Some people are born with a genetic predisposition to being depressed due to a history of biochemical imbalances in their family. Other people develop a depressive personality type, which keeps them in a state of chronic depression due to a cycle of self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviour patterns. There is also a tendency for people with artistic or sensitive temperaments – the deep thinkers and profound feelers – to be more prone to depressive episodes. Others become depressed due to circumstantial happenings usually related to loss, separation, grief or trauma: or anything that can be deemed painful by the human person. Ultimately, it all boils down to neurotransmitters however with depression, whatever the trigger or precipitating factor is, if you are depressed then your endorphins (e.g. Dopamine, Serotonin) are off synch and need to be realigned in some way.
Depression feels like being enveloped in an ugly heavy blanket. It feels like a general joylessness, flat affect; a lack of excitement, energy or appetite for life in general. It feels lonely and isolating because it is difficult to give words to this internal reality and people around us rarely know what to say to make it better. Depression can take all the colour out of life, leaving us feeling lifeless, hopeless and helpless. It’s a melancholic feeling which sits in the pit of our stomach relentlessly, causing nausea, fatigue, brain fog and physical pain at times. From the outside, depression can look like a person sobbing, limp or angry, but equally we have a large portion of depressed people who are high functioning ‘walking depressives’, who go about their day seemingly normally, regardless of feeling dead on the inside. These people can even be the life and soul of the party, but cry themselves to sleep when the show is over. Essentially, depression feels like a general unhappiness and dissatisfaction with daily life, so much so that we often begin to search for a quick fix and frequently turn to food, drugs, sex, alcohol or anything else we think can self-medicate in the moment. Depression is pain; a pain which at times feels bigger and mightier than it’s carrier.
It is quite likely that in our lifetime we will go through a period of depression or low mood, at some point or another. Telling a depressed person to ‘cheer up’ or ‘walk it off’, simply does not cut it. When somebody is depressed they are unwell, and let’s remember it’s also all about chemicals in the brain. When we are hungry, somebody simply telling us to smile through the hunger, is not going to make that hunger go away, and depression is no different. Depression is an ill state of the brain and body, and in order to heal from depression, we must fight it with all we’ve got. Let’s call it ‘The battle of the blues’. The first place to start when you find yourself in a state of depression is to take responsibility for making yourself get well. Depression depletes our quality of life and unless we are committed to getting well, things will not shift.
Start each day, every morning, with the questions: “What can I do today to bring some joy into my life?” “What can I do today to lift my mood a little?” “What can I do today to make myself feel a little lighter?” I need you to imagine that your very depressed body is like a very cold house, and it is your job to try to raise the temperature in that house, by doing everything possible to lift your mood. We need to become active seekers of our joy, vitality and health. We need to take control and make this an ongoing project, and also reach out for support and help in the moments it feels bigger than us.
BATTLE OF THE BLUES: WHAT CAN I DO TO LIFT MY MOOD?