Welcome to everyone! This post is intended to be for informational purposes only, and is a product of my opinion and experience as a massage therapist and life coach. Please consult with a medical provider and do your own research with any tips or suggestions I present here, and do not disregard any treatment or advice given to you already. And also please do seek help if you struggle with anything I write about in this blog.
I feel like depression has an interesting relationship to the topic of my blog last time: anxiety. It is somewhat similar and yet vastly different. Depression is a mental disorder that inhibits the function of a person, it is a product of a collection of symptoms, and surprisingly not everyone that gets it seeks treatment. It is also a disorder that leads to a high rate of suicide.
Depression usually follows something else, like a disease, a change in medication, or a big life event. Although someone could be genetically predisposed to have depression, I believe that like anxiety it comes as a product of our environment and culture. So, is depression curable or preventable?
I’ll try to bring some logic into this. But if depression and anxiety are indeed a collection of symptoms that are caused by something acting upon us, such as an experience or our environment, then it is preventable and curable. If the environment is causing a subject to respond in a certain way, then changing the environment will also change the response in the subject.
This is only a first step. I used to work with disabled adults in a day program. Some of these wonderful people would from time to time have meltdowns in which we as staff would need to alter or change their surroundings to help them calm down. This is a principle of accommodation. Beyond that we would help them to adapt, which is more powerful. Instead of being triggered by their environment, we would help them to not get upset in the first place with the same environment. So accommodation is great to eliminate depression, but adaptation is a better principle.
So is that it? The simple fix-all? While I have never struggled with chronic depression, I have certainly experienced depression from time to time in my life. I don’t know what everyone else experiences with their own, but what I do know is that it is never a simple fix. Just like making any type of life change, the trick is truly changing your environment to alter the symptoms of depression.
You can make easy changes to begin with. Things like diet, exercise, stress relief, and even changing interactions with people or places can be relatively small things (yet hard at the same time). But other things to consider go much deeper into our psyche and emotional state. Examine how you personally react to stress, change, loss, or illness. Is there a common theme to your reactions? How about the things that trigger the depression? Are you doing something that you know is unhealthy for your mental state? Are you emotionally exhausted? Why?
Okay, these questions aren’t easily answered, but it’s in trying to answer them that matters. As you grapple with these tough questions, it will be like dipping your toe into a large pool of self-awareness and ultimate health. Last week I mentioned how anxiety could be prevalent due to excessive looking to the future, (and being afraid of it). Depression in the same but in reverse: an excessive looking to the past. Here are a couple of ideas:
Concentrate on the present. Your past was instrumental in who you are today, but there’s no need to live there. Whenever you get hung up in the past, you can think of it like old clothes that you grew out of, or like a chapter in your personal book of life that is closed. You can look back at the clothes or the chapter, but they aren’t you anymore.
Examine your life with a mind of forgiveness. Forgive others for any pain that you have been through, whether it be that bully or a family member. Think about the time you were hurt and let that experience and pain go from your system. But most important is to forgive yourself. How many times have you not lived up to your expectations and gotten down on yourself for it? Also, was there someone that reinforced that disappointment?
This year I experienced depression myself. It resulted in thoughts of futility that persisted for a time. I waited for it to go away naturally. But of course, it didn’t go away on its own accord. What I ended up doing was a lot of self-care. I realized that with my work, business and family life, I was not doing anything for myself. So I changed and did the things I neglected to do for a while. And, that self-care paid off for me: the symptoms left and I returned to my normal self.
The process of loving yourself and others in spite of the pain is a personal journey, of course. But I do have one more tip to start it off. When you think of forgiving yourself or others, what is the first experience that pops into your head? I’m sure it’s not pleasant, but hold onto it for a bit. With that scene in your mind, think to yourself three words: I am okay.
Did you do something wrong? It’s okay. Did someone hurt you? It’s okay. Are you not living up to your or someone else’s expectations? It’s okay. You are better now for what you went through and you don’t need to hang on so tightly to the pain. Pain is meant to be felt. When we experience it, it can then go on its way. It’s only when we try to deny pain or push it away that it sticks around and causes suffering. The sooner we sit with it, feel it, and experience it, the sooner we can literally “be okay.”
And smile, you are always doing the best that you can in your situation.