“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars”
– Kahlil Gibran
When depression or sadness take over us, we tend to react by immediately trying get rid of these highly uncomfortable feelings. We cannot wait to arrive at our happily ever after, where sadness is a thing of the past. We try everything in our power to avoid experiencing even the slightest discomfort or pain. It makes sense; we live in a world that privileges instant gratification and the masking of pain. It’s all about feeling good now and doing what fills our urges in this moment. That is the basis of all addictions: a legitimate urge to not feel pain and to escape whatever is bothering us.
My addiction was feeling needed by other people and escaping my life by immersing myself in their problems. This reduced my feelings of sadness and depression, since I was consumed by running to the rescue of the people I thought needed me.
Now I understand that real suffering comes from wishing things were different and expecting that happiness can be a 24-hour state of mind. Our misery, therefore, is largely self-inflicted. We expect the ideal to overcome the actual, or try to make the things and people in our lives be different so that we can be happy. The trick to overcoming this is to let the hard things in and allow life to be difficult at times. It’s important to allow negative things to truly affect you. Let experiences change you, the hard moments inform you, and the pain be your teacher.
When life gives you a bad situation, honor it, and appreciate that it’s a crappy predicament. Nothing gets better by wishing for things to be different and your life to be perfect. Looking back, I realized that my need to please derived from my need to have everything be perfect. I didn’t want to see other people suffer. I thought if I could just solve it, then everything would be okay.
Let It Be: Attempted Solutions to Problems
When we avoid our problems and try to get rid of them immediately, we only make things worse for ourselves. We don’t get a chance to realize what the problems are telling us. Have you ever noticed that the more you try to get rid of or “fix” depression, the worse it gets? That’s because over time, our problems get maintained through our efforts to get rid of them. How you orient to things changes the way you deal with them.
Practicing this approach, when something is bothering me, instead of doing something to immediately escape it, I take a step back and dive into the pain. I feel it until I understand it. Then, once I know what my feelings are trying to tell me, I express them in a clear, logical way to myself—or, possibly, to the person who might have inflicted the pain.
So how do I fix my depression?
This may not be the answer you’re looking for, but you don’t “fix” problems initially through actions. You fix them by changing your perspective. I want to propose that you shift your perceptive about what depression means.
I see depression or sadness as a gift that you really don’t want but actually need. It’s like that treadmill or blender your partner bought you; you know you need it, even though you would have preferred a diamond bracelet. Sometimes your body or emotions know something that your mind doesn’t; and that feeling you interpret as pain is your emotional voice telling you something isn’t right. Painful emotions will keep pecking away until you listen. You’ll continue walking around resentful, attempting to get rid of it, until you finally face it.
If you have an injury that results in back pain, that pain has a way of telling you that you need to stretch, take it easy, and relax. If you take a pill to get rid of it, you may hurt yourself more by overusing it. The pain is just a reminder that your back needs to heal.
Therefore, when feelings of depression and sadness come up, make a note of the feelings without judging them. Instead, watch and appreciate your thoughts and feelings as they flow. By judging and trying to push away your thoughts and feelings and getting upset, you give them strength. Allowing for change doesn’t happen the way most people think it will. By changing how you perceive depression, you’ll create a shift in the relationship between you and whatever it is keeping you feeling depressed.
Overall, this helps you to gain objectivity about the emotional process of depression. By simply thinking differently and gaining objectivity, you can create magnificent change. Sometimes we unknowingly create the very things we don’t want to experience. It takes being in a bad position or experiencing overwhelming feeling of depression to finally take a look at ourselves. So take a step back and listen to that annoying voice. It’s trying to tell you something that’s very important for you to know.
I spent a lot of my life overexerting and occupying myself by being way too concerned with other people instead of myself. I wasn’t truly living my own life; I was merely living for the approval of others. Depression was telling me to wake up and live! Now when I get upset, I sit back, listen to classical music, and try to tune in to my feelings. What is it that depression is trying to tell you? And how can you hear it?
Article edited by Dr. Denise Fournier