“Depression’s no sin, but it will knock you further down than any sin ever could” – Chassidic saying

So you’re feeling depressed…but which kind? The depressions most of us commonly encounter in life fall into three categories, each with a different treatment approach: Outta My Control; In My Control; and Me.

Outta My Control
In His Torah (the written expression of G-d’s wisdom and will for the universe He created) G-d laid out the terms: “I got it all covered except your Awe of Heaven (Yirat Shamayim).” In other words, we are in control of ourselves – thoughts, words, and actions – and the rest is in His capable hands: livelihood, family and friends, opportunities, etc.

What happens if we don’t listen and instead allow our focus to drift into G-d’s business? Depression. Are you spending a lot of time wishing that people in your life were different; that your job, co-workers, or boss were different; or that your opportunities and experiences in life were different? Oops…that’s not our control. Keep up the illusion of control and you’re headed to depression.

Treatment: contemplation of the fact (seen in one’s present and especially past life events) that great good always lies in the challenges and struggles, and that all that G-d does is good (a fact which He promised).

In My Control
This depression comes from focusing on ourselves and what’s in our control. When we make an accounting of who we are and where we are holding, we might feel angry, disappointed, or down over what we see: poor behavior, lack of accomplishment, failures, personal weakness, bad character traits.

Treatment: Not as simple as the treatment for the first depression, in fact, it only can and should be treated at certain time or times in the week we set aside for personal accounting and review. Otherwise, too much focus on what we need to fix can, itself, bring us down. Besides, the overarching principle in all we do is “to serve G-d with joy.” Allowing thoughts about this to have space in our minds at times we didn’t designate can bring us way down. Be the boss and tell them to go away until your weekly time for personal review. And then, when done, it’s not for the purpose of self-abuse, but rather to spring us forward to more, to inspire us to do even better and reach even higher because we’re unhappy where we are holding and know we can improve. In other words, a controlled depression that you unleash and you lock up. No sudden overwhelming stuff.

The third depression is our primary problem in life: depression over the never-ending battle and struggle with our drives and yetzer hara (selfish/evil inclination). Though we work hard in our relationship with G-d (Avodat Hashem) and in improving ourselves, even seeing growth, improvement, and progress, nevertheless, we look over our shoulder and see that our animalistic selves are also pumping up and remain just a step behind. Makes us want to give up! After all, we give it our best shot and our selfish, petty, shortsighted, never-happy version of ourselves is still there staring back at us and getting in the way of everything.

Treatment: Change our expectations. Give it up, let go, and stop thinking it will be different. This “me” will always be with us. In the future times of redemption we will fully and only be the G-dly within ourselves, but until then there’s a struggle to be waged with full force, one minute, hour, day, week, month, and year at a time, and over and over again. Sounds bad, but realize for a second Who set this up: G-d Himself. This is how He wanted it to be, and in fact (we’re told) that He enjoys the effort greater than the deeds of the totally righteous who have already vanquished this part of themselves (by the way, they are few and far between).

In that case, the problem is not who or what we are, but rather thinking we are supposed to work or be in a different way. What do you think happens when we set for ourselves an impossible goal and then, naturally, fail to achieve it? Depression.