Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Feeling Broken Is Temporary

She looked up at me with tears streaming down her face as she said, “I really don't think life is going to get any better for me.”

She had just described a life that most of us would consider tragic. Harsh events and her heroic efforts to meet them, had left her feeling crushed under the weight of daily disappointment.

I was reminded of the insidious mechanism of depression that results in a sort of ratcheting down of our hope. It’s the feeling that every step down is one more that we cannot go back up.

Some describe it like the sound of a door locking, preventing them from ever going back. You hear the click of the lock that keeps you from even hoping you can feel better.

The good news is that feeling broken is a temporary condition and yet at the depths of depression, we can believe that only permanent misery lies ahead for us. This certainty of future unhappiness is a part of the illness, and should not be believed. Yet we will.

I told her that she needed to do some specific steps in order to begin the process of feeling better. She smiled weakly, and said, “You've got to be kidding me. That can't possibly help. You want me to do this and that.”

I told her of an image that flashed into my mind when talking to people who are so deeply depressed. It is an ancient well in India made of thousands of stones carved into steps that lead down from the surface.

I told her that what I was describing were individual steps for her to begin the climb back up and she need not worry about how they fit together. What was important was that she begin taking one step at a time to climb back out of her depression.

Looking at each individual step might seem worthless. You have to see them all together for them to be understood.

Since you can't see the complete picture when depressed, you need to trust someone who can. Its also helpful to have someone to be present with you through difficult times. Someone to offer encouragement and guidance and remind you that you're not alone. And that you can move forward again.

That takes a level of trust that can be very difficult for anyone, and yet it's a necessity to be able to accept help

“Will you do these three things?” I asked. she smiled with only one corner of her mouth and said, “Yeah, I'll do them” and we scheduled our appointment for the following week.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Friendship 101: Grow a Support System

Lots of people I work with say they do not have someone to talk to about their personal stuff on a regular basis. They report a variety of reasons from lack of time to cultivate relationships, and lack of opportunity to meet new people, being the most common. Other reasons include a lack of trust of others, usually after having been mistreated by a trusted friend at some point in the past. All of these can be overcome and It's difficult to imagine a healthier activity than growing a support system of trusted friends.

Humans are social animals and we need interaction with others to feel good. Consider the opposite extreme of social isolation in prisons with their well-known negative effects on mental health. People can gradually lose contact with reality in some of these cases. We need contact with people to stay healthy.

Social isolation is a well-known contributor to depression. Being alone can lead to spending too much time ruminating on our negative thoughts, thereby making ourselves depressed. Spending our time with others takes us away from such thoughts and allows us to be immersed in someone else providing a much needed break from ourselves and our thoughts.
To be Continued...