Depression affects one in three people at some point in their lives. Although mild depression may come and go and not necessarily affect our ability to function normally, more severe depression often needs psychological treatment and possibly anti-depressant medication too.
As the winter approaches some may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), when there is little daylight or sunlight. Mothers can suffer from Post Natal Depression which can occur shortly after giving birth and can last for some time; others may suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder also known as Manic Depression where there may be mood swings of extreme highs and extreme lows.
Depression can be the result of a life event or loss of a loved one, often referred to as reactive depression, which can be anything from mild to severe. More ongoing severe depression is often referred to as clinical depression. When depression is more severe, we can have thoughts and feelings of suicide, or simply not wanting to live because we cannot see a way out of our suffering. In my view, everyone has a purpose for being; whether we are in touch with it or not is another matter. The practice of psychotherapy has shown me that for many of us, the way out of suffering is through our suffering. This is why it is often avoided. We are often afraid of our inner world, and as ridiculous as this might sound, we do therefore become afraid of ourselves.
A way of looking at depression is to consider that it is a way of coping with difficult feelings. To depress is to push down. Depression can be a way of coping with feelings that may otherwise overwhelm us because we are not ready to look at them and see what they might be telling us. Perhaps something in our childhood or more recent past may need to be resolved; or something in our lives needs to change and we are afraid to make the necessary decisions and take the necessary action. Sometimes we are afraid to be true to ourselves and to live in accordance to what we most truly value for fear of disappointing others, especially if we are still listening to inner critical voices from our conditioning that tell us we are not good enough, unworthy, or just simply bad – often referred to as the ‘inner critic.’
In depression there is often a part of the self that just wants to be and needs rest from constant striving and doing; and does not want to have to be anything in particular for anyone else anymore, especially when it is unhealthy. Ignoring this leads to anger, which is then turned inwards on the self and shut down, leading to depression. Therefore, within depression there is an unheard call to be more self accepting and more self honouring. This is good news.
Depression and Emptiness
People who suffer from depression often experience an inner emptiness and lack of meaning, or void of some kind. The void is often filled with a distraction or even an addiction as a way of trying to cope with or survive the difficult feelings that might be deeply buried and seem to be unbearable. Psychotherapy helps us to befriend those aspects of the psyche that we would rather reject, because as we continue to push away difficult feelings, it only results in self-rejection. We heal by embracing all aspects of ourselves with gentleness and compassion.
Depression in Mid-Life
Depression can present itself in mid-life with a sense of pointlessness, powerlessness, and an inner isolation. Mid-life often presents us with existential dilemmas such as ageing and death. As our existential conflicts surface to consciousness we can fall into depression with accompanying thoughts such as ‘what’s the point?’ Guilt is sometimes experienced if we feel that we haven’t lived the life we have wanted or aspired to. Difficult issues from our childhood may present themselves during this time; or they may get triggered by a present event that causes us distress and we suddenly feel we haven’t got the energy to cope with our problems anymore. Despite this being a painful experience, it is often good news as there is an inner call to not only let go of having to cope so much but to also find relief from constantly having things to cope with. In other words, there is a call to be more in touch with our deeper values and live a more authentic and meaningful life. This starts with an attitude towards becoming more self honouring.
The purpose of this article is to help you consider that despite its appearance, there is a positive aspect to depression. It need not be a pathological issue if we can embrace a healthy context for our depressive experiences, and wonder about what the call might be, even though the experience of depression can be absolutely debilitating. No argument there. For more information visit http://putneycounsellingandpsychotherapy.co.uk/or call 020 8780 9449 or use the contact form.