Most people who haven’t struggled with depression have little idea how hard it is to get through each day, keep the details of your life together, and be pleasant to those around you. With the struggle of simply coping with day to day, it can feel impossible to take steps forward toward a dream or goal for your future.
Maybe you are yearning to cope less and live more.
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms of depression?
- Lethargy and overwhelm
- Changes in appetite or sleep
- Despair about the future
- Obsessive, self-critical thoughts
- Not finding pleasure in usually pleasurable things
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty with managing time and schedule
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, I am so sorry. I have been through depression and might understand the burden you are carrying.
I am here to help. I work together with each client as a team to figure out what feeds an individual’s depression and what we can do to reverse the downward spiral. People do heal. There is hope.
I have found four key personal choices that can reverse the cycle of depression.
- ACCEPT HOW YOU ARE FEELING
Our culture shames us for having certain feelings. We get the message that having “negative feelings” means we are weak or less-than.
We hear from an early age: “Big boys don’t cry.” “Don’t be a scaredy cat.” “She’s such an uptight b%#&!” Being angry is particularly unseemly for women.
Ignoring or denying how we feel is a recipe for depression. Yet most all of us consciously or unconsciously try to sweep negative feelings about our lives under the rug. We all would prefer to feel happy, grateful, and optimistic.
But being willing to admit that a part of your life is not working is a huge step forward in recovering from depression. Maybe you need to see and accept that you are angry at your partner, disappointed by your family, or bored by your job of many years in order to heal.
- BE REAL WITH OTHERS
When we say to people in our world what we truly need or want, it can act as an anti-depressant. Getting real about how we really feel can provide great relief and clear a pathway to depression recovery.
Jessie feared conflict. Her partner Greg was being a jerk again, and making subtle critical comments. She kept silent in order to avoid a fight – to keep the peace. She was trying to stay positive and ignore how disappointed and angry she felt. The more she held her tongue, the more she over-ate, and the more depressed she got.
With counseling support, Jessie was able to tell Greg that she loved him, but it wasn’t OK for him to speak to her that way. Whenever he started to say critical things, she would point them out and leave the room. Greg started apologizing for his behavior, and soon stopped talking to her like that. Jessie felt empowered, feeling really good that she had raised the bar in their relationship. She started to find her depression lifting.
- SAY NO TO WHAT YOU DON’T WANT
Another pattern that feeds depression is avoiding setting limits or boundaries. Maybe we say yes, even though it doesn’t feel right.
Our bodies are our reference point for knowing where our true limits lie.
Imagine that Dirk, a frat boy comes up to you and tells you to clean up after last Saturday’s keg party. What would you feel emotionally? Maybe you feel angry that he would treat you like a servant.
As you imagine considering saying “yes” to him, what sensations would you feel in your body? Does it make your skin crawl? Do you suddenly have a sick feeling in your gut?
Or perhaps your mother-in-law continues to ask you to do things for her that she is capable of doing herself. You keep complying because you think you “should” in order to be a good daughter-in-law. You know you would much rather use that time for exercise than for placating her. You find yourself getting more irritable with your family and kids, and you start feeling depressed.
Saying “no” to what doesn’t honestly work for you is a step forward in healing depression.
- MAKE LIFE CHOICES THAT REFLECT WHAT YOU TRULY WANT
When we make life choices that honestly reflect what we truly enjoy, value, and love, depression can ease.
James was a successful corporate lawyer. He found himself dreading going to work, feeling like he was walking through mud at work, and noticed that he felt better as soon as he left for home.
James knew deep inside that he really rather be working with small business owners. He had a family to provide for, so how could he give up his lucrative work? James felt trapped in a cage of being the reliable provider.
He started researching and planning how to start his own small business law firm. As soon as he started the process, his depression lifted. The change in his depression was validation that he was on the right path. A few years later, James followed what he truly wanted and made the leap.
LOOKING AT THE PHYSICAL
Sometimes a key biochemical piece is causing some or all of the depression. If low thyroid, peri-menopause, or anemia is fueling the depression, we don’t want to get sidetracked with only psychological work without tending to what is needed medically. Or maybe you are genetically prone to depression. I have had many clients who have seen great relief from working with their medical provider whether it is an MD, nurse practitioner, or naturopath.
Maybe a key for you is that you are sensitive to the short days of winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can easily go undiagnosed. A simple way to interrupt the depression cycle is making sure you spend time early in the day by a sunny window or outside without sunglasses or that you use a special light box for 15 – 20 minutes every morning.
FINDING FREEDOM FROM THE POWER OF DEPRESSED THINKING
Depressed brains generate negative, distorted thoughts.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“I never do anything right. No one loves me.”
This black and white thinking is so painful and inaccurate.
“I will always be depressed.”
When depressed, our brains gravitate toward the negative future. It seems to be some attempt to forecast doom, so that we can protect ourselves from it. But our beliefs can be flat out wrong. People can heal. Lives can improve.
“I should be going to the gym every single day!”
We focus on impossible “shoulds” rather than on realistic next steps. I encourage clients ti find out what will actually work. Maybe it would be more useful to start by planning walks with a friend twice a week because it’s something you actually enjoy and have no resistance to doing.
Depressed thoughts can be arrogant bullies. I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with clients to expose the lies in these distorted, untrustworthy thoughts. I help clients find the ability to not buy into them.
Perhaps you are thinking: “I’m finding it hard to call a counselor. “
I know that taking the first step to relief can be overwhelming especially with depression. It takes courage. I have helped many people find relief. There is a way out.
Our culture has a powerful, long-standing stigma around depression. You can get help for depression despite while still feeling some of the stigma and shame. The shame doesn’t have to be gone before choosing to get help.
If what I have written here makes you feel I might be a good fit to help you move forward, I hope you take the step of calling or emailing me today.
I am available to speak with you either on the phone or at my office for a free half-hour consultation. You can check me out to see if working with me feels right. If not, I would be happy to refer you to other counselors I respect.
Wishing you moments of peace as you navigate your path out of depression,