“Walking with a friend in the dark
is better than walking alone in the light.”
Some people experience depression as being thrashed around on deck in a turbulent storm at sea. The impact can be great without nature’s shock absorbers to soften the blow. For other people, depression creeps upon them like a sleeping giant having just awakened from a deep slumber. For others, depression has been with them all of their lives like a child’s blanket, torn and tattered but present through each transition in life. Being depressed can sometimes feel like being in slow motion. People may be haunted by the past, unable to live in the present, and dread their futures. Life may feel like a slow motion movie without any feelings connected to the experiences in the life story. And some people may be active in their depression without easily slowing down and reflecting on their feelings or life. Perhaps you keep moving and can’t stop because if you do, you may feel like you will become overwhelmed with sadness, or any feelings of discomfort. It is not uncommon for depression to manifest as irritability, anger, impatience, and joylessness. Some people reach for food, drugs, alcohol, sex, or anything to self-soothe and dull the pain.
Depression can take on a life of its own. It is life altering if it is chronic and can change your brain chemistry (but not permanently). People who are depressed become increasingly isolated because of a variety of reasons. Perhaps you feel you can’t talk to others because they don’t understand, or you feel ashamed, or fear the stigma of depression. People try to cheer you up and that makes you feel worse. They try to distract you and you feel disqualified. You want attention, but can’t handle positive attention. You may feel misunderstood, neglected, unworthy, unloved, and soon unlovable. Maybe you can’t stop ruminating. You have a busy and active mind that won’t quit. It may affect your sleep. Connections with people become harder and harder to create or sustain. You just may not have the energy and people drift away for various reasons that make you continue to question yourself critically. Isolation can build. Perhaps there is no community or comfort around you. You don’t know how to comfort yourself. You may feel burdened with your troubles, responsibilities, and see no relief in sight. You may feel tired, worn down, and unable to sleep. Perhaps your mind is flooded with thoughts of regret, guilt, blame (self and others), fear, and doom. You may feel disengaged, disconnected, dissociated as if you are watching a bad movie and the movie is you and your life. You are moving in a different time step or tempo from everyone else. They seem to be enjoying life. You go through the motions with your partner and kids, or friends and co-workers. But you know your feelings are blunted and there is no joy.
When you are in the throws of depression you can lose hope, faith, belief, confidence, self-esteem, and joy. However, exciting new research from neuroscience, positive psychology, and holistic or integrative approaches have shed light and hope on finding your journey out of the darkness of depression. We now know that we can rewire our brains and even change the “set points” of where we often default back to negativity and depression.
Depression can be a wake up call to reflect on past, reevaluate future and decide how to live differently in the present. It is a time to meditate, purge, cleanse, and rejuvenate. Our body, which is made up of physical, emotional, and spiritual components, needs attention so that we may decide with whom and how we want to cultivate and deepen connections: to people, the planet, nature, animals, art, work, children, food, music, etc.
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of the book “The How of Happiness,” and Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, has begun to develop scientifically proven strategies to increase positive mood and happiness through:
Whether or not you are taking anti-depressant medications, this holistic or integrative approach can support you through building the foundation of lifestyle changes that transform negativity and depression, and creates a different path and opportunity for peaceful, comforting, and more joyful connections.