Initially, the trigger for my interest in psychology was my own battle with depression. I say battle with depression and in many ways, that is part of the problem. The metaphor we use to describe ‘depression’ fixes it as a static object… a ‘thing’ we battle. Even the very title of this post is slightly misleading. Can you really ‘handle’ depression since it is not a ‘thing’?
For the purposes of utility, I will keep referencing the term ‘depression’ in so far as it helps me make my point. My own journey with this illness or problem has been full of ups and downs. When I was a teenager, it was at its worst as I found myself spending many nights considering ending it all.
Even as I got older and had been working a number of years as a trainer and therapist, I still found myself struggling with my darkest emotions and felt guilty about this, since I was not ‘supposed’ to be struggling.
Here is the problem. People who have never experienced it think that depression is the same as sadness. For example, you lose your job and therefore you are depressed. You win the lottery and you are happy. Their rational perspective makes sense because the world makes you feel how you feel.
In reality, depression messes all of this up. Losing your job might trigger an episode. But it is not your job loss that depresses you. When you suffer, everything depresses you. You find yourself caught in a cycle of horrendous thought after horrendous thought about your current situation, your past experiences and your scary future. The darkness clouds your judgement and the world seems, well, fucked.
The bottom line is that, in order for you to be happy, there are two things. For starters, you need to let people know. You need practice the skill of being happy. You need to condition your mind to think in happy ways. You need to train yourself to build new patterns of thinking and feeling so that you start feeling good more of the time.
My recommendations for this? Easy.
First, seek help from experts, counsellors, doctors or therapists in the area. Tell someone and let yourself be helped. There are some amazing organisations out there that specialise in helping people who suffer from this. Aware, The Samaritans, Grow.
Next, read books that make you feel good. The Happiness Habit, Think and Grow Rich, How to take charge of your life, Awaken the Giant Within, The Secrets to Being Happy. The 4 Agreements. The Power of Now, Feel Good.
Study NLP, CBT, Positive Psychology, Mindfulness. Practice them all and start generating positive ways of thinking. Watch far more comedy shows and stand up comedians. Devour positive thinking books and start the process of brainwashing yourself with optimism.
Exercise regularly and eat healthily. Sleep well and be good to yourself. Spend time with your friends and loved ones and get out into nature. Every day write down five things you have to feel grateful for. Listen to audio books and motivational tracks from great speakers like Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar or Tony Robbins. If you do all of this consistently you will start to rewire your brain and build new natural patterns and habits of feeling really good.
But there is one other thing you need to do first. You need to learn to handle the horrible, handle the darkness when it comes. This involves remembering that it lies. When you are depressed, your brain distorts everything. It lies to you. The worst part is that you can not tell that it is lying because it feels so real. You must remind yourself that it lies.
It lies about the past being a mess. It lies about the present being impossible. It lies about the future being hopeless. You need to see through these lies and realise that, although life can be tough… the reality is that you can be tougher. You must be. You must pick yourself up and move forward regardless.
You must acknowledge the thoughts and remind yourself that they are lies. Once you do this, you gain a certain freedom to get through the darkness and then start the process of cultivating a bright future using the ideas mentioned above. That is the important thing.
The truth is depression is a pattern of thinking that we learn to engage in that leads to feelings that determine our thinking. Our brain chemistry is so impacted by us doing this that we distort our perceptions quite dramatically. When you refuse to believe the distortions, you are deciding that you will not be driven to despair by lies. You are saying that the lies are just incorrect thoughts and you can let them go by so that you can replace them with the new ways of thinking which you have developed instead.
Depression is not a thing or a darkness… but sometimes labelling it as an ‘it’ can help. For depression is and always will be a liar. It has lied and killed too many people. We must fight this liar and expose its lies by proving it wrong. That is the challenge. That is what makes life so worthwhile.
So, if you have been struggling with tough times lately… refuse to listen to the liar and instead, work as hard as you can on running your brain on positive energy. You will get through it. You just have to fight with your scepticism. On the other side, a happier future is waiting for you. It is time to step up. You can do it and when you do, your inner world will start working so much better.
Have you been fighting this liar or have you managed to change your pattern of thinking about depression? If so, I would love to hear from you, leave a comment and it might help others who are in the same situation.
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