Today I'd like to address a specific form of faulty thinking that often plays into depression.
Do you feel that somehow you've been cheated? Does it seem that everyone else has it better than you do? In today's society where so much attention is directed to having better "stuff" than the next person, and where 20% of television time is devoted to telling you that you need the latest model of whatever they're selling, it's easy to feel that you should have a lot more than you do.
On top of that, when you look around and it seems that everyone else is enjoying themselves, it's easy to feel that you're being left out of something important.
I remember a time, earlier in our marriage, when we were living on a tight budget, a couple befriended us and invited us to their home. We were living in a small house (all we could afford) with second-hand and garage sale furniture. They lived in a tastefully furnished luxury apartment. I remember worrying that our three year old son might accidentally spill something or put sticky fingers on that expensive-looking sofa, but the woman dismissed my concern, telling me that she and her husband loved little children. We quickly discovered that they and we both played bridge, and soon I was faced with the necessity of inviting them to our home. I was in one of my deeper depressions at the time, and I felt totally inadequate. Their life seemed so wonderful. They played tennis regularly, traveled widely, belonged to several social groups and entertained a lot. In contrast, my husband worked long hours, we struggled to make ends meet, and depression drained my energy to the point where it seemed there was no joy in my life.
Then I learned that they, too, were struggling. They desperately wanted a child and for several years had gone from one fertility center to another, only to be told over and over that it was very unlikely that they would ever have a child of their own.
I was shocked to realize that we already had what they so desperately wanted. I learned a great lesson when I asked myself if I would trade places with them. I couldn't imagine life without our little boy. That would create a hole in my heart that nothing--not a beautiful home, lovely furniture, money, travel, or a busy social life--could ever fill.
The lesson I learned was that we all have gifts and we all face challenges, but sometimes we don't appreciate or even realize the gifts we already have, and often the challenges others are dealing with are not apparent to us.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.