Depression is a cruel state. It robs you of an ability to have hope or feel joy. You stop being you — you become a lesser version, the one that doesn’t remember the normal you.
Here are some realizations that I gained through my own healing experience. Knowing and applying this will help you get through these rough episodes.
- Know that depression is a reasonable reaction to a hurtful life. If you keep putting more and more weight on a chair, eventually it collapses, however well it was made. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. You just need the weight lifted.
- Rest. Depression is your mind saying “I need a break!” Don’t force yourself to do anything you don’t have to. Do eat and sleep, continue to exist — but otherwise, give your soul a break. It deserves it.
- Defer major decisions. The depressed you is not a real you. The depressed you tend to see the world more negatively than you have to. Whenever possible, put things “on hold” — but defer major decisions, such as quitting a job or breaking up a relationship, until you’re in a better frame of mind.
- Trust people close to you. The depressed you’s view of yourself is also distorted. This is one state where you really can’t trust yourself. Listen to people close to you. Have them make decisions on your behalf and trust in them. They can see better than you can.
- Asking for help can be helpful. If your loved ones were hurting — your parents, kids, family members, close friends — wouldn’t you rush to their side to help them? Wouldn’t you find it worthy and rewarding to contribute to their lives? Don’t rob those who love you, this opportunity to be there in your time of need. Particularly, look beyond your spouse/significant other to a greater support system. Give more people the joy of being helpful.
- Embrace the brokenness. Wallow. Be miserable. Give yourself permission to be completely pathetic for a while. Watch depressing movies. Listen to gloomy songs. Paint a picture of chaos and pain. Do whatever it takes to feel the pain. It’ll feel awful — but through it, it’ll begin to lift.
- Remember hope. I know you can’t feel it. I know you can’t remember what it’s like to be normal. But do understand, at least in concept: it will end. Nothing lasts forever. Your pain has an end.
Many people have been depressed, and many have been healed. It can, and it will happen to you.
Be sure to read the companion piece from a different perspective: 8 Secrets That Help If Your Loved One Suffers from Depression. And subscribe so that you won’t miss all the future articles on personal healing and growth.
Disclaimer: this post is intended for educational or entertainment purposes only and should not be viewed as medical or professional advise.
It’s natural to feel positive and negative emotions. You are asking those who are depressed to allow those feelings and stay in them for a while. I like that. Often when we resist feeling sad/depressed or try to rush through it, we get stuck with it for a longer time. Depression is like a deep wound, it takes time to heal, and it should be given that time.
I have noticed, staying active and contributing to friends/family/society are two things which have helped me the most in my difficult time.
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A lot of the times, we tell ourselves “we shouldn’t feel this way.” I know I did. I force the positive side on my subconscious going “I’m healthy, I’m not homeless, I shouldn’t feel this bad.” And it doesn’t help. Once hurt enters your mind, the only healing comes from feeling the hurt and you don’t need to feel it any more.
There is a danger in that some people get too indulgent with their negative feelings, but in general, most people would rather not feel bad. 😉 So you’ll be done sooner or later if you let yourself feel it.
I find the disclaimer funny. Do we really live in a society where we have to put up disclaimers like that so we don’t get sued?
Interesting set of pointers.
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Well, I don’t like it, either, but I do find it necessary. I’m a survivor, but not professional.
Hi Ari – I, too, have found that it seems like negative feelings dissipate more quickly when we acknowledge them, rather than try to suppress them. It’s as if they just want to be noticed, and then they are able go away. Letting others know opens the door for support, too. This is a good post to make just before the gloom of late autumn is upon us!
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Do you find seasonality in your mood? I do, too. Long nights up here in Minnesota does affect us. For me, hot apple cider is a good lift-me-up. 😉
Hi there Ari – when I get depressed now and then (not clinically depressed) it really help me to tell myself that it will pass – like you said in your last point. And I take it easy, maybe going to bed early – it’s amazing how things can turn around the next day.
