In my last blog I wrote about what I think happiness might be. It’s not an easy thing to pinpoint. The word is thrown around a lot with an assumption of what it means but people don’t often drill down into that meaning.
Depression is just as difficult to pinpoint. A lot is spoken about it, a lot of research done. You can be diagnosed – labelled – as “depressed”. You can be medicated for it.
I’m very nervous to broach the subject because it’s so incredibly sensitive to so many people. And to qualify what I’m about to say I don’t think this necessarily everyone’s experience or the root of everyone’s problem. Now there are many who are more expert on the subject than me, both through qualification and experience. I have suffered very brief moments but I would not consider myself to be any kind of authority on what it is or how you define it.
But you cannot discuss happiness without discussing sadness.
It occurs to me that depression is often the release of suppressed emotion. People suppress their negative emotions – sadness, anger, fear – for all sorts of reasons. Pressures from our surrounding culture have for many decades (centuries even!) made it considered unseemly to express or even feel our emotions. The good ol’ British “stiff upper lip” is an example. Maybe someone in our past said something, maybe just one word or phrase which made us unconsciously shut down part of ourselves. Maybe we have turned to drink, drugs, food, shopping, gambling or any of the myriad of other addictions to create false highs and cover our pain. Maybe we experienced something so horrific or at such a young age (or both) that we just couldn’t process it at the time.
When we start to allow ourselves to feel again, there is a huge amount of feelings that we have suppressed. It’s like opening the floodgates. All those emotions that we have kept lock up – they all want to escape. They weren’t supposed to be locked in a box. They were supposed to be experienced. And depression is an extreme of feeling, it’s all those negative emotions coming up and out at the same time.
This is my own personal experience of depression and from speaking with others it strikes me that others have the same experience. When I have my own small bouts depression it feels like an exaggeration of all those negative feelings I’ve kept locked away. And it is overwhelming.
I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this train of thought. We need to feel the full spectrum of emotions – it’s what makes us human. It’s what drives us. It’s what connects us to the world. Part of me says that the pain of depression is something you need to force yourself through to come through to the other side. I do find it a little cathartic. But I also know I suffer very mildly.
I find it difficult to make suggestions as to what to do when you are depressed. If, like me, you just get occasional moments or days, I would suggest if you can, allow those feelings to exist. Find a safe space as you experience these reactions. Maybe a physical space you feel comfort in. Maybe the company of a trusted loved one. Some people feel more comfortable around strangers, perhaps a therapist of some sort. You will resist so much of what you feel. That’s why you buried it in the first place.
What if you are that trusted friend? I would advise not to judge, try not to make definitive comment. Don’t overly comfort either. It’s a fine line between ensuring someone feels comfortable with you and indulging everything they say. Ask questions. Speculate perhaps. But don’t imagine that you have the answers. You don’t. The only person who really knows the answers is the person experiencing these buried emotions.
This is a subject that is vast and cannot be dealt with in 700 words. I very much write these blogs to ask myself questions. I don’t always expect to come up with answers (it would be a short oeuvre of work if I did!). I hope that I help you to ask some questions of yourself too.
Maybe I’m talking complete nonsense. Maybe this is not your experience. Or maybe I have dropped a penny for you. Either way I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.