Why Do I Need My Depression?

“Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician…”
~ Kahlil Gibran

Yes!  That’s correct.  You read it right.  

Much of your pain, including your depression, is self-chosen.

But why would you choose depression?

Because you need it. “Why do  I need my depression?” you’re asking yourself.  I need my depression like I need a hole in the head; like I need $5 per gallon gas; like I need to buy ice in the antarctic.  And you can go on and on.

Seriously though, consider this question carefully, because there may very well be a good reason why you are holding onto your depression.

What function does your depression serve?

Only you can find the answer.

Bernie S. Siegel M.D., a renowned cancer specialist, would ask his patients why they needed their cancer. A  dear friend of mine lost her mother to lung cancer, so when I first read about Dr. Siegel asking this question, I was offended.  I thought it was insensitive.At the time, I had two clients with cancer.

self diagnosis

much of the emotional pain that we feel today is self-chosen.  We hold onto our story as if it defines us.  

Dr. Siegel was so successful with his patients, that I thought the question was worth a try.  I prefaced it by warning my clients that the question might be disrespectful to their life experience.  But both clients knew exactly why they needed their cancer.

One told me that she decided when she was eight years old that she would die from cancer.  Her grandmother had cancer at the time. As a young  girl, she was in awe of the tender love her grandmother received as a result of the cancer.  She yearned for that total acceptance and love from her family.

The other client said it finally gave her an acceptable reason to slow down her crazy work-a-holic life.

Since that time, I often ask my clients why they need their struggles no matter if it is depression, anxiety, or cancer.

It may be that you need your depression because you like the way others take care of you and give you attention.

It may be that you need your depression because it gives you a reason to not do things that might overwhelm you.

It may be that you need your depression because your identity is so wrapped around it that without it, you don’t know who you are.

It may be that you need your depression because, while you know how to do life with depression, you are scared to do life without it and you have no idea what that might look like–we all know how uncomfortable change can be and the effort it takes.

Perhaps a better question to ask is, “Why does your depression need you?”

“What do you mean?” you ask.

“How can my depression possibly need me?

How can it have any need?  It is not possible for my depression to have a need.”

And therein lies the point: If your depression has no need of you, then why do you have need of it?

Simply put–you don’t.  There are more healthy, adaptive ways of meeting the needs your depression may be satisfying.

weight of the world

You do not need to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Depression does not need you so why do you need it?

Look at it this way: I met with a client who was extremely depressed over some past life events, as well as the prospect of future life events.  He likened his depression to constantly carrying around a backpack that was loaded with large pieces of broken concrete.  He described how heavy this was and how much resistance he encountered from gravity, always having to reposition the backpack to stop it from falling.

I asked him why he needed to carry his depression.  He was stumped and could not give an answer.  We discussed some of the reasons above, and he begrudgingly agreed to some.

Sensing that he was not convinced about his need to carry his depression, I said, “The question that begs to be asked is what need does the concrete have for you to carry it?”  He was quick to answer that the concrete had no need to be carried by him, thus inadvertently acknowledging that the only need was his.

Having more fully accepted this concept, we could then circle back to exploring more seriously what his reasons were for carrying it. If the concrete had no need to be carried, why was he carrying it?

Why do you carry your depression, and what does it do for you that you are not willing to let go of?

I can promise you that it has no need for you to carry it.


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Stuart Harper, LCSW, RPT-S; Lead Writer at Empowered Life Solutions

“Every life has a purpose our mission is to help you find yours.”

Related Reading:

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

How to Live Between Office Visits: A Guide to Life, Love and Health by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.


Gibran, Kahlil. (2012). The Prophet.

Siegel, Bernie S., M.D. (1993). How to Live Between Office Visits: A Guide to Life, Love and Health.

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