Have you ever heard the term “circular thinking”? Depression involves a lot of it.
Depression is indeed a circle. The same thoughts keep recurring; they go round and round, always coming back to the same place: “I suck. Everyone sucks. The world sucks. There’s no point. Nothing can help. Nobody understands. I won’t try.”
It’s a vortex that seems eternal, a cycle that never ends. It’s like walking through a maze without any idea of how to find the exit. The same walls and dead ends keep appearing, over and over.
That’s because when you have depression, you’re grieving and you haven’t completed the process. You’re caught up in the stages of grief and going round in a circle, unable to break out of that circle and reach the end stage of acceptance.
When I say you, I mean me, also.
Depression cycle and grief cycle – one and the same
Here are the seven stages of grief. They look exactly like how dealing with depression works.
- Shock and disbelief.
- Guilt and shame.
- Anger and bargaining.
- Depression, loneliness, reflection and reliving what happened.
- Reconstructing and working through.
While depression is listed at stage 5, the reality is that when you have severe depression, you get caught in a vortex that swirls around the first 5 stages and keeps them on repeat. Circular thinking. Maybe you get a taste of stage 6 during therapy, but inevitably the vortex sucks you back into that cycle of disbelief, denial, guilt, anger, loneliness and hopelessness. Not knowing how to get through all the stages, or not having proper help to do so, keeps you stuck in the circle.
As for stage 7, it seems an impossible, out of reach pipe dream.
By the way, being stuck in the cycle of grief and having depression as a result…
… is NOT YOUR FAULT.
Trying to get through grief
Your depression – and mine – started when something happened that caused you to grieve. It might have been an upheaval, a loss, an injury, an accident, an assault, abuse, a breach of trust, a relationship ending, etc. The shock, stress and grief induced a physiological and chemical reaction inside you. That’s where your depression started. It was then perpetuated by circular thinking. When you grieve over and over and over on repeat, without moving forward, you get caught in the depression vortex.
We all know how hard grief is and that there’s no prescribed timeline for getting over it. It’s the same with depression.
You and me, we’re still stuck in the “what happened to me” or “what was done to me” phase. It’s not possible to conquer depression until we get past that way of thinking.
Fixing the chemical imbalance alone doesn’t solve everything. We still have to progress through the stages of grief and come out the other side before we can truly move on (or at least know how to live successfully with depression).
How do you get through?
I guess it’s pretty rich for me to say how you can finish grieving – considering I’m still dealing with depression and circular thinking. But here goes. Here’s what you need to do to get through the stages of grief that have held you in the depths of depression.
- Make a decision to help yourself. Not a wish. A decision. A commitment.
- Fix the chemical balance in your brain. Under strict professional care.
- Do the things you’re supposed to do – seek support, exercise, eat right, meditate, ease off booze and drugs, etc.
- Uncover the root cause of your depression, explore it, and dig it out. This is painful and hard, but it has to be done.
- Reprogram your mind – so you’re no longer being victims, so you’re open to the future, and so you’re not stuck in a loop. You have to repeat positive, affirming thoughts over and over to counteract the repeated negative circular thinking of depression and grief.
I guess I’ve been grieving for 36 years because depression is still my companion after all that time. Maybe at last I’m getting some decent tastes of stage 6. Finding stage 7 would be awesome. I have to keep at it, because I just don’t know how close I am.
Thanks John. May I Share these articles with my clients?
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Please do, Kerry. They’re published for all to read. Thanks so much. I hope you and Tony are well! xo