I realize that everyone from teachers to ministers to physicians to psychiatrists to the woman behind the counter at CVS believes that depression is something bad… something to be avoided and prevented and subdued at all costs. Many clients come in to me complaining of depression. They want it to be lifted, to go away. They want it to completely disappear just as it appeared. Especially if someone has never experienced a depressive state, then there is a lot of fear with it. How long will it last? Will it get worse? Will it affect my relationships? Will it affect my work? This has led our society, and our medical community to suggest anti-depressants for everything from digestive disorders to chronic skin conditions. Because we believe that what is a reaction to either external or internal forces is actually an aberrant unconnected emotion. And if you feel better, then you are better. Next!
This is a ludicrous conclusion. Depression is an emotion, and as has been pointed out in numerous studies, an emotion that is chemical. There are two possible triggers for the release of chemicals that bring on depression, external factors that create stress and internal factors that create chemical imbalance. Now don’t reach just yet for the Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft, Cymbalta, Pristiq, Effexor, Strattera, Wellbutrin, Concerta, Elavil, Abilify, Seroquel, Lamictal… I’m even tired of typing them out, and this is less than half of the pharmaceutical anti-depressants available today. Instead take a look at depression as a signal. A signal our body is sending us for only one reason: change.
No one likes change. We all avoid change like the plague. We want our lives to be neat, orderly, unmessy, within our control. So in order for true change to occur, there needs to be a shake-up of sorts. Something that shakes us out of our cozy spot. Sometimes we can have developed a cozy spot that is actually damaging, depleting, debilitating and even dangerous. In this case, change becomes a survival instinct that the body expresses. And the sign of the need for change is depression.
When the body and mind have identified the need for change, whether on the outside or on the inside, then the chemicals of depression begin to flow, and that is our sign that we cannot remain in the same “cozy spot” for much longer. We need to begin to shake off the dust, look around, get our bearings and open ourselves up to new opportunities and healthier options. In this way, depression is a good thing. It is the sign that it’s time to reassess. It induces us to be uncomfortable with our current situation (whether internal or external) so that change becomes a force, a desire to take us to a healthier, better “cozy spot”.
But if we simply take an antidepressant, simply block the depression so we can go on with our lives unchanged, then we are subduing our survival signal. The more we resist change, the more we become standing blockages in the flow of energy in our lives, our work, our family and our community. We lose flexibility and our adaptability. We become, as Darwin pointed out, the weaker of the species. We will not be able to withstand a severe challenge because we have become so rooted in our cozy spot. This is why severe illness will often follow a lengthy bout of depression… because we ignored the signal.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t or couldn’t utilize mood stabilizers temporarily to help you function. But you want to feel the signal, use the anguish to push you to examine your life and your health, being honest with yourself and others about your cozy spot. This is the opportunity to consider options, review choices and open yourself up to the winds of change. Open the windows and let the fresh air flow through your life. Step back and really think about your depression and what your body and mind are trying to tell you.
How great is it that we have someone who really looks out for us, guides us, signals us and supports us! And that someone is you… so good for you!