Sorry, Bloggies. Long post. Seminar, in fact. Get the coffee. My audience: Those who actually enjoy reading, and those who are hungry for information on depression. This is not a rant post, it is actual help. But also the views of a battle-scarred old veteran.
When someone gets depressed, it leaks out all over the show.
This is why depression is so vile: Not only is it destructive in the moment, but looking back, it is extremely embarrassing for the person who was depressed. Depression makes us flaunt our weaknesses in other people’s face – but they don’t want to know that part of us! They want to see us be strong, healthy and positive.
Right from the start last year, I sat my kids down and explained to them the difference between grief and depression.
Short Detour: Grief
You see, grief is a sharp, directional pain. You’re missing someone, you’re regretting not having had more time with them, sometimes there is even anger, or guilt (classically, if someone commits suicide, the survivors can be insanely angry the one moment and feel unbelievably guilty the next).
So, kids: Grieve. Grieving is healthy, it is the way we process loss so that we can move on eventually, when we’re ready. People shouldn’t try to “intervene” or “make it less”; it’s a natural process, a healing of a wound. It takes as long as it takes, and nobody is responsible for making one feel better. And a deep wound, having lost someone as close as a parent or spouse, will take time to heal. And the scar will remain, and sometimes it will bleed again. We know this. People must not worry about this, because it is actually entirely normal.
Back to topic: Depression
But when you detect depression, you know where the St John’s Wort is! (Aside: Here in Ireland, one needs a script for that worthy ‘urb! In South Africa it’s OTC, the best, non-addictive, gently doseable herbal medication for depression whatsoever. It works!)
The difference is that depression is signified by a sense of hopelessness, pointlessness, a “malaise”, nearly boredom-pain! (Have you, perhaps as a child, ever experienced “nothing ever happens” depression?) These are the outward symptoms. The inner fact is, depression is chemical. (This is why St John’s Wort works.) But while it is chemical, self-pity is a habit. And PNI shows that our thought habits actually trigger and regulate the production of chemicals in our body.
Depression works hand-in-hand with cortisol. Cortisol is the body-own version of cortisone. (Ironically everyone knows about the synthetic form.) If I feel sorry for myself, my body produces cortisol, which dampens inflammation and down-regulates the immune system, giving bruised tissues a chance to heal. If I feel sorry for myself a lot (as a thinking habit), my body will be in a chronic state of high cortisol.
On a health level, this is not good. Seeing that cortisol down-regulates the immune system, a perpetual pity-pot will be susceptible to every flu and cold going around. Being sick makes you feel even more sorry for yourself…
Spreading it around
They say misery loves company. While for some, the instinct is to go hide in a hole when they are depressed, others latch onto a victim and depress all over that person.
The problem with that is if you are that victim, you don’t know how to fix it. You innocently believe that you could improve the person’s depression by saying the right stuff. Well, you can, but “the right stuff” is something like “here are concrete steps to counteract your depression” rather than, “oh sweetie, I’m so sorry you’re feeling bad, I wish I could make it better…” all the things we want so say instinctively to comfort someone.
Stop right there. Backtrack! There is a reason evolution has formed these natural responses in us. They do make a depressed person feel better, and I’ll bet it’s by triggering the right brain chemicals. The problem is that it’s only a momentary solution. And the depressed person can become addicted to this “verbal medication”, in a way enslaving the “victim”. And that is exactly the cycle. Because the “verbal doctor” has a life of his own and gets tired of constantly having to comfort the depressed person. Especially since the effect doesn’t seem to want to last! It’s like a drug: The more you try to comfort, the more comforting they need.
From the depressed angle it looks like this: The more people say the same things to you, the less those things lift you because you’ve heard it all before, and yeah… it isn’t really the answer. (The depressed person will sense that it is not enough; but being unable to pinpoint what would be enough, it only makes them feel more helpless and hopeless.)
So while some depressed people find one friend after another to drag down into the pity-puddle with them (spreading the burden on the one hand but risking losing all their friends on the other), others latch onto one person and one only, and “only you can make me happy”. And that, dear friends, is dangerous.
Becoming someone’s lifeline
Would you like to be stretched tight, to breaking point, immersed in someone else’s rough seas, drenched in their sorrows, holding on for dear life all the time? Because you know, if you don’t, they will drown? If you let go, they will kill themselves?
What kind of a life is that to expect of anybody? Much less from a friend, or someone you claim to love!
