When we become discouraged, feel lost, are confused, and feel overwhelmed, it is easy to feel like we want all the pain and sadness to stop. We want to run, to feel no more, and to have our upset, anger, and sadness removed quickly. Understanding a few issues might be of help at these difficult times.
Table of Contents
Discouragement of Depression
When we experience depressive feelings, it is easy to feel discouraged and to feel hopeless. Depression is many times anger turned inside because of things that has happened to us in life. At other times, depression is the result of a chemical imbalance.
No matter what the cause of one’s depression, it is easy to feel discouraged and wish that there would be some easy solution to change things. Many times we feel more depressed and emotional when we are about to face things and come to understand that we have to deal with emotional, or physical, issues that we have stuffed deep inside of ourselves. It is a time of change for us! It can be a creative, but emotional, time. This is good, even though a disturbing one.
We feel all alone and respond by saying that but it is just not fair. Or we think that we can’t take it anymore and wish for peace and comfort. However, one’s depression masks the reality of the situation and seems to focus one on thinking only on the pain of the present situation, i.e., the pain.
The Tendency to See Negatives
When we are depressed, it is easier to dwell on the negatives of our situation, life, and problems. Classically it is the tendency to see the glass as half-empty rather than half-full. The more we focus on negatives and problems, the stronger the tendency will be for us to feel depressed, sad and hopeless.
It is critical that if one wants to change their depressive feelings that they must start to focus on the positives in life. At first, one has to fake it until they make it because the more we start to act normal the better chance we have to ultimately feel normal. The more we think of running, the more we will continue to be discouraged and depressed wishing that it was all over with.
The Lack of a Future Focus
Depression robs us of the ability to see the future and any potentials in the future. When we are depressed, it is easy to forget the accomplishments of the past and to only focus on what has not worked for us. It is critical to remember that our decisions are the hinges of our lives. However, it is critical that you have a future focus rather than thinking and focusing only on the now.
Let go of negative thoughts and what if thinking patterns. Focus on what you can control and how it fits into your future plans, no matter how vague they seem or the little you might believe in them. Also understand how the decisions of the moment will affect everyone else around you in your family, friends, etc. It will dramatically impact them in negative ways.
Not Feeling Joy
We all know the condition. The boundaries of depression and bleak, sad moods, are very fluid and always changing. Depression is something that is treatable with psychological therapy and/or medication; however, the variations of moods may best be countered by spiritual practices and personal discipline of becoming more aware of how one functions in one’s internal psychological “world.”
Bleak moods, known as “the noonday demon,” is the cause of the most serious troubles in life. It runs through our culture and is known in many forms: Indifference, workaholism, lethargy, no motivation, lack of a sense of meaning, feeling stuck, wanting to easily just give up, just surviving, commitment phobia, and distance to others and to life in general.
It use to be called “sloth” because it is associated with physical laziness. Who cares if you clean up, make the bed, complete tasks, or just do them in a sloppy manner? It is also the root of a lot of bad things because of its ability to nourish other vices in our lives.
In the book by Kathleen Norris, ‘Acedia & Me” (2008) she states that when you tell people you are writing about sloth, they don’t know what you mean. But when you say ‘indifference’ they do. They understand not being able to care, and being so not able to care that you don’t care that you don’t care.
Our multi-tasking, always “on”, and busy lives keep us detached and numb to what is happening around us – so we don’t think or have time to feel. As we do more and care less and feel pressured to still do more and more, we are stuck in “being indifferent.” There have been many times in life that we work to bury our feelings by buying a dishwasher, or other things, so we don’t feel. We live in a hype-up world with television, radio, the internet, the newspapers, immediate information, all a ceaseless bombardment that we come unaware of even caring.
The more we understand the name of this condition of bleak moods, indifference and detachment, we approach the first step we need to overcoming its worst indulgences. It helps to first clear our heads of troubling thoughts in order to get outside of the closed circle of the self. It is realizing that our society does everything to keep us closed up.
