I’d like to explore some concepts around depression and depressive feelings, because the word “depression” is so over used these days to define a huge range of differing conditions, from mild melancholy, to extreme bi-polar depression.
So, for the context of this blog entry, I’d like to focus on “generalised depression.” Like when you feel a bit down or ‘out of salts’ or when life has become a little challenging and is not going your way, perhaps we could label it as mildly depressed, rather than, suffering from a mental health disorder (personally I don’t like the term ‘mental health disorder’ for generalised depression because it assumes you have no say in the matter, and I think you do.)
In my experience just using the word depression makes some people feel uncomfortable, because, the other person either knows (through experience) how you feel, or they may have empathy, but no real understanding.
So what is mild depression?
Personally, I think general depression is the bodies way of telling you that things are not OK within your emotional body (self) due to the effects of your life, relationships, thoughts and the environment you may find yourself in, some of which you can control and much you can’t. By numbing your emotions (unconsciously) your fatigued body is trying to keep you safe by:
- Withdrawing you from conflict
- Making you feel down, so you may be more likely to change your… (job, partner, situation etc.)
- It makes decision making harder (to stop you making rash decisions)
- It tries to make you seek support or help
- By feeling numb you can ‘put up with’ things that you can’t change
- Bad feelings try to pull you away from that which is not good for you
So, if depressive feelings are a natural bodily response to things that are not good for you (much like happiness is a natural bodily response to things that are good for you) then, we really need to listen to our emotions and act upon them!
How do you respond to depressive feelings?
So, here is the crux of my hypothesis – How do you respond to depressive feelings? Because depending on your personality type, your education, your parental influences, your health etc. you may interpret depression in many differing ways:
- Do you listen to the emotions and change that in your life which is causing disruption?
- Do you move (unknowingly) to a victim stance and say “Well, what can I do, I have depression.”
- Are you lucky enough to never get overwhelmed? (Lucky, or are you missing something?)
- Do you start blaming people / events and look to others to change so your life will be better?
- Do you try to control your life to keep bad things away (that strategy is actually called anxiety!)
- Do you dwell on the past and rerun horrible stories around in your mind?
Of course, we knowingly (and unknowingly) have many ways that we could respond, however, once depression gets a hold, it is often hard to get enough motivation to actually do something. Therefore, what I would like you to consider is….
Even though I feel depressed, have no energy, can’t concentrate, lack motivation, hate myself, blame others, feel crap etc. etc. Is this just natures way of saying “things are not right” and you need to explore (not only) what is happening out there, but also, what is happening within you! Your attitudes, your desires, your relationships, your work, your emotional needs, your physical needs, your dietary needs. Because nobody is going to change your emotions except yourself. Anti-depressants may lift you temporarily, however, what then? If nothing else changes in your life.
Early stage depression is a natural emotional guidance system, we need to listen to what our body is telling us and remove from our life that which is causing pain – and if that is not possible, we need to learn differing coping strategies that are loving to ourselves and conducive to our emotional stability.
Happiness moves us towards things that are good for us and depression moves us away from things that are bad for us – perhaps you can explore in your mind, the concept that depression is OK, it is natural, and you just need to learn how to work with it.
Could melancholy emotions & depression actually inspire us?
Have you ever thought about why so many great people experienced depression? Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, Stephen Fry, Abraham Lincoln, Woody Allen, Buzz Aldrin, Agatha Christie, Bob Dylan, Tony Hancock, Vincent Van Gogh, Leo Tolstoy…. the list goes on and on.
All hugely talented people, inspirational and creative. Perhaps, by embracing your depressive emotions and delving deep inside yourself – exploring who you are and what you want – you may find the real you and the strength to face life (and live life) in new and profoundly more courageous ways. I think that to live life without emotions (good, as well as bad) is to live life without passion.
Perhaps depression could become a blessing if you knew what to do with it?