Anyone who is put in that position, really only has one choice. To let go. Nobody can spend their life as somebody else’s lifeline. Because no matter how good a lifeline, that person may drown in any case, lifeline and all. Or, you can let go and discover to your bafflement that they can actually swim. And you can breathe a sigh of relief and return to being a human being with a life.
Don’t confuse helping with becoming a lifeline.
Throwing someone a lifeline and being someone’s lifeline are clearly two different things. Many times, there are opportunities to really make a difference in another’s life. I can’t tell you how many lifelines we were thrown over the past year. It is absolutely amazing how people helped, and I’ll never forget it (and of course I hope to reciprocate and be able to make a difference in their lives too). We are interlinked like a web, and as a web of friends and family, we are stronger than each on his own.
But to expect someone to devote their life to becoming your lifeline – that is unreasonable, no matter who it is.
So what do you do when you realize you’re being manipulated into being a lifeline?
There can only be one answer. Save yourself. Retreat from that person. If you actually feel responsible, send them to a therapist. If you are in fact responsible for that person (they are your own child for instance, or an ageing parent), try to organize professional help for them as best you can. Don’t try to be that therapist. Even if you are a psychotherapist yourself in your professional life, if this is one of your friends or loved ones you are too close to the situation to deal with it yourself. Professionals know this and refer to colleagues.
What if you realize you are (gulp!) actually the one doing the manipulating?
You see, here’s the crux. People who victimize others into becoming their lifelines are not as such, bad or mean people! They are only out of their depth, at world’s end and don’t know how else to hang on.
If you are that person, first admit to yourself that you have a sickness. It’s called depression. It is chemical; which is a bit of a relief for your guilt feelings because you didn’t ask for it. But it is also influenced by how you think, so you’re not entirely off the hook.
You have to take responsibility. Take a deep breath and say to yourself: “I am strong.” Say it until you believe it; say it to your mirror image until that image also believes it. “I am strong. I can handle this.”
Now, here comes the crux.
Usually there are real-life causes for depression.
Depression has three types of causes. The deep, underlying cause; something big and deep that may be happening right now or may have happened a long time ago but hasn’t been resolved. Perhaps your parents got divorced when you were little. Or you were seriously bullied, in such a way that it changed your outlook on life. Or something like that.
During a PNI course I took when I was much younger, I discovered to my shock that most people have deep issues dating back to childhood. What it means practically, is that this is a world full of damaged people with deep scarring.
Then there is the ongoing cause; typically, some daily situation that grates or makes one feel trapped, lonely or down. A bad job or even no job; having to look after a relative who is slowly dying; being far far away from the people you love most. And one shocking, overlooked one: Boredom! These ongoing causes are so common, most people have them.
Hear what I said there: Most people have the ongoing cause. That does not mean most people have depression!
The third type of cause is known as the trigger. It could be something small, even: Spouse left cap off toothpaste. Or it could be something bigger: That F I wrote in Geography today. Or being passed over for that promotion.
Usually, the first type of cause (deep and painful) is enough to cause a depression deep enough to lead to suicide, in certain susceptible individuals. Causes 2 and 3 themselves should not be a reason for this, but it is usually 3 (the trigger) that, literally, triggers bad actions.
On an energy level, you could see it like this:
A person who was bullied as a kid, has a deep hole in her soul where there should be trust in humankind. So the life energy of this person has been compromised: A great big chunk has been gouged out of it. The person is living on a reduced basic life energy.
Next, the bad job where colleagues are catty and the boss is negative and critical, wears on this young lady’s resources on a daily basis. Already weakened from the original gouge that was never restored or refilled, her remaining energy is being leeched out until she is running on absolute minimum.
At this point, depression is probably a firmly established habit, but often silent. It’s a way of life; she doesn’t even know that one can actually live more vibrantly, with more energy.
Along comes a life spike: A promotion she has been working hard for, is given to someone else who patently doesn’t deserve it. Energistically, that spike has just taxed away this young lady’s last resources. She feels so low, she can’t get herself out of bed in the morning. She just wants to die – can’t see the point in living.
And indeed, when energies are that deeply depleted, the very will to live can leave a person.
Evolutionary survival measure:
Luckily, at the same time, the will to actually move is severely dampened down. You feel so low at that point that doing anything, even taking your own life, feels like too much effort. And so you lie and feel sorry for yourself (releasing lots of the comfort hormone cortisol into your body) and eventually fall asleep among tears (some get so depressed they can’t even cry). You think of suicide but won’t actually do it because it requires getting up, organizing a weapon or means, setting up a whole chain of events – a massive effort. Too much for your energy levels.
