Depression: what a word, what a concept, what a statement.
Am I depressed? How do I fix depression? Is something wrong with me? Depression is 100% real and rampant in our society and something that we as a whole have exposed and brought to the light, as it remained hidden, shamed and unknown for so long. That being said, does it still make it any easier to deal with or understand. What I think is happening is that it is becoming more common to speak up and reach out which is truly a blessing. as well as an ability for people, as the amazing organisation Batyr would say, ’smash the stigma’, has meant that lives are getting better and lives are getting saved.
My question that I keep coming back to is; does that mean we really know what it is and where it comes from? Or do we just know about the word, the concept and the statement?
What is Depression?
I grew up to believe, along with many others, and generations before me that having depression meant that you were weak, mad, crazy, a burden or something was wrong with you. I was led to believe that people with diagnosed depression were really really unwell individuals that needed institutions and 24 care. Though, the most challenging belief I was told was that Depression was a chemical imbalance in the brain. A malfunction and set of wiring problems that didn’t quite sit right in the ole noggin.
So what is Depression?
What do I know now? Well, today depression has been more categorised and emphasised to explain what Depression is. There are signs, symptoms and criteria that define this said mental illness. Beyond Blue have access to a great checklist to assess and measure distress for depression and anxiety. For example, Depression can feel sad, miserable and overwhelming, the thoughts can be ‘i am a failure’, ‘I’m worthless’, or ‘whats the point’, and the behaviours can be not going out, not wanting to move, or withdrawing and can physically be draining, fatiguing, having low drive or motivation. This is depression. Yet, it can be so much more and it can shift and turn, stop and go, and push and pull.
But seriously then, what is Depression?
There is just so much info, from what we didn’t know to what we know now is incredible, resourceful, effective and saving lives and allowing people to finally have a voice and receive help and support.
But can we break this shit down, can we simplify this big word, massive concept and large statement? What if, we look at depression not as a chemical imbalance or problematic wiring in the brain, but more as an imbalance in what is happening in our everyday life. This isn’t mind-bending newfound thought, it is merely passion, about the foundation and scaffolding of trying to get better in ourselves. As Johann Hari would find in his incredible world travels asking these questions about depression, is that we are just human beings, with unmet needs.
Depression and Needs?
Those who identify with having had experiences of depression, which in Australia is 20% of our population, develop uncomfortable signs and symptoms within themselves. I beleive we live in an overwhelming reality where we struggle with the ability to truly connect to ourselves and others and meet these unmet needs.
Let me break down needs. When you are hungry you eat. When you are cold you put on a jumper. When you are tired, you sleep. We know this. This makes sense. The same is true for our other psychological needs. When I feel lonely I need connection. When I am angry I need space or an outlet. When I am rejected or abandoned I need nurture.
What we do as humans really really well, in fact, we may have mastered it in some cases, is to meet our needs through any other means than what it is that we truly are needing. What we tend to do, is find something quick and fast that can provide temporary relief or immediate reward. Some stimuli can serve a purpose and falsely satisfy our ‘needs’. For example, I can happily admit that there are times that; when I am stressed, I eat, when I am tired I eat, when I am anxious, angry, bored, or lonely, I WILL EAT. It has this way of soothing me, nurturing me, and providing for me, it releases the ‘feel good hormone’, immediately.
Now you can insert whatever you want that you choose to meet your needs, drugs, alcohol, sex, phone time, gaming, shopping, you bloody name it. These immediate releases though, can still leave a person stuck or empty experiencing feelings of hopelessness and thinking that they are not enough. These behaviours or activities that we choose, give short term effective relief, but they, in turn, come with negative consequences, a loss of connection. Now that’s a whole other ball game, for more on the relationship we have with these addictions please explore more here.
When I find temporary ways to cope, escape or fill a void instead of investigating and getting curious about what it is that I really might need, I can see how over time I may slip into episodes or periods of developing symptoms for problematic mental states that hinder my ability to go on. I have been super guilty of this and for me, it plays out in relationship, I will put all my energy and time into others and get my needs met through the needs of others. More on that whirlwind for later.
Let’s continue and look further. If we add, that within our society, we have moved significantly further away from togetherness, collectivism, tribes, groups and overall connection and instead have individualised silos and have created this idea of individual modern human success, this to me looks like a one-way ticket to the ‘not so merry go round’.
Well, shit, that’s depressing, what now?
I hope it goes without saying, but continue to reach out, get support, and talk things through as you are 100% not alone. I can go in and out of depressive spaces because I am a human that can get stuck and lost along the journey, just like you. Your story is different to mine but we are still all perfectly imperfect human beings that need each other and thrive off connection.
Stay with me, there is hope. The number one thing regardless of Depression’s publicity and emergence within our culture’s understanding is that we can start to now have awareness. We can start to understand depression for what it is and KIS, KEEP IT SIMPLE. It all comes back to how we feel about ourselves, our self-worth and how we show up each day in our relationship to life’s smorgasbord.
For the sake of recovery and starting to work on thriving and finding drive in a life that can be unpredictable, scary and sad at times; find purpose and meaning. That’s a big word, concept and statement, just like depression, so KIS…Keep It Simple. Find something or someone in your life that brings connection and light in you, it may be dimmed and it may be long forgotten but it is there and it can be created and harnessed. Focus on emphasising more of you in that something. Craft what you find purpose in to meet your unmet needs. When you are in fear you need protection, when you are in pain you need comfort. Meet these needs by exploring and expanding more in what you find purpose in, utilise that meaning to soothe you, nurture you, calm you.
Recently when talking about this topic, a woman in the audience named that writing gives her purpose and meaning. So we dug a little deeper. Upon further reflection and focus, she stated that she can start a degree in writing, buy books for writing, join a writers club, listen to writing podcasts, and share stories of her writing. She can create, create and create more and more space for writing which gives her purpose and meaning in her life allowing her to feel herself, worthy and ultimately have connection. Now big exhale…. and KIS. Keep it simple.
Connecting more with the self and understanding what it is you need, how to be brave enough to go there and connect internally, will put you back into some balance. Will start to alleviate the symptoms of psychological unmet needs and allow space to be freer from the depths of depression and despair. Listen to what you may need through sitting with your feelings, thoughts and behaviours. When the challenging, uncomfortable or uneasy stuff comes up for you, try not to react to it. Instead, respond in a way that feels loving, rewarding, fulfilling and satisfying through connecting to what is meaningful and true to you, because sure as hell, you deserve it, you are worthy and you are you.
Depression can be a big word, concept and statement, we get to decide how we sit with it and how we choose to tend to ourselves and show up in the world.
Please reach out, share with me your thoughts and connect with me to learn about how to find more within yourself and what you bring to each day.
I have several other blogs and a podcast you can find on my website or join the connection crew to stay up to date. https://findreasontherapy.com.au/