Feeling the blues … to being depressed … to shining the light
Feeling the blues … to being depressed … to shining the light
We have all at some time or another probably had a case of ‘feeling the blues’, being ‘down in the dumps’ and out of sorts with ourselves. This may last for a variable length of time and can affect our mood and pleasure in life.
We might take to ‘drowning our sorrows’ in a bottle of wine, talking it out with friends or family or perhaps having some counselling. Many times we tend to muddle through and ‘pull ourselves together’ and sooner or later get back on track.
But if this low mood persists we can develop what is called ‘depression’, which impacts on how we feel about ourselves and life in general. We can lose interest in the things we used to enjoy, we can have difficulty sleeping, either in getting to sleep or waking up early, and we may lose interest in eating, sex and work. Life becomes colourless and monotone – nothing seems to be able to lift our spirits – we see darkness, bleakness all around and feel hopeless about life, ourselves and our situation. It can of course get to the point where we feel life is not worth living and we may have suicidal thoughts and perhaps even attempt to take our own lives, and some successfully do so. Depression is a serious medical condition and appropriate medical treatment should be sought.
There is a spectrum of low mood disorders and many will be quick to point out that depression is not just a case of ‘feeling the blues’. Medically there are different types of recognised depression with varying degrees of severity and there are medical treatment options that should be discussed with a medical professional if a person is experiencing persistent symptoms, however this article is not about classifying the types of depression, appropriate medical treatment or the severity, of those conditions but looking more deeply at all of these low mood disorders, whether they are mild or severe, short term or long term and reflecting on how life and lifestyle can impact on this condition. Severe depression does not just occur overnight – there is usually a history or a story that precedes it; there may have been a decline for some time before eventually someone is diagnosed as having severe depression.
We have tended to think that depression is something that just happens; it may come in reaction to a life event, like losing a loved one or losing a job or a relationship breakup, or it may appear to arise without a significant current life event. Either way, it is something that traditionally we have considered just arises and is a case of bad luck if someone is affected by it.
However, as with many conditions, there is now increasing evidence to say that how we live, our lifestyle, affects our mood and can lead to conditions like depression. What we eat, how we sleep, move and exercise – all of these daily activities can affect our mood.
Not only that, we can be affected from adverse events in childhood and only in later life do these traumas manifest as depression or other conditions.
How we react to life events is personal to us; how we cope with them, understand them, the meaning we give to them is important and can affect how we see and understand ourselves. If we believe that we are bad, not loveable, unworthy etc, then clearly that will affect how we feel about ourselves and often leads to the types of behaviour that reinforce that view – e.g. we drink alcohol or eat to excess to numb those bad feelings – but they usually end up producing more of that which we are trying to escape!
When we don’t feel good about ourselves, or we feel like life is too much hard work, or we have hurts that we don’t wish to address, we can end up withdrawing away from life – wanting to close ourselves off to life as we feel it is all too much.
Again it becomes a vicious circle; the more we withdraw, the less we feel able to cope, the more we withdraw and so on. We contract so much away from life that no wonder it starts to feel dull and lifeless as we are no longer there, no longer present in life to enjoy life.
Yet our very essence is itself joy – a joy that can never be destroyed or harmed by anything – and which is still there even in the most depressed people.
- SO how do we break out of this repetitive cycle of withdrawal that leads to depression?
- How do we crack the momentum of how we are living that leads us to have a low mood disorder?
Of course it is important to see a doctor and and seek appropriate medical care, which might include taking medication such as anti-depressants or professional psychological support. In addition to that there is much that we can do to help ourselves.
Yes there are all the daily lifestyle choices regarding diet, sleep and exercise etc, but even more fundamental than that is how we see ourselves, for it is that which feeds into all of these other choices. If we continue to have a view of ourselves that is in any way negative, or see ourselves in some way lesser, not good enough, not loveable or as a victim of life, then it will be very hard to make lifestyle choices that are truly healthy.
Whereas if we accept that we are where we are as a result of all of the choices we have made – including how we coped with hurts and traumas, how we have chosen to see ourselves, what we have chosen to eat, and how we have chosen to live in every way – then we can see that we have the power to change all of that and choose differently.
Instead of believing we are bad, not good enough, unworthy etc, we can instead choose to see ourselves as the love that we are, a love that is unaffected by any life experience, and that because we are love, we are worthy of loving, first and foremost by ourselves.
Now if you are like I was, you may not even know that you are love! I had no idea that I had an essence inside me that was pure love – I had covered it up and buried it with years of hard living and abuse of myself.
But it is there – it is always there – in everyone – as it is who we are.
It might seem to be the best-kept secret – but many down through the ages have relayed this fact.
Knowing we are love is the foundation upon which we can effect true change and healing – not just a quick fix, band-aid, that tides us over for a few weeks, months or years, but has the potential to totally transform our relationship with ourselves and to impact the choices we make every day: from what we eat, to how we move and what time we go to bed to how we are with colleagues or family and what we allow or don’t allow in our lives.
As we begin to make choices that we know and can feel are loving for our bodies, then our minds will take care of themselves – yes, you hear correctly – to treat low mood and depression, we need to take care of the body, to move it tenderly, to feed it healthy food, to exercise it gently, to nurture it in every way, knowing that we are worth caring for, and in doing so, the mind will be fed thoughts that are loving and caring, instead of being harsh, judgmental and critical.
Taking time to appreciate ourselves and our lives, even if it is only one thing a day, can help to build a true appreciation for who we are and a desire to commit to life and be fully present in it – no longer needing to withdraw, for we come to know that we have all that we will ever need within us to live life to the full, irrespective of what it brings.
No longer need we be a victim of low mood or even depression: by taking responsibility for the relationship we have with ourselves and the way we live our lives in every detail, we can banish the blues from our horizon and see the sun shine every day – knowing that we too can bring light to the world or not, as we so choose.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call:
Australia: Lifeline 13 11 14 – MensLine 1300 789 978 – BeyondBlue 1300 224 636
United Kingdom: Samaritans 116 123 – Sane 0845 767 8000 (daily 6pm – 11 pm)
In other countries: Please contact your local mental health services or helplines.