Depression: When Is It More Than a Bad Day?
I remember a time about ten years ago, I was waking up in the morning and the first thing that I saw, a wall in my room, was painful to look at. The grey of the paint, the shabbiness, was an instant reminder of how I felt, and I soon recognized that everything I looked at reflected the same dull ache. Nothing was beautiful. Nothing was good; not even the snow covered mountains that usually filled me with wonder and appreciation. Now, it felt like there was no such thing as wonderful. There was just dragging myself through another shitty day. “Wow”, I realized, “this is depression”.
Sound familiar? This heavy veil of dull sadness or apathy is most often what people think of when hearing the word ‘depression’, but people experience things differently. Other signs of possible depression include: physical pain (especially lower back), feeling numb or blah, having a shorter fuse than usual, changes in appetite or weight, drinking more than usual, spending more time online than usual, daydreaming or otherwise “checking out”, having difficulty making routine decisions more than usual, and loss of care in appearance and physical hygiene.
How Did I Get Here?
On that morning when I found myself staring at the grey wall, and it hit me that I was beyond “just a bad day”, there was a moment of relief. I think this was because in the recognition, there was an acceptance that I needed to do something to get out of that place; a surrender. This surrender was a relief because depression can be overwhelming, and the fight against it is even more so. Part of the reason it can be so overwhelming is that it is often less than clear how we got into such a place.
Common pulls into depression include: old stories or voices from our past that haunt us into feeling shame and unworthiness, feeling disconnected from our heart/soul or feeling inner conflict, missing creative force and expression in our life, loneliness, feeling powerless in our choices or despair, prolonged frustration turning into hopelessness, and patterns of self-denial or caretaking of others to our own detriment.
How Do I Get Out?
It doesn’t help that mainstream medicine treats all forms of depression as if they are the same; all a chemical and/or inherited dysfunction to be treated with pharmaceuticals. Although this may be a helpful and accurate diagnosis and treatment for a small fraction of cases, it is certainly not a one size fits all solution or assessment for most of us. In fact, medication can actually impede long term progress for some of us by altering our sense of who and how we are in our world.
Many mental health practitioners today, including myself, do not believe depression is a dysfunction (though in modern culture it is certainly impractical), but that it is a functional consequence of how we are relating to our self, and the world around us. It is a barometer telling us how we are doing in the way of living according to our values and knowing ourselves. If we are depressed, something in us needs attention and, possibly, action.
Depression Treatment Can Help
The context and history of our life play important roles in understanding how we have arrived at the dark ground of depression. Exploring this “map”, and meeting you in it, make up a part of the work of finding a way out of the funk. Where are the old underlying sources of regret or shame? What are the unknown or hidden conflicts at work that may be preventing you from moving forward? Are there ways that you are devoted to being unhappy (although this is counterintuitive, it happens) that you would like to make peace with or let go of?
Getting a clear sense of what contexts, habits and histories are in place that lend to landing in depression is one step in feeling better and creating lasting change in our way of being. Another parallel process of this work is co-creating a new template for relating (with our Self and Others) that is less harsh, less condemning, and less dependent on external sources of validation, while being more loving, more accepting and patient, and more dependent on an internal source of validation and esteem.
But Is This Kind of Help For Me?
I’m not sick or crazy, so I shouldn’t need any help.
An old but persistent taboo against mental health support is that treatment for depression or anxiety is only for “sick” or “crazy” people. Luckily, this is quickly changing as most communities are increasingly aware that in the modern state of growing isolation, caring support with someone that is invested in giving unconditional positive regard is important for optimal health. For those of us who are away from family for whatever reason, and who don’t have a solid network of support available, counseling is actually an important social and even spiritual supplement for health. Having a sounding board who doesn’t have a personal agenda consciously or unconsciously at work can be invaluable.
What will people think about my getting help?
One of the most important elements of counseling is that it is completely confidential. The only exceptions to contracted confidentiality are: if there is a signed release of information, if there is a court order or subpoena, it there is suspected child or elder abuse (counselors are mandated to report), or if you are suspected to be an imminent danger to yourself of another person (again, counselors are mandated to report). Outside of these exceptions, counselors are barred from even acknowledging that you are a client. Confidentiality is of the utmost importance in this work.
I don’t want to be obligated to a long series of therapy sessions.
The duration of our work is completely up to you. For some people, only a few sessions provide a significant shift in perspective and provide the support needed to make an important discovery or decision. For others, the process of self-discovery is deeply nourishing and they want to continue working for much longer. For some the relationship that develops in the work is, in itself, a reflective tableau that provides a lot of discovery and healing. For many, after an initial period of more intensive weekly sessions, the frequency of sessions slowly decreases into a monthly visit, or as needed check ins. Again, it is completely up to you and your individual needs.
A Little Help Can Go a Long Way
If you are ready to move forward and discover what this work can do for you, I invite you to call me for a free, 15-minute phone consultation at (720)446-9076 to discuss my practice, your concerns and how depression treatment can help you.