3 REASONS YOU’RE STILL NOT ‘OVER IT’.
Frustrated, tearful and easily triggered? This might be of interest…
My 25th birthday (quite a while ago now… 😉 was extremely disappointing. Not because I didn’t like the number, and not because I didn’t have a good party, but because I assumed I would have a handle on my depression by then, and the date signified that another year had passed without improvement.
A quarter of a century in and I was still hurting? What kind of tragic slow learner is still upset about childhood junk at TWENTY-FIVE? I thought, naively.
A quarter of a century in and I still had little to no control over the debilitating ‘episodes’ that meant I went months without smiling and came home from work to cry in the shower virtually every day.
It didn’t stop me living, so I thought it was being ‘managed’. That is to say, I still got up every morning, and I still went to work. I still paid my bills on time and occasionally socialized with my friends. My home renovations were coming along fine and my car was getting serviced regularly. So why did I have this pervasive knowing, deep in the pit of my stomach and right in the center of my heart, that I was utterly worthless and no-one would attend my funeral?
Because I was not living, I was merely existing. Joseph Campbell said ‘we are seeking the experience of being alive.’ And going to work, paying bills, and re-painting your kitchen cupboards does not qualify.
There are many reasons our depressive patterns hang around. To be clear, I am not talking about ‘reactive’ depression, which is normal and healthy and shows that you’re a sane, empathic adult. For example, grief after the loss of a loved one. That is a process that needs to be worked through and no self-respecting health professional would (or should) medicate you for that until you’ve had a chance to work through the stages, with the help of a grief counsellor if needed.
What I’m talking about is the depression that stems from pervasive, permanent and personal1 generalizations that we take on and repeat to ourselves until we are certain enough about them to consider them beliefs.
‘No one cares about me.’
‘I don’t serve a purpose.’
‘People don’t like me; they tolerate me.’
‘People who are nice to me do it because they’re kind-hearted, not because I deserve it.’
‘I’m not smart enough.’
‘I’m too old to try something new.’
‘I’m too uncoordinated – there’s no point in trying.’
‘I don’t deserve it.’
‘I’d only screw it up.’
‘I’m not qualified enough.’
‘There’s no-one I can ask for help.’
Here are a few reasons the above statements might be resonating for you right now…:
Sadness is your ‘emotional home’.
Have you ever noticed that people who are angry tend to respond to any problem with anger? And people who are deemed ‘depressed’ can get sad about an impressively broad spectrum of topics? I believe the expression is ‘when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’
People typically have default reactions that are comfortable and familiar to them. If you criticize an angry person, they’ll be angry at you. If you criticize a depressed person, they’ll take it very personally and probably use it as ammunition for a self-flagellation session later that day. In a nutshell, it’s what you know and you do it extremely well.
It meets a need.
There are 6 human needs that every person on the planet has. The first 4 are termed ‘survival’ needs, and we meet them in a variety of ways, not necessarily healthfully. They are certainty, uncertainty, love/connection, and significance. Depression can meet any one of those needs, and typically, if an action or an emotion meets 3 or more, it is considered ‘addictive’.
A sad person can get self-love and connection, significance and certainty through an episode. Think about it: they curl up on the couch, maybe with some comfort food, they cry and console themselves, and they think about all the horrible things that have happened to them in their lives. Their giant unsolvable problem gives them significance, they connect to themselves via sympathy and coddling, and they get certainty from the control of the emotions and the fact that they’ve run this pattern so many times they know exactly how to do it. In fact, in tests and under pressure, depressed people can physically bring on a 9/10 level of depression (borderline suicidal) intentionally, on demand. Because we don’t have emotions, we do emotions. Emotions are triggered, driven and maintained through our physiology, and can be interrupted and changed the same way.
The last 2 needs are termed ‘fulfillment needs’ and they are growth and contribution. Unsurprisingly, we are rarely in a state of growing or contributing when we are depressed. Likely because they are excellent remedies.
You’ve taken on the belief as your own, and now you’re possessive about it.
It’s a common misconception that our negative feelings are unique, and specific to our own issues and life story. But if you find a large group of people, throw out a concern and ask for a show of hands who feels the same, you’re likely to find a few buddies. Fears such as ‘I’m too old,’ and ‘I’m not smart enough’ are shared by literally millions of people. So why are we all thinking the same thing?
Because that thought didn’t come from your mind, it came from the mind. And you need to start being extremely selective about what you pull out of the collective consciousness. These thoughts aren’t new; they’ve been floating around for hundreds of years. So the next time something to the tune of ‘no-one likes me’ floats past you, consider observing without absorbing, and let it carry on its merry way.
So what do we do about it?
Step 1: Analyze your pattern.
When you are having an episode, how do you stand? How do you breathe? Where is your head? Where is your focus? Where are you looking? What is your tone of voice?
Now, I haven’t met you… but sample after study after group test shows incredibly consistent results. Your posture is poor, your breathing is shallow and you’re unlikely to be engaging the diaphragm properly. Your head and gaze are lowered, your voice is quiet or monotone, and your focus is either in the past, on things you need and don’t yet have, or on things you can’t control, or all three.
Sound familiar? Your physiology tells your brain how you’re feeling, and chemicals are released that align with that. So stand up straight, change your focus, take some deep belly breaths, and crank up the music. Let your brain know who’s boss.
Step 2: Be real with yourself about what needs you’re meeting.
As Tony Robbins says ‘what’s wrong is always available, but so is what’s right.’ There are healthy and unhealthy ways to meet all 6 of the human needs. To get certainty, you can attempt to control everything in your life (which is impossible and will inevitably lead to frustration and anxiety), or you can set up your day with a kickass morning routine involving movement and good nutrition so that you know you’re taking care of yourself and your physicality will be able to support you in overcoming challenges.
You can get connection through binge-drinking and repeated ‘short-term relationships’. Or you can learn to manage your subconscious fears and embark on an authentic and meaningful relationship with someone who genuinely cares about you.
You can meet your need for uncertainty (variety) by starting fights with family members so that everyone is on eggshells around you, or you can get variety by changing up your work-out routine and saving the money you typically drink, for a vacation somewhere tropical and healing.
It all comes down to the standards you set, which is heavily influenced by your peer group.
Step 3: Get support.
If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t limp around in horrific pain for weeks because of you desire to just ‘harden up and get on with it’. You’d get a lift to the hospital, get some pain relief and a cast, go easy on it until it heals, and then carry on with your life.
So why are we so reluctant to take advantage of the amazing resources available these days for doing effectively the same with our mind-wounds…?
There are people that have been where you are and they know how to get past it. I am one of those people and I would love to support you on your journey to fulfillment.
I’m Sarah and I work with people who want to improve their boundaries, connect to their authentic self and finally bridge the gap between their minimum and ideal lives.
When you take back your power, you get to set your own standards, live up to your own expectations and make your own decisions about who you are, where you live and how you show up in your life.
You’re able to control your direction, your focus and your emotions better than ever before.
And when you finally put yourself first, guilt and pain take a back seat. Because only a full heart can be as generous, as kind, and as loving as you want to be for the loved ones in your life.
It’s time to:
- Finally do the things on your bucket list.
- Ask confidently for what you want and need, and receive it with grace and joy.
- Meet new people without feeling embarrassed, intimidated or anxious.
- Close the gap between the real you on the inside, and your external projected image.
If that sounds excellent, hop on over to www.SarahReillyCoaching.com and register for a complimentary chat with me about your situation.
I’d love to help you get un-stuck.
1 (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-671-01911-2. (Paperback reprint edition, Penguin Books, 1998; reissue edition, Free Press, 1998)