For years, I’ve walked with this guy on the track at the health club. We see each other nearly everyday; although I’m not sure of his name and so much time has passed we’re way passed that awkward stage where I can still ask.
I think it’s Bill or Ron or something with just one syllable, but I can’t be sure.
Some days, he engages me and we talk non-stop. Other times, he doesn’t even glance my way. I considered taking it personally for a while but decided if I don’t even know the dudes name then he doesn’t deserve that much headspace so I let it go.
Most of the time he has a radiant joy that everyone can feel.
I know happiness and this guy dwells there often.
He wore a wedding ring for years and doesn’t now, but all of our talks have never revealed any change in marital status. He has up days, down days and even days. Just like me. I sorta feel bad for not asking, I guess we’re friends and we do talk about what’s working and what’s not in our lives on occasion, but I don’t ever broach this one. I feel like you have to first know a guys name to ask something like this.
Recently, he brought in a test you take to see if you’re depressed. We took it as we walked around the track, I thought it would be funny. What I determined is that if you have the gumption to take the test, you probably aren’t depressed. At least not the real depression that people suffer from. You get a score at the end of all these questions and although I expected to be so inflicted I might not survive, I flunked. Even though I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the sun and I have a hundred thousand things these days making me crazy and boughts of sadness show up on occasion like a pimple, the test revealed I was so not depressed I didn’t even show up on the scale. Left out, once again.
Bill or Ron or Whatever his name is scored off the charts.
This concerned him immensely.
I admit I don’t have experience with what depression can look like but the images I’d created didn’t look like this guy. He was kind and engaging and exercising. My ignorant view was that depressed people just stayed in bed. This guy seemed highly functioning, often happy and navigating the world and it’s struggles just fine.
I had taken his test simply for the fun it. I had absolutely nothing invested in the results because I feel like I know who I am and wouldn’t value an online test to tell me otherwise. Plus, I’m comfortable with feeling shitty some days; I believe that’s just part of life.
He had taken this test with total sincerely and placed his trust in the results.
Over the following weeks, the man I knew was totally altered. Within a month, he became exactly what I thought a depressed person should look and sound like.
Best I could tell, the test made him depressed.
I reviewed the symptoms the test suggested depression looks like and he one by one accomplished them all. In fact, It seemed to me it was even in the order of the list.
Was he reading them and checking them off one by one?
Sometimes, things become something simply because we say so. What we focus on grows, right?
I decided since I was such a shitbag for not even knowing this guys name, the least I could do was have some compassion and try and help. I learned everything I could about depression and what it looks like and how to be helpful. I was surprised to learn how real and debilitating it is, that in fact it is a disease. I had years of amends to make for the million times I thought people should just buck up and shake it off. However, the more I learned, the more convinced I became that he had manufactured his state of mind simply by placing his belief in the test.
I found the test online and decided to research it’s validity. Turns out the guy who created it is a joke and the test has no authenticity what-so-ever. But the realness of it for my friend was profound. This man was caught in a spiral of despair that seemed self-induced as far as I could tell.
As we walked the track, I thought about how powerful the brain is and couldn’t help imagining all the things we could do with it if we could harness it’s power.
I found a test on line that was rigged so that no matter how you answered, the results would say you are profoundly happy. I brought it to the track and asked my now totally depressed friend to take it. He agreed, seemingly desperate.
A few days later I brought him the results.. Based on a “detailed analysis” of his responses, he was living a “profoundly happy” life and ranked “in the top 1% of all people for happiness”. It further stated that any feelings of sadness, lack of joy or depression were simply temporary moments and instructed us to not give them too much power.
As he read over the results, his face seemed to glow. I wondered what would happen as he folded up the results and stuffed them in his pocket.
The next day and then the next and then the next, he seemed a little brighter. Within a few weeks, the depression seemed to have been totally reversed and his spirits were joyful, engaging… the guy I originally knew.
I never mentioned the test again, I figured leaving it alone and just cultivating this new joy was good enough… but I still ponder what happened and I thank him often because he made me so keenly aware and guarded of what I allow into my mind.
“Mind is the forerunner of all states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they.
If one speaks or acts with a negative mind, suffering follows caused by that, even as the wheel follows the ox’s hoof.
Mind is the forerunner of states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind, Happiness follows caused by that, like one’s shadow that never leaves.” ~ The Buddha
“Your mind is a special gift… It can potentially store 100 trillion thoughts. That’s why we have to be choosy. We have to control what–or who–we allow into our minds. What’s true of computers is true with humans–garbage in, garbage out.” ~ Rick Warren
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”~ Henry David Thoreau