Friday, September 12, 2008

Depression: Will or Wallow? Part I

Update 2016: This article was featured in my book
"Saying NO to Suicide", with added commentary.

How my daughter taught me a thing or two about dealing with depressives such as myself.

(cc) laerpelLast month I discussed how my depression almost ruined my 20th anniversary. I gave my readers a peek into my thought processes from the onset of Depression to my victory over it. I had hoped it would convince doubters that I truly do struggle with Depression and, perhaps, it would inspire others to renew their efforts to beat back the black dog.

Everybody experiences Depression at one point or another because of a multitude of reasons: Getting laid off at work, not getting the promotion, losing a best friend or dear family member, failing to accomplish an important goal, or letting somebody important to you down, for example. Any one of these events can trigger Depression. And most sane, normal people spend a short while down in the dumps, then shake it off and move on with their lives. They adapt.

Depressives don't adapt; they suffer. Although there are many theories as to why this occurs, we can agree that for some people, simply shaking off their depression isn't an option. Some people's minds are predisposed to being sad all the time. Modern medicine has offered a wide variety of methods to give these people a semblance of normalcy, but when mucking about with the mind there are bound to be problems. Side-effects exclude a large portion of society from benefitting from modern medicine (and sometimes modern medicine is simply modern snake oil salesmanship).

I am one of those people. Anti-depressants hurt me instead of help me. I had to climb out of the blackness on my own. I developed a system of thinking that was very similar to what is now called Cognitive Behavior Therapy, although I simply referred to it at the time as Enforced Optimism. There is a quote I found a year ago that sums up my philosophy:

"With our thought, we make the world."
— Buddha

This type of thinking has served me well as I retrained myself to think about life less negatively, and consequently enabled myself to manage my depression without medication. That is why I was dismayed when I was unable to help my sixteen year old daughter last month, mere days after I had helped myself.

For weeks my daughter had been moping about, moody and despondent. No amount of cajoling or infusion of positive self-esteem seemed to make a difference. My advice fell on deaf ears, and her County Fair deadlines began to race towards us leaving her woefully underprepared. I have to admit that I was quite exasperated. She seemed determined to remain miserable.

Two weeks before her performance dates I began to lose it. I grew so frustrated with her that I even yelled at her to "snap out of it". No sooner had the words flown out of my mouth than I was horrified with myself, but the damage had been done.

Fortunately for me, my daughter is a frequent reader of my blog. I have offered many words of comfort and advice about dealing with Depression over the last nearly four years. She found solace not from me in person, but from my article "Depression: Ten Ways to Fight It Off". In her own words, here is how she overcame the Depression in time to prepare for her performances:

I was very depressed because relationships that I had treasured were crashing down around me. I turned into a zombie. I let myself drown in it. I felt like an empty shell. I lost so much time. But eventually I became frustrated because my depression was in the way of me accomplishing anything. Deadlines were looming ahead and I had no energy. So I found a way to distract myself and boost my endorphins. I pushed my body so hard. I found that exercising (it really was closer to over-exercising) was my happy pill. I danced and danced and danced. I was so focused on staying strong and getting my kicks higher and my moves crisper- so much that I couldn't think about everything that was depressing me. I felt my heart palpitating all the way down to my toes. It felt so good, so I stretched my body even more. Pushing my body so hard helped me to feel alive again, which was intoxicating.

My daughter had chosen to wallow in her depression. She had the means before her to make a change, but ignored them. Why couldn't I help her? The culprit was my impatience. I was powerless to help her because I was not taking time to find out what was going on inside her mind. True, she needed to communicate with me better. I had no idea of the trouble she was experiencing with friends, but my stern visage and frowning disapproval did nothing to embolden her confidence and trust in me.

When I think of how others have dealt with me so impatiently over the years, I knew they didn't understand Depression. I had never thought I would be just as insensitive. All I could see was looming deadlines, responsibilities to me met, and my name on the line. I cared little for her feelings.

I am glad she was able to find a key to unlock her mind and set herself free. She is much happier again and I commend her for her strength and fortitude. Pushing off Depression is a difficult task and requires a great deal of will. Having seen my life ruined by anti-depressants, she is very wary of taking them for herself. I am doubly glad that I found techniques that help me and now her overcome our mental burden.

Next, I'll explore how depressives can get out of the rut wallowing puts us in. I'll also explore how we can provide help to those depressives who are so deep in their misery they can't see the light from the door we open for them. As usual, I'd love to hear your feedback. If you have advice on either of these matters I'd like to include them in the next article.

Read more on this topic:
Depression: Will or Wallow? Part I
Depression: Will or Wallow? Part II
Depression: Will or Wallow? Part III

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