- Mental Health
Kick Depression Out of Your Life
A seldom spoken of effect of depression is the tendency for the sufferer to over identify with the disorder. Many people who have depression were born with it; we know that there is a genetic component to depression that causes it to travel in families from one generation to the next. Both of these truths, in combination, may be explanation for this effect.
Those people who have grown up in families where unrecognized, untreated depression in the parents or older siblings has occurred are essentially reinforced in the acceptance of depression as the norm. Depressive attitude and thinking can pervade these depressed families, forming a depression nurturing environment for the child who is genetically predisposed to depression. It becomes a case of nurture encouraging nature.
Many people with depression have lived with it their entire lives. As such, it may take an individual quite some time (even decades) to discover that they are in fact, depressed. Of course, very obvious major depressions and bi-polar disorders are the exceptions to this. But those who live with fairly low-level depression such as dysthymic disorder may recognize only later in life that they have lived with depression their whole lives.
Essentially, when we live our whole lives with a particular detail, like our height, eye color, or depression, we take it so for granted that we do not recognize it as unusual or problematic. Due to life changes, such as the onset of adolescence, a low level depression or predisposition to depression may flare into a set of behaviors that are markedly different enough to get the attention of others or ones self. Adolescence, being a somewhat turbulent time for many people, may add enough stress to the individual to trigger a more active phase of mood disturbance. Yet for many, adolescence is so associated with moodiness, that depression still may not be identified for what it is.
Since the teen years are a stage of life where a great deal of identity formation work is being completed, adolescence can further serve to incorporate and solidify depression as being a fundamental part of the individual. Depending on the intensity and frequency of symptoms that rise to discomfort, the individual may take years to come to a determination that they have a depression that they can no longer cope with. By this time, the bond between self identity and depression is quite tight. And it is this bond that can become a fundamental stumbling block to recovery, because the individual identifies so closely with the depressive disorder that they believe that the depression is who they are.
The key to progressive self directed recovery lies in challenging and ridding ourselves of this erroneous assumption. But alternatively, another key is learning to own depression as a disorder that we are directly responsible for.
We must consistently and assertively challenge the idea that we are bonded to the depression: we are not our depression. Our true self has been disabled far too long by depression; we need to kick it out of our identity and reclaim our self. When we are able to dissociate our identity from our depression, we can then begin on the path to recovery. To do this, we need to see the depression for what it is, a disorder. It is a disorder because sadness is a natural emotion that is not 'bad'. Depression is and exaggerated sadness that is 'out of order', or out of control, dominating our emotional life. It in fact begins to take on a life of its own, growing and becoming ever more dominant until our life is negatively affected in all areas.
It helps some people to imagine that their depression is literally something other than themselves; let's say a dragon. As long as the dragon is sleeping, things are manageable. It's only when the dragon wakes up that there is trouble. Our job is to keep the dragon asleep. We are never unconscious of it, because if we are, it might wake and surprise us...or even eat our lunch!
In imagining our depression as a dragon, we can then begin to identify characteristics of the depression that are not really our true and solid self. For example, the depression lies to us, tells us things that are not true: 'no one cares', 'nothing really matters', 'nothing will get better', or 'I'm just cursed!' The depression blames everyone and every situation: 'I just have bad luck', 'those people are out to get me', that person hates me'.
The image of the dragon (or whatever you choose to identify your depression as) and our need to do the work to keep it in check leads to the idea that we need to embrace and take responsibility for it. A strong tendency in many people is to allow the depression to trick them into thinking that the source of their pain and suffering is outside of themselves, and that there is nothing that they can do to make positive changes and become happier and more serene in life. We must own the disorder of depression and become responsible to treat it and recover from it. And though we will likely have to treat it every day for our entire life, it is very treatable and recovery is possible.
Though it is possible for an individual with depression to cope with it without medication, most of us find that medication is a fundamental tool to get us out and keep us out of the hole where the dragon lives. We need to beware that the depression seems to target our thoughts and resolve to make use of medication in our fight to keep the dragon asleep. We may find that we 'forget' to take the medication, or we begin to believe that we can 'do with out' the medication. That is just the depression telling us yet another lie.
When we embrace the truth that we live with depression, only we can do something about it, that we need to plan and treat our depression daily, and that we are not our depression, we can begin to enjoy genuine recovery.
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Welcome to the professional website of W. E. Krill, Jr. M.S.P.C. Bill is an experienced counselor with children, teens, families, adults, and couples. He specializes in treating children and adults who have PTSD as a result of interpersonal trauma.