'I shouldn't be depressed'
‘I shouldn’t be depressed’ these four words are often read in articles by people suffering depression. They are frequently followed by ‘it wasn’t until I reached breaking point and had to face my depression that things began to change’
‘I shouldn’t…’ it is interesting to think that you know what is the ‘right’ way to feel, and what is a ‘wrong’ way to feel. The phrase ‘I shouldn’t’ implies three things. The first is the denial of reality, the second; self-criticism and the third that there are some social norms we accept as true.
1. Denial of reality
Unfortunately, focusing on whether you ‘should or shouldn’t’ be depressed avoids facing the reality that you are feeling depressed. Ignoring reality does not make it change or go away. Thinking reality shouldn’t be there because the facts don’t add up, doesn’t make it go away. Wanting reality to be different doesn’t make it go away.
‘I am wrong to have these feelings?’ ‘If I appreciated all the good things I have; I shouldn’t be depressed’. Having feelings is a sign that something internally is happening to us, we are experiencing something. Our experience may be tangible, in real time, for example feeling happy because someone smiles at us, or it may be initiated by a thought (which often doesn’t reflect reality) such as ‘although they smiled at me I wonder if they did that because….’. Feelings and emotions are a manifestation of our very active and brilliant brain. They are a reflection of us and our experiences, values and needs. They cannot be ‘wrong’.
3. Social norms we accept as true
It can be very confusing if the society or community or culture we live in implies we should be happy if we have, for example, money, a happy family, a big car, a good job, and holidays abroad, but we actually experience something different. We can think we are ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ not to be happy. The reality is, despite having these things (which you can still value and enjoy), something more personal to you is causing unhappiness, it’s real and valid, and it’s ok.
Admitting you are suffering depression may feel like a release, a weight off your shoulders, or the opposite, a sense of loss. You may even feel fearful, as depression still has a stigma attached to it. So ‘Going it alone’ may feel like the safest option, unfortunately, it is likely to be the least successful.
What can you do?
First steps, acknowledge to yourself you are feeling depressed or in a low mood. Although you don’t understand why you are suffering, you are suffering, and there may not be a reason. You might have been asking yourself loads of questions - Why me? How can I stop it? This is silly, pull yourself together. Begin to stop resisting your depression. These questions are unlikely to have answers.
Second be kind to yourself, eating, drinking and exercising in a healthy way. See if you can offer yourself love, and compassion. Often when we start the slow decline into depression the everyday things that keep us resilient slowly drop off. We have less motivation to go to the gym, whilst seeing friends seems like hard work. However, research shows, it is these things that are important to keep us balanced and not preoccupied with negative thoughts and self-deprecation.
Thirdly step out of your ‘business’ and give yourself space and time to reflect and evaluate where you are, what you have achieved and who you want to be. Perhaps use a journal to summarise your successes, or keep a daily diary of things that you have achieved, no matter how small, perhaps set small achievable goals. It is useful to keep focused on ‘now’, the present, and not the future or the past. The future hasn’t happened and the past is gone.
In summary, it is well recognised that the effects of depression can be lessened by talking to friends or family, but in many cases, the non-judgemental and impartial support of a professional counsellor can produce positive and sustainable results.
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About Emma Dunn
Emma Dunn is a psychotherapist in Brighouse, and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, and works with issues of anxiety, self-esteem, eating disorders and depression. She is a qualified dietitian. She is qualified as a mindfulness instructor.