It is easier, but it results in more bleak sad moods, which causes an increasing lack of motivation and a total indifference so we “don’t feel.” However, it is a condition that still has a heavy weight and the power to hem us in and to negatively alter our picture of the world and our lives. We “allow it to happen” because it is “easier” and we tell ourselves, “what’s the use?” So it becomes comfortable and there is no reason to “move or change, or to become aware.” We exist and allow ourselves to do what “feels right” rather than “being right.”
How Do I Know if I am Depressed?
One of the most common disorders in the world is depression. It is the “common cold” of emotional disorders and no one is exempt from it. We can deny and run depression, but at a cost. Whenever we try to deny feelings, hold things in, it will come out in some manner, whether through physical or emotional symptoms. Through counseling and therapy, we can “grow from these feelings” if we take the time to “look and examine” what this means for our life’s “journey.”
Most of us hate to admit it, but we all go through periods of adjustment that can cause us to feel sad, blue, down, and unhappy. We tend to forget that depressive feelings are important markers that something is changing in our lives. Because of this, it’s important to know what some of the more common signs of depression look like. Just having one of these doesn’t mean that you are suffering from depression, however it can be an indicator when combined with other symptoms.
- People start asking us “what’s wrong”, which may or may not surprise us
- We don’t have as much energy as we used to
- Doing things can be extremely exhausting and can take significant effort on our part
- We may not have any interest in doing anything, or when we do, it’s not as enjoyable as it used to be
- We feel fatigued, tired and exhausted
- We feel hopeless, sad, or “down”
- We feel overwhelmed, angry, irritable, or easily upset
- Feeling guilt and excessive self-blame
- Having an increase in physical problems, and being sick more frequently
- Being more prone to injuries
- Having headaches, or increasing headache problems
- Grinding one’s teeth, clinching one’s jaw
- Losing one’s sexual desire/interest.
- Difficulty in erections/orgasms
- An increase use of pain medications (which increases depression)
- An increase in the use of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs
- Sleeping too much or having problems sleeping, and/or waking frequently
- An increase in marital arguments
- Problems on the job with supervisors, co-workers, missing work, etc.
- A lack of enjoyment in daily life
- Feeling “blah” and no excitement in life
- Feeling a general “low level” amount of anxiety and tension
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, indecisiveness, unclear thinking
- We start eating less or more, and gaining or losing weight
- Addictive Behaviors and Acting Out: Chemicals, alcohol use, affairs, spending money
- Buying things in hopes it will make you feel better, and then losing interest in it, while moving on to buying even more things (This is self-medicating moods with things and activities)
Who is at Risk for Depression?
Although depression can be triggered by personal problems, other factors also affect who becomes depressed. Often, a combination of risk factors are involved. Some types of depression are genetic and run in families. Women tend to experience depression more often than men. Changing hormone levels, as in the postpartum period, may also contribute to depression. Illness such as stroke, heart attack, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, hormonal disorders and untreated chronic pain can be involved. Stress and traumatic experiences, such as the loss of a loved one, can also trigger depression. Even a type of depressive bipolar disorder can be involved at times.
Depression can happen to anyone at some point in life. Many depressions are situational, or reactions to important changes in our lives and can be helped, without medications, through proper therapy. Some depressions can be biological or inherited as well. Some depressions happen with injuries and physical problems because of changes in the body; while this is normal and to be expected, often we still need to seek out help and support. Unresolved childhood traumas and conflicts can cause long-term unhappiness and problems in our daily life.
Depression can also happen even though you may not feel that anything is happening in your life to cause it. Depression can also be life threatening if one tries to hide and run rather than getting help. Even strong people can have problems with depression at times. Some people won’t even talk about their depression and deny that they are having problems, trying not to feel and avoiding doing anything at all about their depression. The difference between these two types of people is in admitting that there is a problem and being willing to seek out professional counseling and therapy to help.
Different Kinds of Depression
Surprisingly, there are many different types of depression. At the far end of the scale is major depression. This type of depression affects people mostly every day and is difficult to recover from without help. It can color our moods, thoughts and perceptions while affecting our life in a significant way.
