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How the Book 'Bravey' Changed My View of Depression

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I just finished reading the book “Bravey” by Alexi Pappas and it changed the way I see depression. I’ve been battling depression for the past few years, and it’s something I don’t talk about. I read more than two books a week, but I don’t read about depression. It seems like it’s either too depressing or it just seems fake how people get over it.

But “Bravey” was different. I picked up “Bravey” almost accidentally, my sister who is a college runner bought it. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. It begins with her experiences losing her mom to suicide, her childhood, then her running career and her battle with depression. I loved most of the book, but it was the part about depression that really hit home for me.

Like many people, I’ve found my depression getting worse during the pandemic. It’s something that I sometimes address, I go to therapy and take medication, but I wouldn’t say it’s getting better. The biggest takeaway I got from this book is that it can get better. And not only can it get better, but it can get better because of your actions.

She describes learning from her therapist, “He gave me one of the most valuable truths anyone has ever taught me: First your actions change, then your thoughts, then finally your feelings, in that specific order.” Equally as powerful, her next sentence states, “He told me to stop trying to convince myself to not be depressed — depressed person can’t be convinced of anything. He told me to instead expect that I was going to feel very sad for a long time, and that the most important thing was to focus on my actions.”

I’ve been feeling depressed for a long time, and I certainly agree that it’s hard to be convinced of anything. Instead, to accept that you will feel sad for a long time, can be so powerful. My therapist and I have talked about this recently, and at first I found it even more depressing. But then, you realize that you can be depressed and decide not to let that fact upset you. You can work to change it without focusing on it.

For me, the idea that you can focus on your actions is so important. One of my previous therapists used to describe a triangle of your thoughts, feelings, and actions and how they all influence each other. It seemed obvious to me how my thoughts shaped my feelings and vice versa, but I couldn’t change my thoughts. Honestly, most often, my thoughts are “I don’t give a shit.” It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I’m too depressed to have an opinion or to handle what other people say. But I still have feelings about that, I still feel guilty for thinking that and sad that that’s how I feel.

But a focus on action is empowering. It means that regardless of how I feel, I can wake up tomorrow and try. My thoughts might be the same and my feelings might be the same, but I can still act in ways that will help me. They don’t have to be huge things, but they can be small things: going outside, talking to a friend on the phone, and getting my homework done. And it’s so reassuring to hear that those things matter.

More than anything else, Pappas’ story proved to me that those things matter. That by choosing how we act, we can overcome depression and ultimately achieve any dream.

Many other parts of Pappas’ incredible memoir resonated with me and I think are powerful for anyone dealing with depression or any other challenge in their life. I would highly recommend this book to everyone. I hope you will find Pappas’ honesty, vulnerability, and exceptional writing as refreshing and reassuring as I did.

Photo credit: Tim Allen/Getty Images

Originally published: March 20, 2021
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