The dangers – and benefits – of social media
But it doesn’t take too much effort to tweet how you feel.
And with that, you drag others down with you – people who love you, people who care about you and who would feel terrible if you actually went to the trouble of committing suicide.
A tweet or Facebook entry or Whatsapp update can be a cry for help – or it can simply be giving expression to your current emotions. Your friends will read it as a cry for help though. And they will come jumping all over you, pouring evolution-proven comfort words over you. Which work like cortisol to make you feel better – iffen you read them! The really good friend will also pitch up at your door bearing chocolate. Because she knows: Depression is scared of chocolate.
Of course you may also encounter a troll or two. That’s one of the dangers. That person who tells you to “pull yourself together” and “Stop feeling sorry for yourself”. (Heads-up to those “sensible voices”: When the energy is down on the floor, there is nothing to pull together. If your friend is drowning, throw them a line – not a brick!)
The troll comment might in fact turn into another trigger, adding just enough angry upset to the depression to rouse the depressed person enough to actually go through with that suicide. Yes: Bullying can do that, children!
Abusing social media
This is where the depressive can become truly manipulative. The victim turns into the victimizer, turning the tables on “the world” and punishing people she perceives as responsible for her misery by making them feel guilty.
Energistically, guilt-tripping feeds energy back to the manipulator. Please note, this young lady who is at rock bottom, needs every little drop of energy she can get. Her psyche knows this and becomes ruthless. This is survival at all cost. She starts sniping at people, feeding off the little drops of (energy) blood that spray off them where her bullets hit.
If this is the only source of energy available to this person, it becomes addictive and gets worse. The cortisol from her friends’ comfort words tastes bland in comparison to those sharp splashes of pain she gets out of the people she sniped at. “Getting your own back”; “grim satisfaction”; “a taste of their own medicine”. Even in our idioms we know this is bitter medicine. And worse: the victim loses her victim status, and becomes the reviled bully.
(In a deeply tragic, ironic way, even committing suicide following an emotional injury is a form of lashing back, because the guilt your troll will carry, will last forever. Heads-up, sensitives: Unfortunately trolls are usually trolls because they are insensitive, and they will feel no guilt. Your counter-attack is lost in the void.)
So clearly, sniping at people, getting your own back and guilt-tripping others are only temporary, very ineffective methods to get out of that black hole. In fact they won’t get you out. They will only barely sustain you in there, at bare minimum, for a time. And even they will stop working.
So what must you do?
Self-defence for the Depressed Person
Coffee break. You’re doing well so far! Coffee break for me too. After finishing this post I must hop-to, editing my friend’s book – she’s got a well-established publisher interested, how exciting is that??
Let’s face it: Depression sucks. Though some people (who apparently never get depressed themselves, haha) believe that a depressive enjoys her pity party, this is not true. Given a choice, a depressive would always much rather be in the arms of the one she loves, or being treated to a wonderful holiday on the Costa di Wherever, or be swimming in money rather than being jobless.
And this is very good. Because it gives you a genuine starting point to tackle your depression.
First take care of the Now.
You’re suicidally depressed now. Like with a virus that produces a fever bordering on the lethal 42ºC, you need to fight the symptoms right now until they are under control. You would take panado or similar in the viral situation, or have a luke-warm bath and lots of cold liquids to physically lower your temperature; in the case of depression, you need comfort first.
Here are some immediate comforters: Emotional First Aid.
- Eat something with sugar. Yes I know you are scared of eating disorders. But in fact, during a depressive trough, (can’t call it a peak, can we?), your energy is severely low. Glucose will instantly boost your metabolism, so there is wisdom in drinking some sweet tea. You will feel better.
- Nuts or chocolate for the phyto-estrogens and fatty acids. Fatty acids are nerve foods. They get assimilated into the glia around your nerve cells and calm you down. Phyto-estrogens have an interaction with your hormones (which is why chocolate works better for women), once again lifting your mood.
- Listen to music. You could go for some soothing Sting, “Be still my beating heart!”, or you could go the whole hog and put on some super-annoyingly cheerful Johann Strauss, played by the Vienna Philharmonics – it is impossible to remain downbeat with his music even if you want to.
- If you feel down, dress up. A warm, luxurious bath, pampering yourself; and then dress as though you’re expecting your knight in shining armour to visit. (Bad news, men: Apparently once again this works better for women.)
- Watch comedy. Mr Bean. Or Trevor Noah. Or Michael McIntyre. Or watch a nice “Skop-skiet-en-donder” action movie. (Idk, ladies, I really do enjoy action movies. At times.)
