of being told that I was unimportant, incompetent or stupid. So I reacted by doing everything I could to feel special or important. Eventually, I became addicted to feeling special or important. As a result I repelled people, became even more isolated, and then doubled down on my narcissistic habits.

The cycle continued until I started my own business as a financial adviser. Once I had to bring in clients just to survive, I quickly realized that those old habits weren’t going to cut it. I was not going to succeed until I learned to listen. And genuine listening is the opposite of being addicted to feeling special or important.

My second long depression was not clinical, but it was real. And it was essentially a symptom of narcissism. For many of you reading this, your depression is a symptom of codependence. And if your depression is clinical, it may even be a symptom of a deep family sickness.

There are many ways to treat depression. If what you are doing works for you, please keep doing it. But if you have been struggling for years and can’t see a way out, I have something I need to tell you. Your depression really is just a symptom. And the symptom cannot be alleviated until the underlying sickness is addressed. If you flee from confrontation with the real sickness, even the most effective treatments are nothing more than temporary pain-killers.