I am lost. I decided to start counseling because I was afraid I was getting depressed again. I was depressed back in high school and while my anxiety affects me every day, I thought that depression was in the past until about two months ago. I’ve only gone to two appointments so far. At the second one she asked me about my history of depression, and I told her about it and said that now I have little bouts, like 2 or 3 days a month. That day was a good one. Today is not. Do you think it’s possible to be depressed sometimes, or is it my own anxious self over thinking? And more importantly, how do I avoid letting these feelings affect my life too much? Tonight I have put off doing an assignment I know I can do well and even enjoy and even now at 3 am, I feel so distant from it while also feeling guilty for putting it off. I feel as though I am like a bent tool never to be fixed. I could work properly if someone took the time to straighten me out, but that’s too hard. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and think that this was melodramatic… In fact I feel melodramatic just rereading what I’ve wrote. Basically, I’d like your advice on how not to dwell on the bad times, and how to own up to the mistakes you make during them. I don’t want to let down my friends or teachers, but when I feel depressed, it is so hard to do anything.
There is nothing unfixable about you. We are meant to be free of suffering—did you know that feeling at peace and joyful is our most authentic state? You were not born depressed—you became depressed, because of things that came at you that you had no control over. Please persevere, because your healing is not only possible, it is the most important work before you, at this moment.
From the little you have told me, it does seem as if you suffer from a chronic, low-grade depression, one that intensifies at certain times, thus the “good day-bad day” experience with your moods. For starters, I’d like you to come to understand what depression is—You are not a bent tool never to be fixed…rather, you are a young woman consumed by a grief so powerful that it has you medicated on misery. That, my dear, can be fixed.
Some suggestions for starters:
- I’ve written two columns on depression, and I invite you to read them: Depression as an Opportunity for Emotional and Spiritual Transformation, 11/15/15, and Moving Beyond Loneliness and Despair: Death is Not Real, 2/13/16 (make a cup of tea—they’re lengthy!)
- Please consider purchasing these two books: You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay, and Many Lives, Many Masters, by Brian Weiss. The second book might require you to stretch in terms of spirituality/world view, but we often need to stretch in order to reach. Both books will help you internalize suggestion #3:
- Write this on a piece of paper and hang it where you see it every day: I am a spiritual being having a human experience.
The third suggestion is actually an invitation to shift your perception about who you really are. This shift in perception is the single, greatest, spiritual effort any person can make, for when that shift occurs, we have access to our wisdom, our strength, and our inherent joy.
Depression is a uniquely human experience, the result of the very condition of being human. We are spiritual beings, but we are “housed” in a body with a mind, a mind that generated an EGO at a very young age. Because EGO has a lot of bravado and is loud, EGO usually drowns out the quiet whisper of our Spirit, which is why it becomes so easy to experience our identity through the lens of our EGO.
Your Spirit not only isn’t depressed, it cannot be depressed—depression happens when we can’t access our true Self (our Spirit) through the thick muck of grief, and by grief, I mean a loss so great that we couldn’t even bear to feel it, thus we press the feeling down—depression is repressed agony.
Sometimes therapy can help us move through the muck, and sometimes meditation, and sometimes medication. I don’t know what means you have engaged in the past to get to the other side of your depression—I’m guessing your depressed state has been pretty constant for a while now, and becomes more “obvious” to you when it intensifies.
Sometimes medication supports us enough so that we can tend to what needs to be tended to, like our work, reading our books, getting out to hike, spiritual reflection, etc. I can certainly imagine situations where folks would need medicine to see them through a period of time, and some require medicine for life. I don’t get the feeling that you are someone who will need medicine for life—at least that is my intuitive hunch. If you are considering it for the short term, that would be a conversation to have with your counselor.
If my Spirit can’t be depressed, what part of me is?
Imagine: The day of your “death” arrives, and your Spirit leaves your body and looks down upon the body being left behind…Answer this with your intuition: does the depression leave with you, or is it “left behind” to evaporate within the confines of the brain’s death?
Here’s my hunch: If depression (the repression of feeling) is a defense mechanism turned chronic and toxic (a maneuver of the mind that EGO exploits) then our Spirit lifts from our body with feeling, but not repression, thus not depression.
If you have a hunch that “you can’t take it with you,” meaning depression gets left behind as your Spirit carries on with its living, then maybe, just maybe, the path to healing from depression rests in taking up residence, as full time as possible, within the consciousness of our Spirit, while we are in a body, alive on earth. With every attempt to do so, we weaken EGO, and our healing is underway (See my Inner Gingerbread Person sketch, for a simple visual).
The Mistakes We Make
When we are depressed, we grow distant from our spirit consciousness. Our pain, our shame, keeps us on the gerbil wheel of mental negativity, which leads us to make choices that work against our best interest. We end up sad, we feel alienated, and we move through our days with an overall depletion of life energy. EGO is responsible for slipping the gerbil wheel into our consciousness at the first hint of shame, and it’s really easy to miss that it happened, and that we got on. Fast forward a decade, and we live in a depressed state.
EGO exploits suffering, and the exploitation of our suffering leads us to make any number of terrible choices, from using and abusing, to letting ourselves be used and abused, to becoming addicted, to seeking to dominate and control others. All the ugliness in the world is the result of unmanageable suffering on the part of someone.
We are all guilty of making mistakes, mistakes that have harmed ourselves or others. All of us. The key to coping with that pain, with that regret, is to practice compassion.
The way out of the pain created from mistakes made is to practice compassion with yourself. Compassion is possible when we see ourselves and others as we actually are: spiritual beings struggling with the allure, the intoxication, or the oppression of EGO. You are no less precious because of your mistakes, and in fact, your mistakes give you the unique opportunity to open your heart with compassion for you, which in turn opens your heart to all. Forgiving yourself, being compassionate with yourself, is the path to learning how to genuinely love.
Without compassion, there is no love.
Compassion and forgiveness are one in the same, and there is no act of love so radical as compassion—compassion is actually a subversive act, an act EGO finds the most threatening, because in the moment of compassion, a life, even a community, can be transformed instantaneously, and that transformation includes a weakening of the individual/collective EGO.
Putting EGO to sleep
When we allow Spirit to lead the way, our EGO weakens. As EGO weakens, depression begins to disappear. EGO gives meaning to feelings, whereas Spirit gives us the strength to feel, and then release the feelings. There is no feeling that could ever diminish your worth—only the meaning we attach to a feeling, meaning that we choose to believe, can give us a diminished sense of worth.
The true cure for depression is aligning our consciousness with our Spirit consciousness, and if therapy, medication, hiking, reading, volunteering, eating good food….if those things enable our connection to our Spirit, then it’s all good. Anything, and I do mean anything, that works to distance you from your Spirit is by definition not good.
Authentic you is not depressed. Your EGO has co-opted your consciousness, tricked you into identifying with a false self, and is now abusing that false self. Don’t let yourself be abused. To diminish EGO’s grip, you need to take back your power, your authentic power. Try this:
- Draw this sign and hang it up where you will see it daily: I am a spiritual being having a human experience.
- Hang up the picture of the gingerbread person—draw your own, color it, hang it where you will see it every day (coloring may seem hokey, but it’s actually calming and will connect you to your work).
- Every morning, without fail (maybe while brushing your teeth), use those signs as a visual cue, and ask your Spirit what she needs today. Listen to her and give her what she needs.
- Practice the affirmations you read in You Can Heal Your Life (they work).
- Practice compassion with yourself every single day.
You are already whole, and I can promise you that if you do this work, you will heal.