Sunday, June 15, 2014

Depression


“I recovered my immense will to live when I realized the meaning of my life was the one I had chosen for it.”

It is not difficult to rebuild a life.  All we need is to be aware that we have the same strength we had before and to use it in our favor.”

Paula Coelho


I’m not an expert on depression or a trained or untrained therapist, but I know depression when I see it.  At least I know how I have experienced it.  I am not speaking of clinical depression, which is physiological in nature.  I know nothing about that, having been very fortunate to never have suffered it.  I do understand circumstantial depression, however.  I think most people do.  Most people have been through at least one period in life where it seemed that all hope was gone.  Perhaps there was a feeling that nothing was ever going to change or get better.  In my own life it felt like a cage.  Again, I’m speaking of circumstantial, not clinical depression.  Usually the circumstances have been going on for a long time, or they involve a major, unexpected and unwelcome change.
This is what depression felt like for me.  First, it’s sadness.  I’m just sad.  Not only unhappy, which is discontent, but I’m genuinely sad.  I may be longing for something that has been lost or changed.  Or I may be longing for some change to occur.  The first one is easier to deal with if I can learn to accept and build upon the changes.  The second one is more difficult because it requires me to change or take an action to create change.  This is often very difficult.  
Depression, as I said, also felt like a cage.  More accurately, the circumstances felt like a cage. Why didn’t I free myself sooner rather than go through weeks, months or even years of unhappiness?  Granted, I have the key, but that doesn’t make it easier. I usually delayed because I didn’t want to hurt others and I didn’t want to be judged by others.  I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint others because I am, like most people, a fundamentally decent person.  I didn’t want to be judged by others because I am, like many people, afraid.  Unfortunately, by not making a decision, by not taking action, I hurt others anyway.  I was also judged by them.  I was judged as weak.  Weak people are used by others.  I was used by others to further their own agenda.   I was used by others to make them happy and meet their wants (not needs), and because I served out of fear instead of love, I always, always disappointed.   All of this only increased my depression.
The other problem was that I could get little help for it.  I knew what I had to do and I knew that only I could do it.  No one else could decide or do it for me.  I knew there would be pain if I made changes.  What finally happened was that the pain of not changing became greater than the pain of changing.  So I changed things.  Once I decided to find a new place to live because I could no longer tolerate my roommate.  Other times I had to change jobs.  (A couple of times the job, or my employment there, ended and the choice was made for me.)
When I finally made the changes I learned some things:
1.              The problems I had anticipated weren’t as bad as I thought they would be.  In some cases, they didn’t happen at all.  In addition, moving forward created happiness and creativity and I was able to solve many of the problems I had anticipated.
2.              There were still difficulties, but they were difficulties I didn’t mind having.  They felt like the right difficulties.  They felt like problems I was supposed to be solving, rather than problems I would never be able to solve.  My problems felt relevant and meaningful.  They were still problems, and they weren’t fun, but they didn’t make me feel hopeless.

It’s said that depression is anger turned inwards.  When I was depressed, I was angry but I didn’t realize it.  I didn’t usually take my anger out on others (though sometimes I did), but I turned it inward instead, creating physical conditions, many of which vanished after I made my decision.   For example, I had horrible tendonitis and a rash, both of which vanished after quitting a job I hated. 
I need to be clear that sometimes it’s better to change myself rather than change my situation.  When that’s possible, it’s preferable.  Sometimes I realized the situation, relationship, or job wasn’t the problem; I was.  I had to change my attitude as well as my actions.   I also had to let go of my expectation that the situation, the job, or other people change.  I had to accept people and things as they were.  If I couldn’t, I had to move on. 
What I learned through my most painful times was that the choice was mine.  It may have been a difficult choice, but it would have been difficult either way.  I knew, however, that staying on the same path, either internally or externally, or both, would most likely mean feeling the same way for the rest of my life.  So I made my decision and decision led me out of depression.
I literally had to Get Started and Keep Going to be free of depression, and that’s what changed my life.