For longer, deeper depression, I need to read a book that puts me back in touch with my higher self. I have a few of those, and re-read them now and again.
I like you list – good stuff!
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Yeah, isn’t it amazing how you wake up the next morning and go “wow, what was that about, yesterday?”
Please share your list of healing books some time.
Ari – they are on my blog on the ‘Recommended’ page.
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Got it. Thanks!
Very good blog, this post is interesting. Yes I can see that accepting the feelings for awhile is a good thing, most try to resist (what you resist persists).
Mommies can’t rest, god idea but I think that’s one reason why I was depressed for years, overwork, and you can’t just let kids fend for themselves. Asking for help just got me more negativity and anger so it didn’t work for me, but it’s a great reliever of stress if there is actually someone around who will help.
Anyhow, I’ve sent you an award, you can pick it up at my blog!
Welcome to OBV! Thanks for your comment.
Yes, reaching out to others does present a risk — but yet, if you keep to yourself or just with your spouse or something, that’s sure to prolong the suffering. Relying on a support system, if you have one at all, is so helpful in getting through these dark times.
And you’re right, being a mommy is a lot of work! We have two kids and my wife stays at home — and I know it’s very challenging. I’m so glad we dealt with our emotional wounds before we got to this point.
Thank goodness my depressions only last for about 3 hours, every few weeks or so.
I do feel for those who battle with real depression. And THANK YOU for this post.
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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your affirmation.
From reading your article, when you use the word “depression”, I am guessing that you are not referring to clinical depression but just a feeling of being down. Depression is a big word for me and I try to refrain from using it because more often than not, it is not reflective of my state of BEing.
Most certainly, I agree on your take about acknowledging our brokenness. Embracing our vulnerability is so important to the healing that we need to go through and for the expansion of our hearts and souls.
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Actually, I was referring to more of a clinical depression, though the same things apply to more minor “just feeling down” type situation, too.
I have had pretty bad depression but thankfully never super-bad. It was always caused by something, so if I removed or changed the cause it went away. It would be hard if it was a more serious problem than that. I have seen my mother and my girlfriend go through this and it is very difficult for all concerened (mostly the sufferer but also the family). Nice article, thank you.
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“The depressed you is not the real you.” That’s really encouraging.
Thanks for this message Ari! I really need it.
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It’s so true. I was astounded by how a depressed person doesn’t remember that they used to be OK. I mean, they understand it in concept, but don’t remember how that feels. They feel like they’ve been depressed forever, even when a couple of days ago they were fine. And they talk differently, make decision differently — I can see how something like multiple personality disorder can exist. It’s frightening.
When you recognize that you are depressed, just tell yourself “this is not me.” Hang on until real you comes back. And it will.
Another tip – EXERCISE is a GREAT anti-depressant!!!
I was struggling with depression about 15 years ago. My marriage was in trouble and with divorce on the horizon, I decided to begin getting my body “back” into “dating” shape. The absolutely AMAZING thing is, regular exercise did more for my mind than it did my body!
On my final visit to my therapist (because I didn’t NEED him anymore) he confessed, “If all of my clients began exercising regularly, I would lose 1/2 of them in less than 6 months.”
It’s not the end all – cure all. Increased physical activity should DEFINITELY be practiced in addition to the EXCELLENT 7 steps mentioned above!!!
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Indeed, thanks for your addition! Exercise can lift up mood quite a bit. It might be a bit much to ask when a person is severely depressed, however, as they wouldn’t be able to find the energy to exercise. Once your energy level starts rising, though, being active can definitely help it go up faster.
Ari, I agree with Robert’s comments about the statement: “The depressed you is not the real you.” It really is not.
I think so often we resist our feelings. It does just create more and more conflict it seems. I still struggle with that at times.
My favorite point is your last one about hope. I love the saying, “This too shall pass.” Instilling hope in yourself helps the depression to end more quickly as it puts things in perspective.
