Something triggers you and the darkness descends like a ton of bricks. Everything inside you feels heavy and sluggish. You feel paralyzed, like something as simple as getting up and crossing the room is too hard. Forget going to work or getting dinner ready! You feel guilty about not doing anything, so the paralysis worsens and you feel ashamed, even worthless. You want everyone to leave you alone and for a hole to open up and swallow you. Maybe you cry. Maybe you brood. Maybe you bristle with anger. Maybe you say that you hate yourself. Maybe shame and guilt wash over you for being in this position yet again. Maybe you go numb and coldly emotionless, yet still with an overriding heaviness holding you down. Maybe all of these.
And it all runs on a repeat loop. Over and over.
You’ve had these depressive episodes before. So… many… times. You’re sick of them. You feel powerless.
Yet you have a choice…
Trying to cope
Maybe your mind swirls with negative fantasies of telling someone off, or getting revenge somehow, or punching someone. Or worse, you have thoughts of harming yourself.
Escapism seems so easy and tempting. Maybe you take off to be away from everyone. Maybe you turn to movies, music, drugs or alcohol. Maybe you get sucked into the YouTube vortex.
You just want to do anything to numb the pain or make you forget it for a while.
First things first… It’s not your fault.
Say it. Aloud.
“It’s… Not… My… Fault.”
That’s right. You are not to blame for your depression.
And you still have a simple choice…
Don’t look externally when the war is internal
The demons that come… they’re not actually demons. They are emotions. Your emotions.
And they don’t come from somewhere else outside you. They are within.
Therefore everything you need is also within. If you learn where to look.
The problem is not the lot you’ve been dealt in your life. The problem is choice.
These depressive episodes occur when the universe is sending you a message and you’re not in the position to hear it. The message is that something you have held onto for too long has become poison inside you and needs to be released. Something you have believed about yourself is not true and must be changed.
At times like this, depression is so harsh because you are fighting to cling onto that which must be let go.
You are at war with yourself.
Don’t blame yourself. Be grateful. Whatever you have hung onto has served its purpose and brought you to here and now – for a good reason. You are reading this right now for a reason: a chance to change.
The only choice you really face
You have a choice about how to respond to everything: you can act out of love or out of fear. It’s that simple.
LOVE or FEAR.
That’s really the only choice we have for everything we face in life. Think about it.
Learn to listen
Quieten your mind as best you can. Breathe, slowly, deeply. Go outside and be in the fresh air. Move to a quiet room that feels safe. Play a meditation track to help. (InsightTimer has so many short and free guided meditations for you.)
Amid the turmoil in your head, listen for the small, calm, quiet voice inside you. (Guided meditation really helps.) The dozens of other loud, negative voices are trying to shout it down and you soooooo want to believe them. Keep listening for the calm one. It is the voice of love.
As corny as it may seem, love is what you need. Love that must come from yourself first.
Don’t believe it? Name something else you think you need to overcome your depression that doesn’t involve giving up, being vicious, taking shortcuts, or hoping for a sudden and unrealistic miracle.
Do one thing
Do just one thing to love yourself. It doesn’t have to be huge and earth-shattering. Breathe in and out slowly five times. Put one dish away. Say one mantra or prayer a few times. Sing a song. Play an instrument. Go for a walk or bike ride. Take a bath. Do half a fitness class. Yes, depression will fight you and want you to stay put. Follow the small, calm voice.
That’s love. So it’s not a huge act of love that changes the world. Who cares? It’s still love.
Even better, be vulnerable. Tell someone you’re hurting. Ask for a hug. Remember those people who said they would be there when you need? Take them up on it. Call a friend. Call your therapist. Call a help line. Just tell someone that you’re struggling and need a little support.
Nobody will help unless you ask. So speak up.
That’s strength, not weakness. Vulnerability is your strength. That’s love overcoming fear.
The ultimate act of love
Close your eyes. Breathe easily and regularly. Mentally place yourself back to an event or a time and place that is at the heart of your depression. Think of an image or situation that keeps coming up in your mind as being important. (For me, I was 12 and feeling utterly alone. I remember the room. I remember feeling lost and powerless, thinking nobody cared or understood, knowing nothing would ever be the same again.)
Then imagine yourself today approaching you back then. Walk up to yourself and offer yourself what you needed most at that time.
What you will likely offer yourself… is love. It’s what you needed.
It’s also a deeply moving experience. The reaction you feel to it shows the power of love. Not despair or hopelessness or anger, but love.
And it proves that powerful love for yourself is within you, even now in the depths of depression.
(Important note: If you imagine doing anything hurtful or violent to your old self, contact a mental health professional right now. Even a help line or suicide line.)
Love doesn’t mean everything is perfect sunshine and unicorns. Love is sometimes hard, often elusive. But love is who we really are as humans, and what we really crave.
Your depression is you craving the love that you needed at a specific time and for a specific reason. You can still have it. Give it to yourself.
Don’t fear sadness
Sadness and despondency have been with you far too many times. So have anger, shame, guilt, and so on. But don’t fear these emotions. Don’t fear any emotions. There are no “wrong” emotions. It’s OK to have them. You know they don’t last forever.
The emotions associated with your depression are a message, that’s all. Change your approach to listening to them and you change your depression.
This is where you need proper mental health care. You need somebody to show you how to change. The journey is long and challenging, but so is depression. You know the pathway depression takes. Choose a better path. Listen to the small, calm, loving voice. Sometimes you will wander off that new path towards the old one. I sure do. Don’t beat yourself up. Just love yourself and adjust your course.
If this blog reads like I’m trying to convince myself, as well as you, you’re not wrong. I know how desperately awful depression really feels. Since 1982. I’m also working on loving myself. I’m still training myself to think of every choice as being between love and fear. Sometimes I fail. So what? Maybe it’s two steps forward and one step backward. Or sometimes two backward. I just have to keep at it. I can. I will.
So can you. So will you.
Love and goodness to you. You are awesome.
You are loved and you are love.