In last week’s blog, I began a discussion on how depression can twist your thoughts around. I know the emotional, psychological, and physical struggle that depression can be. Finding your way through depression is like trying to find the light switch in a dark room; trying to sort through the “depression” thoughts and the “real” ones is a challenge.
Here are some of the lies that your depression might be telling you:
“I am a burden to my family and friends.”
Depression is a very debilitating illness. It can impact every aspect of your life. Making decisions is difficult. Taking care of daily tasks, let alone a job or family, is a challenge. I had to fight the all-too-tempting urge to curl up into a ball on the floor of my closet, and wait for better times to come (my own version of suspended animation). This is why when we’re depressed, we think we are a burden to others: We just can’t muster up the motivation to do the things we need to do. I can assure you, however, that anyone who has dealt with depression will understand this sense of apathy, and will not think you are an encumbrance; they will understand how you feel. What I will suggest is this: Take the steps you need to get help. Depression will make you want to stand still…but don’t allow it to lull you into inaction. Allow yourself to seek the guidance of a professional or at least an online community of people who have recovered from depression.
“I am a failure.”
There are certain times when it’s not a good idea to take stock of your life: When you’ve drank too much, when you’re lying awake at 3AM, and when you’re depressed. Why? Because you will not be in the right mindset to think clearly and objectively. No matter how many times you have failed, you are NOT a failure – don’t allow depression to make you think otherwise. Failure is not an ending; it’s just another way of saying, “This approach doesn’t work. Try something different.” When your depression tells you that you’re a failure, say, “I am not a failure. That fact that I failed at something proves that I have the guts to try and try again.”
“I don’t matter to anyone.”
Depression can be incredibly isolating. No matter how many people I surrounded myself with I still felt so very alone, so separate from everyone else. I only realized later that it was the depression telling me I was alone, that no one cared about me or understood me.
You do matter, and I can prove it. Have you ever helped someone by giving them directions, holding the door open for them, or carrying something for them? Have you ever given change to a homeless person, played or cuddled with a pet, made a baby laugh? I can assure you that in each of these instances, you mattered. And there is likely at least one person or animal out there right now whose life is or will be so much more enjoyable all because of you. You matter.
“There is nothing I can do to make things better. There is nothing I can do to change or improve my life.”
Depression will make you believe that you are helpless; that there is no hope; that no matter what you do or who you talk to, things will never improve. You can get so used to being depressed that it becomes familiar, even comfortable.
Let me make something clear: Things can get better, even if you feel they won’t. And every little step you take will make a difference. I wanted so much to isolate myself when I was depressed. I would go through a cycle of sleeping-crying-sleeping for days and weeks. But then I would make myself get up. I would make myself go outside, read a book, watch TV – anything that would bring me back to the familiarity of where I was before the depression started. I can assure you that small steps (taking a shower, making a sandwich, watching a comedy) can make a huge difference, and then at some point, you will find the motivation to do bigger things, like talking to someone, finding resources to help, and even looking into therapy.
“I have nothing to live for.”
This is probably one of the most tenacious lies depression will tell you, particularly if your depression has isolated you from others. Rest assured, however, that even this lie can be disproved and dismantled, but it requires a little effort on your part: You need to find something that gives your life meaning. I’ve always found the greatest sense of fulfillment comes from doing something that helps others because in doing so, you will be helping yourself as well. Find a cause you believe in. You can foster animals until they are ready to be adopted, be a companion for the elderly, help with environmental endeavors, work with the homeless, become a Big Brother or Big Sister, or begin a new hobby. You can even start with something close to home, like doing some spring cleaning, clearing out that junk drawer, scrubbing the tiles in the bathroom, or washing the walls.
Stay tuned for part 3!