Dealing with depression
|depression||"a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason"|
What is it?
Depression is quite common and can be mild or severe, and generally isn't a single thing in itself, but rather the reaction to a set of circumstances we find ourselves in. It's our body's way of saying, "my life situation isn't bringing me joy and it needs to change, eventually". The cause is usually not quite intense enough to warrant an immediate change, such as if we had placed our hand accidentally on a hot plate, and it's usually not enough of a cause to inflict obvious damage even over time. It's an emotional weariness. Just as your body tires near the end of a long hike or a marathon race, our emotional body gets tired after being subjected to gradual stress. Stress that's not big enough to take action over, but not small enough to ignore either. And so it is usually allowed to continue until we move, day by day, into a depression.
Like most behavioral reactions it has a useful purpose if we knew how to listen and respond to our systems. Given a naturally freely moving individual that finds themselves in a situation that isn't ideal for any number of reasons, it is simply a warning that while you can continue, your system is taxed, and eventually you'll need to make changes. Those changes may simply mean a change of environment or a change in the relationships in your life, or they might mean diving deep and processing old emotional baggage that is dragging you down. An unhindered individual would naturally move towards a less stressful life situation and the depression would naturally lift. But in our modern lifestyles, we are often tied to life situations, due to need for employment, need for relationship security, desire to not rock the boat, limits on resources such as money or space, or due to health concerns and inability to care for oneself.
When it becomes a problem
An absence of hope is a good indicator of depression that isn't going to naturally resolve. Most people have gone through tough times and may have felt depleted or even exhausted by the ordeal, but with light at the end of the tunnel they can persevere and will recover given time. If your tunnel has no light and is only blackness and there's no expectation that it will change anytime soon then you know you will need to take action and get support to see that light or change that tunnel.
The cause can start with many things, loss of a loved one and the daily grief and inability to accept the loss, or perhaps the loss of a relationship, or maybe the stress of a semi-non-functional relationship, or a much-needed job that feels dead-end. Or it might be connected to one or many old experiences that weren't fully resolved, perhaps from childhood or adolescence, and is now exerting pressure on you, preventing you from moving on with your life in healthy growth. Each depression can have a myriad of origins, but the result is much the same for each person, an emotionally-oppressed individual. Some weather the depression better than others for sure. Some hide it well, others can't get out of bed, and some would rather even not be here at all than face another day under that same dark cloud. People often dismiss it for a long time, as it gradually worsens. Like an occasional dull toothache or a lower back pang that can mostly be ignored sufferers are often reluctant to admit to themselves that they need to get help. Onset is often so gradual that they don't even realize until years have passed and it has become part of who they are, to themselves and those around them. In short, it is insidious and for many who suffer from it, hard to even admit to, let alone describe.
Why One-to-One Therapy Is Important
There are many ways to treat depression, and many different theories of therapy to help a client move through it successfully. One way is to help the client explore their inner critic and to expose negative and blaming thinking patterns that are contributing to a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. Another way is to teach clients the practice of meditation and mindfulness so that they begin to practice letting go of their thoughts and learn to be in the present moment. One of the confusing aspects of depression is that it can feel like deep and prolonged sadness, but it can be caused by not allowing ourselves to feel our feelings. Putting a lid on our emotions can cause a cascade of overwhelming emotions that become internalized, and cause a sort of internal collapse that is depression. Working with a therapist can help you see where you are afraid to hope, and to bring new perspectives onto your patterns of thinking. Over time, as you learn to express your emotions and practice self-compassion, depression will lift and life will move on.
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