- Call a friend. If nobody’s available, take yourself to the movies.
- This all presumes that you are at home. If you are at work, seek company. Talk with friends and colleagues – about their lives. It helps. It locks the depression away for a while, which is all you really need to survive that moment.
- If you have it available, take St John’s Wort. It will help you through this day.
- Sleep! You won’t believe it. Sometimes sleeping the day away, or the whole weekend away, restores your energy enough that you can see through your eyes again, pick yourself up and carry on. (A quiet aside: Sleeping also helps with healing when you are grieving. The body is an amazing machine.) How do you justify sleeping to your boss? Simple. You were not well. End of story. It is only the truth.
Of course, symptomatic treatment is not enough to get rid of depression. You need to address the causes and resolve them.
Healing: Tackle each cause separately.
Remember the three causes? The deep cause, the ongoing cause and the trigger.
Immediately: Attack the ongoing cause.
While the deep cause is the one that predisposes you and made you an incomplete human to begin with, it is the ongoing cause that is leeching your energy on a daily basis. If you didn’t have the ongoing cause draining you, you would cope with life’s spikes (the triggers) much more easily despite your deep scarring and possibly unhealed wounds.
So logically, remove the ongoing cause and you will make the greatest change to your immediate situation.
Let’s say that (1) your deep cause is that your parents divorced when you were 7, (2) your ongoing cause is that you’re far, far away from your boyfriend (and he ain’t comin’ back) and (3) your trigger is that your electricity got cut off because you couldn’t afford to pay.
Of course you need to sort out the trigger. But you know if it weren’t for (2), that would at most elicit some strong swearwords. You really know what to do to sort the trigger. You’ll pick up the phone and call the council and make an arrangement, and then stick to that. You already know this. It’s the boyfriend you can’t do anything about.
Take your power back.
In the case of the boyfriend, look closely at the situation. Does he still love you? Are you willing to relocate for him? How far would you go? How hard are you prepared to work for this? How long would you be prepared to take?
Focusing on what you can do takes your mind off of what you feel he ought to be doing and isn’t. It puts you into a position of strength. You could say: Well, I am here in this country and he’s gone to the other country. I really want to be where he is. What can I do to get there myself? Do I save up money – and how? Do I take a second job? Do I retrain and get into a field that is sought-after in his new country? What steps do I need to take?
If your (2) is a bad job, you can apply the same type of thinking. Do I want to stay in this line of work? Should I be getting back into education? Is this a career change or just a job change? Because honestly, what am I hanging on for? How can I buff up my CV? Would it help to speak to an employment agency?
Now deal with your trigger.
Ask yourself: Why is this such a big deal? Heck, I got passed over for this sweet promotion. What a k*k thing to happen. Am I upset because this is a trend? Does my boss often overlook me? Should I be looking for a better job? What’s holding me back from that?
or, “Nancy, now you’ll betake yourself to the bathroom and put that cap back on that toothpaste. And when dear William comes home, you’ll kiss him and tell him his breath would smell so much better if he only put the cap back on the toothpaste every time.” In the big scheme of things, how much does it matter?
Triggers are often merely annoyances. If you were emotionally healthy, they would never be able to depress you even slightly.
You will find more often than not that the trigger is a small event tied to a long line of memories. You may have to go through each of those memories and “disarm” them. (Look up “co-ex”.) Reimagine them but with a different outcome, where you took your power back.
Lastly, find and heal the deep issues.
Many of us walk around with huge holes in our souls. These need to heal and be resolved so that you can get away from being quite so vulnerable to energy-related diseases such as depression.
A friend of mine recommends visiting a therapist. This is what therapists specialize in: Digging up and helping you deal with your childhood issues. Sometimes they go overboard and identify fully healed issues, trying to make an issue of them; you’ll know when to tell them they’re barking up the wrong tree. But good therapists know how to spot the difference, and will tell you why that issue that you thought was resolved, isn’t really yet and needs a bit more attention.
Your (1) is your why. Why do I feel powerless about my job situation. Why does my boyfriend leaving me equate to parental abandonment. Why do I feel if I can’t stand on my own and earn money, I’m not worthy of living. So as you see, you must get to the bottom of it.
And that’s all I’ve got for you today.
Well done, thank you for reading to the end. Have yourself another cuppa and be glad. If it applies to you, start implementing. If it doesn’t, well, I hope I told you something useful anyway.
Now, la revedere…