Let me throw this out to you Ari (and everyone else) for discussion: Depression (minus the biologically induced depression) is often a byproduct of having no definite purpose in life. What do you think?
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See my response to others above — I explain more about what you’re referring to.
The thing is, when you’re in the midst of bad depressive episodes, you can’t feel hopeful. That ability is completely disabled. So you have to remind yourself “oh yes, when I felt better, I could feel hope.” You can still understand it as a concept, even if you can’t feel it. It’s still better than not having any hope at all.
Many people struggle with depression for years and years. I don’t read often about people making complete recoveries from clinical depression, so all the more reason for me to make a loud noise.
As for your last question, while I don’t disagree, it sounds to me like a bit of oversimplification. (to borrow from series on your thinking errors) My personal belief (and remember I’m not a professional) is that depression comes when stress and hurt accumulate to such a point that your mind give in. It’s like putting too much weight on a chair, and it collapses. And there are many sources. It’s true that brain chemicals are altered, but in my heart I feel like that’s more of a symptom and not a cause — I’m not saying there aren’t people who are born with innate brain imbalance problems — but I think a lot of depression is caused by life events or just accumulation of stress and hurt, from obvious reasons like abuse and neglect to more subtle ones like unbalanced nutrition.
That’s not a scientific view, but just my intuition as a survivor. Thanks for a good question!
It’s huge to allow ourselves to wallow for awhile. We know that what we resist persists. And while we wallaw we can accept ourselves for feeling the way we do rather than telling ourselves we should feel differently.
Thank you for the post.
Welcome to OBV! Thanks for your comment.
Yes, as I said to others, “don’t feel that way” really doesn’t help. Purging happens through feeling it.
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Thanks, I really enjoyed your thoughts on this. I have to admit when I linked to you from your comment on my blog, I was a bit worried – as someone who has felt miserable and depressed more than once, I’m frequently frustrated with people popping platitudes like prozac, and acting as if they’ll condescend to tell you the truth you’re not smart enough to know yourself. I really appreciate that your advice gives good, practical information,w hile at the same time making the reader feel like they really DO have some intelligence and wisdom of their own, even if they’re suffering.
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Welcome to OBV! Thanks for such a thoughtful compliment.
Glad what I said worked for you. For what it’s worth, I believe there’s value in a survivor’s tale — not as much as (and not meant to be) a professional opinion, but perhaps in a bit different way. As I said to others, it’s not very often (at least so I find) to hear about someone making a complete recovery from severe, clinical depression, so I consider it part of my mission to tell people about what I learned.
Keep in touch! I’d love to get to know you more.
Ari, I’m assuming you meant to say “I’m not saying there are people who are “not” born with innate brain imbalance problems….”
Good thoughts about my question. I don’t necessarily think that the statement I made is true. If I said it’s “always” that way it would definitely be an over generalization. It’s just something I think about sometimes and wanted to throw it out for discussion. This is my thinking: I think depression is OFTEN caused by people not having a definite purpose in life – whether it’s the person who inflicted pain or the person on the receiving end or both. If we all had a noble definite purpose in life we would have a positive attitude and would be a lot less likely to hurt others (since that usually comes from negativity)
And the person who feels hurt by something MIGHT not (obviously DEPENDING on what it is) even feel hurt if they had a definite purpose in life because they would have such a strong positive attitude and forward thinking. (Or the pain would be a lot less any way.) In other words they wouldn’t get bogged down in the little details so much. It is an over generalization in a lot of ways, but I think it gets to the core of a lot of things too – especially if you look at it from both sides like that. Obviously children who are abused don’t have a definite purpose in life or know how to, but the abuse is probably coming from someone who doesn’t as well. I just think if we can teach people how to heal their emotional pain and then have a purpose then we’ve come a LONG way. Now that I write that I think that a large part of MY healing comes from having a purpose in life.
My mind is on a thinking tangent. Sorry for the rambling. My mind does that sometimes. I was thinking out loud on the keyboard.
I think I was just looking back at my life and saw how the lack of purpose played a role in so much of my emotional pain. That’s my experience.
