JThe key sentence for me in your question is, “I don’t know what will happen to me if I don’t have my depression as such a major factor in my life.”
Now, you are entitled to your own choices, and who am I to recommend that you should deny yourself the comfort of your depression? You are the author of your own destiny, and there can be some restful aspects of depression that are positively restorative. This is in no way a plea or recommendation for you to change anything at all.
The answer to this is quite simple, but it is multi-layered and so will involve some committed reading. I am going to take some liberties in here, making some broad assumptions. SO forgive me if I inadvertently offend in any way. It is not my intention to do that at all – my sole aim is to answer your question with insights that I have gathered over nearly 30 years of work with depression sufferers, my own paralyzing, suicidal depression and the development of an increasingly successful intervention called EMSRP.
Despite what the medical world claims, depression is generally driven by two factors (unless it is caused as a symptom of another physiological condition like hypothyroidism):
1) Unmet, ignored and disowned needs, many very subtle, which remain unfed, and thereby keep you metaphorically “hungry”. It is highly likely that you learned that these needs should be discounted very early in your life. The learning is not easy to talk about because you learned it in the same way your learned the reliability of gravity. It is simply an assumption built into what Bowlby called your internal working model of yourself, others and what you have to settle for in life.
2) An inner and totally committed unconscious belief that you do not deserve to have needs met anyway. This belief forms your unconscious self-concept. It is attached to a blue-print for your behaviours, and the blue print is your default guide to how to behave in order to get by, even that your self-concept disallows your needs being met. This has far reaching consequences for your permission to let people know when you feel injustices have been done to you, when the balance of resources is unfairly stacked against you, and tells you to make do with what is afforded to you.
This state of hunger becomes familiar, and the dynamic combination of your unmet needs and your limiting belief become the basis of all of your default assumptions about the world and you and what you can expect.
You then proceeded as a very young child to adjust yourself to this environment, you made yourself into a bunch of behaviours and habits that got you by, that limited the pain of being denied your needs being met and you became very familiar with how to be this person. You grew to know how to get by, and get some necessary needs met, even if some core and vital ones continued to be left untended to.
Having a solid self you can rely on, even if it cheats you out of experiences you secretly long for, is important because it enables you to have a degree of predictability to life which would otherwise feel entirely out of control. If it were out of control you might not get any needs met at all, and this could be devastating. And anyway, your meta-schematic blue print beeps away telling what you ‘should’ do and what you “shouldn’t” do using a cast of several inner voices, that turn against you if you stray too far from the blue-print. These inner voices are quite nasty at times – if you do something unfamiliar, after the event they are likely to start off telling you what a bad person you’ve been etc etc etc. These events are often followed quickly by a feeling of wanting to hide away – shame feelings – e.g.”Everyone saw you then and they will be thinking that you’re stupid/ugly/bad/evil/ridiculous…” and this is a polite version of the inner script.
This inner chorus is well-intentioned actually. It is trying to keep you within a narrow band of behaviour that will not expose you to unpleasant experiences of the past – experiences that were mortifying, shaming and left you feeling as if you might not even survive them.
So straying away from their guidance triggers an unpleasant inner experience, and so their pseudo-protection starts to feel reliable, and they even feel like friends. However they rob you of a full life of thriving, they cheat you of your needs (those ones beeping away in the background, ignored, disowned and invisible) being addressed.
Now when plants do not get what they need, they get depressed. They do not compromise – wrong soil, too much/not enough water, wrong temperature, inadequate sun, lime/no lime – they get depressed, become more prone to diseases, bear poor fruit and eventually in all likelihood, die.
Humans are exactly the same except we a) become attached to the persona that cheats us and promote the conditions that keep us wilting, and b) we blame ourselves and not our environment for not thriving in the wrong soil, without enough emotional and psychological nourishment etc. We hold onto a belief that there must be something wrong with us for not thriving…”other people seem to be doing alright, don’t they?”
You do not know how to be a person other than the one you believe you are. So it is safer to stay the same. Speaking for myself, I used my depression in all sorts of clever ways – one of which I have encountered again and again in clients over the years. I could not allow myself to get my needs met and to thrive because I could not stand the thought of my parents ever thinking they had done a good job of bringing me up! I was living with depression for all sorts of reasons including as an act of revenge. It was the last insight I needed to let it go once and for all, and for depressive symptoms to become a trigger for me to ask myself, “Hmmm, what needs have I been ignoring?”
There is more to you than the meta-schematic belief you hold about yourself. But you would have to be willing to take some risks to discover this fact, unearth your unmet needs and start to construct relationships in which they got met too. But you are clear when you say that your current state of play “… may not be ideal but I manage.” Sincerely, good for you – you have found a way that works for you.
Perhaps I have you completely wrong – and if so I apologise unreservedly.
The medical model of depression has it be a problem with neurotransmitters – not enough serotonin. Well, serotonin is released quite organically when we find ourselves in circumstances supportive of our thriving. When we keep ourselves in circumstances where we either refuse support, or the environment is simply lacking in sufficient nourishment (psychological and physical), then serotonin is NOT released.
Serotonergic (serotonin supportive) environments promote serotonin release – non serotonergic environments stop/block serotonin release.
That’s how all neurotransmission works – it is a natural response to environmental triggers. The situation regarding serotonin is not a simple one anyway – research shows clearly that it’s role is inconsistent, despite the myths that pharmaceutical companies allow to persevere.
Nonetheless – No support = depression. Simple. Our complex biology adjusts to our environments.
I wish you a wonderful enough life, and you have my respect for being so clear about how you want to live.