Depression plays havoc with your mind. It distorts your reality and if that isn’t enough it can evoke huge feelings of shame and even self-disgust. The internal self-critic becomes humongous and powerful making you feel less in control and more powerless.
1. Depression’s Bullshit messages:
Your mind somehow screams at you: “You are not meant to be feeling like this!” “You’re alone, you are broken, damaged!” and as you start grieving, it also tells you “you’re worthless, so who would want to be with you?” It tells you “this ain’t gonna change – this is going to be like this FOREVER” and shit, forever is a long time for anyone to endure. But this is just one part of the distortion of depression. There are so many others, like the inability to see that this too shall pass, or the inability to know that these emotions can be met, can be worked with and then will dissipate.
2. The Shame of depression
Depression tells you “you’re weak, hide this part of you, don’t ask for help!” and because this message is ‘out there’ society reinforces it with responses like:
3. There are people with ‘real big problems’
I always remember a saying that I learnt as a little girl and I thought I loved it – until now:
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man that had no feet”
The issue with this saying is that it negates what we are going through. It says “stop feeling sorry for yourself – you don’t have real problems.” That attitude encourages anaesthetisation of emotions. Problems aren’t scaled according to size but rather according to intensity. If they feel intense then they are!!! We need to meet that feeling with compassion, find out what it’s about, and grieve the loss; and there is always loss. With time we learn to bear emotions, to sit in the space of pain, to listen to it and meet it so that it can be allowed form an image and then dissipate and not overwhelm us.
4. Suicidal ideation isn’t always about dying.
It’s so hard to speak about suicidal thoughts. They’re the ones that mean “I don’t want to feel this pain anymore, it feels like this will never end; I can’t find my way out of this place, and I wish I could disappear, or that the world would swallow me up. I wish I could – not feel.” We are concerned about telling others because Suicidal thoughts are like leprosy. We feel we are defective humans and others feel we are crazy. We are scared of instilling fear, panic, rejection and even anger in the people we tell. But…. thoughts of suicide don’t always mean we want to die. They can also mean we need to be listened to. We don’t need a quick fix. Of course sleep, exercise, meditation, eating well etc can help…. but if we are in PAIN the pain (just like a broken wing) needs to be attended to with gentle acceptance and kindness.
5. Depression has many forms
Sometimes depression looks calm. Sometimes you glue a smile on your face or paste on a little laugh (for the outside world). At times it could look like someone hidden in the closet in the dark. It can be you working extremely hard, or the playing computer games endlessly in an attempt to feel better. It can come when you are successful or when you have just failed at something. It can emerge when you are just about to embark on an exciting phase of your life, starting university/college, getting married or becoming a parent (in fact grief often raises its head at times of change, because with change comes loss of the familiar) – depression doesn’t discriminate.
Why now? why me? this is unfair…. it’s not helpful to focus on such questions. The focus needs to be what am I feeling? What is this telling me about the mountain I need to climb? Who can support me while I take each little step? How can I support myself better whist I am feeling this pain?
Remember there are two opposing forces that we as human beings have:
The thrust to discharge (where we can get angry, frustrated, upset with those around us and this can make us feel overwhelmed and even make us feel like we’re going mad). In this place we don’t actually feel the pain: we discharge it by railing against the object we have identified as the source of the feeling, and feel the turmoil instead. Our focus of attention here is the frustrating object (our boss, our parents, our partner, our lecturers, our friends).
The thrust to represent (here we are trying to attend to something within us that needs to be embraced and looked after, to be understood, to be met with compassion and to be remodelled into the unity called ‘self’). We need to create an image, a picture of the experience in order to have a conversation with our own mind. Here we can embrace the pain, the sensations, and explore what is happening inside us and start containing it with compassion (and help). The focus is now on our relationship to the object. We have taken that which was outside of the mind, outside of us and taken possession: it is now part of the mind where you have the power to digest experiences while building courage with kindness, trust and believe in yourself.
You can understand these two processes as follows: imagine that someone punches you in the face and walks away. You can rail against your attacker, perhaps hurt them back, focus on what a terrible person they are and so forth (“discharging”). But the pain remains, and it is in YOU, not in the other person. If you can see yourself as being hurt and needing assistance, you can attend to the pain ITSELF. The hurt requires attention and soothing, regardless of how you engage with the other person.
Depression is an individual and a societal problem that should not be dealt with alone. We all need support to find our way when lost. We need to know that it is okay to feel emotions. We need to get rid of should, could, would – I should feel happy, if only this happens then I would be happy…. Its okay to feel sad. Just because somethings is UNCOMFORTABLE doesn’t make it wrong. It is as it is: right now you are feeling pain, and making it WRONG doesn’t make it hurt less. It just is what it is and if we can rather meet ourselves where we find ourselves then we have a greater chance of creating a mind that can cope with the disasters that occur in our lives.
Author: Debra©Psych in a Box