Depression is a message
My life felt quite wonderful before I became a mother. I had interesting careers and seemingly satisfying relationships.
During the initial period of learning to understand the needs of my babies and adjusting to motherhood I managed quite well, however, when I found myself at home with two toddlers who were needing a mother who was present with herself and fully engaged with her children, feelings of depression and overwhelm set in.
The World Health Organisation states that there are more than 350 million people globally suffering from depression. There is no doubt that depression can feel overwhelming. When in the grip of these feelings it is very difficult to realise that we can make choices to feel different from that depressed state. It is even frustrating to hear well-intentioned people say this because, at the time, it feels as if we have no choice. I know this because I have been in this place.
Advice comes in many forms like:
- Go for a walk – you will feel better…
- Clean the house – you may still feel miserable but you will have a clean house
- Do something for others – this can make you feel better about yourself
- Write an appreciation list – see how well you are coping
These are all good ideas and could help us to feel a bit better for a short while, if we could muster up the energy to get on to them. But so often, people suffering depression feel as if they just don’t have it in them to do such things. They even feel more depressed because they are not able to manage to do these seemingly simple and beneficial acts.
It helps to understand that we are feeling this way because the way we are living does not match a previous expectation or, does not match our picture of how we imagined our lives would be at this stage.
These pictures or expectations often come from outside of ourselves, based on what we have previously heard or seen, sometimes imposed by parents or teachers, and have little to do with what is truly happening. Instead of working with what we have in front of us, we can become fixated on the fact that the picture doesn’t match and this makes us feel depressed.
“Instead of feeling miserable about how things 'should' be – practice embracing how they are” Jean Gamble.
In my counselling practice I have seen examples of clients feeling depressed when they are struggling with illness, feeling too old to re-enter the work force, suffering grief and loss, feeling betrayed, relocating to another country and enduring failed financial investments. Nearly all these scenarios involve a change of circumstances where life no longer matches the “picture” they had in their imagination of how things would be at this stage in their life. Our outlook can change if we can let go of the picture and surrender to what is actually true right now.
When I was struggling to parent two young children, I now realise life was not matching some idealised mental picture of what my life should have looked like, to be married and have two young daughters. I felt overwhelmed and my struggle against these unbearable feelings of inadequacy dragged me deeper into my depression. It did not occur to me to seek support as my picture included that I “should” be able to manage my life so that it matched my unconscious picture of how things should be.
It can be really helpful to take the pressure off the struggle to 'cope' (ie make life match our picture) and practice surrendering to the beauty of our fragility and vulnerability, which are qualities of our true essence. Once we understand we have been feeling depressed because of unmet expectations, we can accept and let go of the disappointment that we had created ‘pictures’ of how life should look, and in doing so put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Struggling to accept this can contribute to the depression.
Eventually I accepted that I needed support and with help, I learned to focus less on my unmet expectations and began to build a connection to my heart and feelings. Having greater access to my body, feelings and sensations challenged my mental pictures of inadequacy and slowly I began to feel what was true and to live from this new found me – instead of from the pictures I had aligned with. This deepening connection to my own innermost divinity gave me the foundation and confidence to live the true me resulting in more vitality, joy and aliveness. I learned to trust my instincts as a mother because they came from this strong foundation within me and not from a picture from outside of me.
It is very helpful to seek support in building this deep connection with our innermost self as we can experience hurts and sadness from our past that make us want to resist the process of deep reconnection with who we truly are.
Instead of fighting the 'depression', we can get support to surrender and accept that we are experiencing our vulnerable, tender and fragile feelings that are a vital part of our healing. Society does not encourage us to connect with our vulnerability and tenderness and we sometimes struggle to accept these feelings in ourselves and others.
When we connect deeply to our innermost heart we are able to feel that we are part of a larger universe and that we all have our part to play in this universal way of being.
For anyone who is suffering from depression I offer the following:
- Firstly, it is essential to recognise that the depressed behaviour is not who you are – it is a symptom of the situation in which you find yourself
- The feelings arise because your life is not matching a picture or story you have made up about how things should be – unmet expectations or projected mental images
- Practice letting go of the picture while you begin to build a deep reconnection to your own body and breath. This will help you to form a foundation from which to live your truth
- Esoteric yoga and the bodywork modalities of Universal Medicine are useful tools in building this reconnection – yoga and healing
- As you build a deeper connection you become more aware of what you need and can begin to practice looking after yourself; self-care builds self-love that builds self-confidence that creates a better quality of life
- It is very helpful to accept the reality of the situation in which you find yourself. This acceptance is a catalyst for changing how you feel. When we struggle by denying and resisting what is actually true, then we add to the depressive feelings
- Accept that you can seek support with changing your circumstances and with building the essential reconnection to your body and breath.
If you feel you need support you can contact the following services:
International link http://togetherweare-strong.tumblr.com/helpline