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Your Current Depressive episode Does Not Define You

When you are in the middle of a depressive episode, it can be really challenging to recall a time when you felt better. Depression has its way of tricking you into thinking that things will always be this way and that “this” (depression, emotional pain, anxiety, etc.) is simply just who you are. However, if you rearrange the letters in depression, you can get “I pressed on.” It may seem a little cheesy, but holding on to this mentality can help you keep moving through a depressive episode. That mindset is precisely the topic of our blog for this week: pressing on, even while struggling the  most.

We are not at all suggesting here that you can simply “think” your way out of depression, but what we are saying is that what you choose to give energy and attention to can definitely create a shift in your experience. How you think and what you focus on can start freeing you from the clutches of your current situation and/or depression. You can start doing this by recognizing the tricks that depression tries to play on you. Once you learn these, and can recognize them within yourself, you are better equipped to combat and dismantle them with reality checks.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

How Depression Tricks You

Though depression can look different for everyone, a depressive episode often includes some level of despair about the present and future. When you look to the past in the midst of depression, you may lose sight of times you felt joy or contentment. Here are some of the common ways that depression tries to trick you.

Depressive thoughts may look like:
  • It’ll always be like this
  • I always feel this bad
  • Nothing gets better
  • Nothing I do makes any difference
  • I’m a burden
  • I’m never good enough
  • People don’t really like to be around me
  • I can’t make any changes in my life

Depressive thoughts look a lot like “all or nothing” thinking for many people. These types of thoughts can keep you stuck inside your own head and make you feel worse because if you truly believe that there is nothing you can do to help your situation, why would you put forth any effort in trying? That is such a painful and exhausting place to be and is exactly the type of mindset that can keep you stuck in the cycle of depression. It is definitely tough to break out of this mode of thinking, but once you do, you’ll recognize what tools work for you so you’ll be prepared should you ever need them again.

Change is Constant

One thing you can be certain of is change will continue to happen. Your current state of pain and anguish will NOT stay at its currently level of intensity, because it can’t. Things change with time, everything does, whether that’s moment to moment, day to day, or some other measurement of time. Even if depression feels like a constant in your life, it’s important to note the fluctuations in it, no matter how small. The current chapter of your life does not represent the entire book, and it is no more important or powerful than the other chapters, unless you make it so. You do not get to choose the cards you are dealt in this life, and let’s face it, your hand may be pretty crappy at times, but you ALWAYS have a choice regarding how you play those cards. What you do about your current situation directly effects how your hand may play out.

Some points to remember about change:
  • Your mood fluctuates   
  • You have managed to survive up until this point in your life   
  • You have been built to cope with changes
  • What you survive is what helps you learn how to thrive    

If you are reading this, you have managed to deal with the hardships in your life thus far. That means you have some tools in your box for handling pain and disappointment, whether healthy or unhealthy, that have kept you here. Though there’s always room for improvement and healthier ways to deal with pain, give yourself some compassion for making it so far. You are a survivor and you are amazing. 

What You Can Do

Though your current circumstances may not be at all your fault, you are still responsible for how you respond. And that realization can be scary, frustrating, and empowering all at the same time. It is normal to feel exasperated with your current circumstances and not know what to do next. Here are some things to consider that may help get you through these difficult moments:

  • Attend to your basic needs (proper sleep, hygiene, nutrition, exercise, etc.)
  • Honor all parts of yourself and do free writing about each (the part that wants to press on, the part that wants to give up, the part that’s hurt, the part that’s frustrated, etc.)
  • Reflect on a time when you felt even a tiny bit better
  • Search your memories for a time when you felt CONNECTED to other people
  • Acknoweldge the difficulties that you have already faced and ask yourself how you got through those hard times before
  • Allow other people to help you

Getting More Support

If you feel as though your current circumstances are really starting to overshadow your joy in life and are clouding the way you view yourself and your future, counseling can help. Make an appointment with Angelus today to start creatively managing depressive symptoms and the icky intrusive thoughts and feelings that can come along with them. Nothing and no one can define you, unless you let them. Start creating a new definition of yourself today with the help of a thoughtful and creative therapist.

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services