Depression is a global problem and it is affecting many more people than we think. And it is powerful in its impact on us. It stops us in our tracks. It keeps us from our purpose and goals in life. It changes the way we see the world. It disconnects us from the people we would love to love. And it is incredibly hard to overcome when it hits. But the biggest problem with depression is not its existence. Based on the world we live in, it is an inevitable manifestation. The problem is that we don’t know what to do with it. We don’t know what is triggering it. We don’t know how to resolve the problem it is creating. And the problems are big. When we can make sense of depression, we can change how it impacts us.
You may be wondering what I am talking about here. Depression doesn’t make sense to most people. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. It shows up whenever it wants and it seems completely vague in it’s nature. But what if I told you there was a message in our depression? What if I told you there are patterns that trigger our depression? And if we can spot them, if we can bring our awareness to them, we can begin to make sense out of our depression. We can use it as a way of getting to know ourselves on a deeper level. It’s not easy. It might even be the hardest thing we do. But it is possible.
Contrary to popular belief, depression is not sadness. Depression is a hopelessness, a futility that makes us feel like there is no action worth taking. It is a siren song that says, “Don’t bother. Don’t waste your energy. It isn’t worth it. Nothing will change.” And it is very convincing. It is triggered by patterns that can be very hard to see. But it is also triggered by patterns that are easy to see. Depression might show up after a rejection or abandonment in relationship. That one might be clear. It might say , “I told you so. Nobody will ever love you.” But depression can also show up when we are about to take steps toward what we want. It might say, “Don’t try anything too bold or visible. You will get hurt again.” It might show up after a business failure and say, “You will never be able to have what you want.”
These messages are based on evidence and that evidence has been proving itself since childhood as one self-fulfilling prophecy after another. That may sound like the meanest thing you could do to yourself. And in some ways, it is. But it’s not on purpose. It is meant to protect you from the pain of the losses that live underneath it. It is meant to protect you from taking any more chances and risks only to be crushed by them. It shuts things down before they get out of hand. In other words, it shuts you down before you can shift your patterns and get a new kind of evidence. But there is a way out. Here are four steps I have used to work with my very prolific futility in my own life. It is also what I teach my clients.
Write from it. I know you are not surprised to hear this from me. But the most important thing we can do is get the message from the futility behind depression. At first, it will sound like it is about now. Nothing is okay now. And maybe nothing it okay now. But the message started in your childhood. You felt the futility when you didn’t have the ability to change your circumstances in childhood. You didn’t have power then. You do now. But you haven’t found it yet.
Question it. When we start writing from futility, every word of it will sound true. The body will be intensely impacted. We might even struggle to hold ourselves up right. This is where we will feel the biggest struggle to stay alive. So we are not going to be able to argue with it very much. But maybe we can throw out a question or two. We don’t have to believe the question. It is okay if it sounds stupid. I prefer to use “what-if” questions. We might ask ourselves, “What if it won’t fail this time? What if things can get better?” We don’t have to believe them, but when we ask them and inevitably get a raging response from the futility (inner part), something new starts.
Detach from it. This is the new thing that starts. When we begin to have a conversation with our futility, this tells us something very important. There is something there that is not the futility. There is something having the conversation with the futility. What is that something? It is an aspect of self that is not futile. It is the grounded adult self who can see past the futility. This self can see that the futility is an emotion, a flashback, a story and most of all, temporary. This self can hold space for the inner part with futility without becoming completely engulfed in it. This detachment takes time to build, but as it builds, your ability to process out of depression grows.
Answer it. Once you build this detachment, you can gain more awareness about the pattern that started it. You can see how the present is looking like that past (sometimes in spooky ways). You can make sense of the message that the depression is bringing. And you can stop seeing the pattern as inevitable. You can start to see the way to end it for good. It won’t be easy to break the first time. It will feel like moving a mountain. Your entire inner system will scream about the impossibility of what you are doing. You will be inundated with evidence in the form of emotion and memories. Write from all of it. But you can answer it from that grounded adult self who has the power to make change happen. You can tell it:
Not this time!