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Eh, thanks for catching an omitted word. I corrected my original response.
Hmmm, I have several reactions as I read your thoughts.
1) I still think it’s a bit stretch to call lack of purpose as the CAUSE of depression. Lack of purpose still feels like more of a symptom of emotional pain or underdeveloped/under-nurtured soul.
2) I also wonder when you “have a purpose” your meaning of that phrase may be bigger than what I usually think of, to include more of one’s identity and reason for existence. The latter in particular, does seem to get to the heart of the matter. I referred you to my pillar article on self-esteem, did I not? http://ourbestversion.com/2008/07/low-self-esteem-is-the-root-of-all-problems/ I do think that there’s tremendous insecurity that stems from being unsure about whether one is justified to exist (= not having a “reason” to exist = not having “purpose” in life). Now, that angle does make more sense to me, and yes, I do think that problem is severe enough to cause depression in some sensitive souls.
How does that sound to you?
Outstanding post again, Ari–as a psychologist, I can tell you that those secrets really do work. Everyone who has suffered from depression would benefit from reading this article–I hope many do and I have stumbled you.
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Thanks for the affirmation! It means much to me, coming from a real 😉 psychologist.
Your welcome Ari for catching that.
Yes, you are right about your number 2 thought. It goes deeper than just any ole’ purpose or plan we may conceive. It is more along what you are thinking of with our purpose for existence. When we see our lives as something bigger than ourselves then things start to make sense. I think we are thinking along the same lines here. In other words, I think that low self esteem is the root of a whole lot. But more importantly I have to ask why someone has low self esteem in the first place. I had not seen the article you referred to, but it looks like a great read that I will check out.
Thanks for your thoughts and discussion.
Jennifer´s last blog post..It’s Your Choice….
Yeah, sounds like we’re driving down the same path. I’ll be interested to see what you think of my piece on low self-esteem. It is my favorite post so far, and it was the most-read piece until this post took over.
What a thoughtful and caring post. Thank you Ari. Sometimes, although depression brings a lot of weariness and you feel so sleepy, going for walks – getting fresh o2 to fill your lungs, moving the blood and allowing your natural mood enhancers to boost the emotional state through releasing powerful endorphins, can be a gentle boost. You may only start with walking around the block, and that is just fine!
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Welcome to OBV! Thanks for honoring me with your comment.
Agreed — moving our body can be very helpful. That’s one tip I missed in this list. That said, I’ve seen a state where even that’s asking a lot — so it all depends on where the person is. On one hand, it’s important to immerse yourself into feeling the pain, but on the other hand, it’s good to get out, move your body and take a break.
That’s so true, there is a way out of the hopelessness…
Sharing your feelings and thoughts with someone you’re comfortable with, helps ease the pressure +_+
Welcome to OBV! Thanks for your comment. Absolutely, talking out your feelings to someone else helps in your healings. A listening friend can make a great difference — sometimes more than certified professionals.
Keep in touch, I look forward to getting to know you.
I would say since you can control your feelings, choose not to be depressed 🙂
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Welcome to OBV! You make it sound easy, but I’m talking here about clinical depression — a mental habit so deeply ingrained in one’s psyche that you really can’t control it on your own. Be sure not to say that line to a person struggling with severe depression! 😉
Thank you for putting this up. There are times when I get overwhelmed by the things happening in my life. People I love -My parents – who make decisions for me without making me part of the decision process. The rational side of me completely understands they want me to live a good life and avoid the mistakes they have experienced. However,there is that other side of me that gets sad because they are not listening to me as a person and how I want to live my life.
It sucks when this sort of situation has to occur as it is a very narrow rope to balance myself on.
Thank you for putting up that post because I know it is good to dwell on these feelings of sadness because the other 90% of the times I am grateful with my life. It reminds me that I am just a mere human being. Nothing more nothing less. I am glad to find this article (Found your link through chris guillebeau post- you commented and left your link there)