Depression and its flip side, anxiety, are familiar to so many of us these days. Some struggle every day, others periodically; some experience them as a result of trauma or circumstance. Maybe you know these challenging states of mind yourself; maybe you know someone who is struggling. I wrote this for them and for you.
Depression is a subtle liar — the serpent in the garden of your mind. Its goal is that of any evil, which is the opposite of life. Its subtlety is that it lies upon your nature and your circumstances. Whatever depression can find to turn against you, it will use.
You might be relaxed, taking time to do things or simply inclined to wait until you know what’s urgent, what’s important, and what doesn’t matter. Depression will turn that into: I’m lazy. I’m disorganized. I’m a screw-up. You might be the first to begin an assignment, the group organizer, the one who keeps it all on track. Depression will turn that into: I’m a tyrant. I ruin things. People hate me. Your life might be going great, with a cool new friend or a stimulating new job, with a new place or a new hobby. You’re moving at a clip and depression’s lost in the dust. Then, as soon as you slow down, like a mosquito or a leech depression will settle and begin sucking the joy right out of you. And when circumstances are difficult? Depression will give you a great big push as soon as you start to slide downhill.
Depression loves negative emotions. When they arise for healthy reasons, depression will turn their medicine into poison and fertilize them with its shit until they take over the whole garden. Depression’s favourite is shame, and its companion, guilt. In a healthy place, shame and guilt tell us that we have done wrong and spur us into making it right. Depression’s shame and guilt, in contrast, paralyze and sicken us. Depression also loves anger. Used rightly, anger also makes right what is wrong. Depression, on the other hand, uses it to destroy — and then turns your remorse to shame, a double whammy.
Depression will turn your strengths and gifts into burdens. Depression will inflate and solidify your weaknesses until they seem too big and too deeply rooted to tackle. Depression perverts the truth. You deserve love and kindness. If you feel otherwise, then depression is at work. Your friends and family care about you and welcome you however you are feeling. Their words and actions are true; depression’s interpretations are false. You are alive and you have a future. Depression whispers otherwise; but the truth will make you free.
Sounds grand but I’m quite serious: a few truths about being a human being will help you counteract depression. To whit:
- Truth Human beings need regular, nourishing food and water; need sleep; need exercise; need cleaning and care and hugs. Give yourself these things every day. Every single one. Whether you feel like (you deserve) them or not. You have a body and depression does not. You for the win!
- Truth Human beings are creatures of earth and need to connect to earth things: sky, trees, water, flowers, animals. Connect with the earth every day, no matter what effort it takes (deliberate effort, if you live in a city) or what the weather is or how tired you feel. You can make decisions; depression can only influence them. You for the win!
- Truth Humans are makers. Creators. Producers. Accomplish something every day, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Some days, all you can manage is doing the dishes — so be it. That’s something! You can imagine a future; you can see the horizon. Depression just squirms around blindly. You for the win!
- Truth You are not the depression. The more you practise the first three truths the more you experience the fourth one. Slowly, like water dripping on stone, a space gets made inside where you feel you.
Now, lots of people struggle with mood disorders — with medication and without, with meditation or prayer and without, with counselling and without. When you look for information it is easy to become overwhelmed. Depression will use that against you, making you feel too confused to wade through it all and, also, amplifying your inner critic: Medication is dangerous. Meditation takes too much focus/is weird. Counselling doesn’t work/is too expensive. So let me declare a fifth truth: You need and deserve help. Practising the truths above will shine a light through the fog of fear, anxiety and weariness that depression casts and help you a) find the right help for you and b) reach for it.
You for the win!
© 2020 by Laura Peetoom