Defending Depression – Guest Blogger – Tracey Painter – June 2017

Sometimes, we are just reaching for a shred of hope. Things are not looking good. It feels like everything in your life is completely out of your control, and they probably are. You don’t know where all of this is leading. Maybe you will lose your home, your spouse, your friends, your job, a loved one. You’re scared, angry, lonely, lost. Most of the time, you keep your head up with, “We are gonna be fine!” But some mornings you wake up and that’s it. Your happy face is too tired to play it up today. Your emotions have had it. The positive thinking has taken you this far, but not today. You feel depressed, angry and hopeless. You’ve lost faith. You are out of ideas, self pep-talks, encouragement for yourself and others around you. You’re tired.

Sometimes our emotions get worn out or injured. Just like physical muscles that you overwork and strain, your emotions get overworked and strained. You sprain or injure your feelings, as it were. Sometimes depression is saving you. It causes you to stop, to sit down and stop stuffing. You have worked your happy or analyzing “muscles” too hard. Your emotions are completely exhausted. And they will knock you down just like your body will when you have abused them too much.

But if you are like most people, you believe and have been told that depression is bad or scary. That you should hurry up and pull yourself out of it. That it is a condition that means you have failed, that you are no longer strong. That you will be depressed forever. You will let people down if you are depressed. You won’t get your to-do list done if you give in to what your emotions tell you to do. If you ever stop, then you are lazy. Wasting a day. Disappointing your family. You are embarrassed to have your spouse or family member walk in the room and see you doing nothing but laying there.

Sometimes depression is simply forcing you to stop because you won’t do it on your own. Sometimes it is your saving grace. Your feelings need a break too.

Depression is part of healing. Did you know that? It’s one of the five stages of loss. It’s normal. It’s necessary. It’s important.

Depression is part of grieving. You can grieve all kinds of losses, not just the death of someone. Death and loss come in many forms and from many things. Do you know that you go through the five stages of loss even when you lose something “small” like your favorite shoes, bag, or book? You are in denial at first. “No, I didn’t lose it, it’s somewhere around here.” Then bargaining – “Once I find it, I’m going to start putting it in the right place every time,” or “Dear God, please help me find it!” Then anger – “Damnit, where did I put it? I always lose things! I bet the kids hid it somewhere!!” Then depression – “Oh no! What if I never find it? I’m never going to find it. This really sucks. I’m so bummed.” Then finally, acceptance – “Oh well, I’ll get another one.”

Did you see that? Grief/Loss feelings are common, and the five stages can happen in a matter of minutes. Or it can go a matter of weeks, months or years when you lose something you really love. Grief can be caused by a million things like the loss of your childhood, your health, your job, your dreams, your expectations, your hair, your youth, your trust, your beliefs. You name it. My point is – go ahead and grieve ALL your losses. Big and small.

We, as Americans, are never really given opportunities or permission to grieve for much of anything. Even the big losses. I remember at my last job, the boss was so impressed when one of the employees came back after just a couple weeks of losing her husband who died. My boss was impressed that she was able to bounce back so quickly. That’s sad. The employee was, of course, not okay, but felt like it was expected and that she would lose her job (or her mind) if she didn’t go back to work. She felt like she couldn’t grieve, that it would make her weak. And this impressed our boss.

I absolutely hate being told I’m strong. I can’t live up to that perception or expectation. I don’t WANT to. I want to cry when the situation calls for it. I want to ask for help when I need help. I want others to take on some of the burdens too. I need someone else to feel the faith, trust the process, believe for me sometimes. I don’t want pity and pandering. I just get tired of carrying the load, of picking myself up all the time. But I won’t ask for help because I’m told that I’m strong. I don’t want to disappoint. I don’t want to be vulnerable.

So, next time you are depressed, maybe trust what your emotions are telling you. Take a day or two to lay around and watch sad movies, or hide and go cry off and on, in between taking care of kids or customers. Let yourself feel down and tired for a bit. Let your emotions recover so you can feel better again soon. It’s okay. Really. And you WILL feel better – very, very soon.

(As with anything, if depression or any other emotion has lasted way too long – weeks or months with no explanation, get professional help.)

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