Another type is called minor depression (dysthymia), which tends to affect us about half of the time, rather than almost all of the time. This type of minor depression is also called persistent depressive disorder. It’s not uncommon for people suffering from minor depression to develop major depression at some point in their lives without proper treatment. When one feels they are just “a little tired,” or are “feeling their age,” a mild depression may be evident, although this is hard to identify. One does not have to feel a “severe/extreme” level of depression to be concerned that “something is out of balance in one’s life.” Research has noted that even mild levels of depression can cause significant, long-term, problems if not taken care of properly.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves dealing with treatment-resistant or an often misdiagnosed type of bipolar depression (also poorly labeled, for better or for worse, as Bipolar II, or the more recently branded depressive bipolar disorder). These types of depression generally don’t respond well to standard medications or general types of talk therapy and, unless treated by someone familiar with the disorder, things can actually get worse. In the case of Bipolar II, one’s mood can alternate between depression and non-depression (or, in some cases, anger or irritability). This is different from what we commonly think of when we talk about bipolar (manic/depressive), where feelings of depression alternate with feelings of extreme happiness and energy across periods of days, weeks or even months. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have a better name to help distinguish between these types of mental health issues. It can be helpful to compare both types of bipolar along with non-bipolar moods to see how they really affect us differently.
Regardless of the type of depression we have, when you try to force yourself to feel better, it’s as if you’ve hit a wall that you can’t get past. Depression might affect your sleep, energy, appetite or even your concentration. Sometimes, we feel as if we’ve let ourselves, or other people, down.
Positive vs. Negative Outlook
When we view life in a pessimistic frame of mind, generally we end up no worse off than those who are optimistic. When you add negative self thoughts, poor self-esteem or depression to the mix, a negative frame of mind actually ends up multiplying these effects. Once we get in a pessimistic mindset, we end up getting stuck and find ourself unable to view our successes as anything but small. Comparing everything else that is negative in our life ends up pulling us further down, even if the positives outweigh the negatives. Our view of the world is more important, and more subtle, than we realize. We have to work harder to see the positives in order to avoid rebounding into the negatives.
Being “Just Fine”
The problem of depression is when we get stuck in feeling just fine. We’re dealing with things as best as we can. We feel stuck but see no way out. So we end up being just fine with the unspoken reality that things are anything but fine. And we end up using this as an excuse to not deal with our issues, to stay stuck and to not go forward. It’s subtle, but a real and valid danger. We end up actually making things worse, and end up screwing ourselves over.
A Journey of Discovery
Making a change in one’s thinking requires an understanding that you are on a new journey of discovery. During this journey we frequently find ourselves feeling discouraged, wondering when we will ever reach our destination where we can find the solution.
The reality is that we do not always understand what is happening to us, to others, and in the world. Sometimes, we have to find ways to thicken our skins, learn to tolerate delays, uncertainties, frustrations, lack of direction, and a sense of hopelessness. We have to learn to live with unclear, ambiguous, conditions and situations.
All of this takes time, maturity, efforts, and a belief that things will get better. We have to take the leap of faith where we have to trust that in time, things will be different. Nothing happens when we want it to. Struggles teaches us patience and builds strength of character. We may want to give up, but it is critical to keep our eyes focused on the future. This requires growth and maturity on our part.
Slow down, accept the reality of the situation, and know that with time you will be able to figure things out. At times you will want to give up because you will be feeling discouraged, impatient, and wanting the pain to end. Talk less about the pain and focus more on what you have to do one day at a time. In a crisis the focus needs to be on putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.
The focus needs to be on finding solutions that are reality based and help you grow as a person of strength even when you feel that you are weak and confused. Remember, there are no easy and quick answers. In fact, when we try to rush things, answers seem to be harder to find. When we slow down, take our time, and let go of our impatience, answers seem to come more naturally.
Sometimes, things resolve on their own with the passage of time. Where we get into trouble is when we avoid dealing with how our life is being affected by an increasing depression that refuses to go away. Research has shown that counseling and therapy can be just as effective as antidepressants and, in fact, can often provide significant gains that benefit you during the course of your life. We may not know what to expect from a counselor or “talk therapy”, however we do know that dealing with it on our own is often not a reliable solution.