Maybe You're Not Depressed Afterall
The feeling of depression can be debilitating. It’s heavy, it’s lethargic and it makes you feel as if nothing will ever be good again. It can creep up unexpectedly and overwhelm everything. You know going for a run will make you feel better, but you can’t seem to muster up the energy to go. You know dinner with friends will probably be fun, but the thought of having to put on a mask of enthusiasm overrides the potential benefit.
Unless you have experienced depression, I think it’s impossible to know what it’s like. As with many painful experiences like divorce, retrenchment or losing a loved one, unless you’ve been through it yourself, you can only imagine the intensity of the feeling and the sense of impossibility that things will ever feel any better.
I have never been diagnosed with clinical depression and I’ve never chosen to go the anti-depressant route. That’s my own choice and my own personal journey. But I have experienced its darkness. I’ve felt its intensity, its doubt and its fear. I’ve known the hopelessness that makes you feel as if nothing has any point and that the cloud of despair hanging over your head will never lift. It sucks.
Not having gone through it in my younger years, I didn’t believe that something of this nature could emerge out of nowhere and for no apparent reason. I didn’t buy the “chemical imbalance” story that decided medication was the only way out. So, after having experienced it on and off for a few years, I found myself becoming curious as to what was really going on behind all of it. I started paying attention to what was going on at the time, what my life was presenting to me in a broader sense, and how I was showing up in various realms of my life.
And this is what I found to be true for me:
The feeling of depression is not necessarily the same as being depressed in a clinical sense.
The feeling of heaviness and lethargy is not necessarily a measurable imbalance.
The feeling of hopelessness and despair is not necessarily without explanation and therefore the potential for change.
I started to realise that the darkest times of my life were not about “just feeling” a certain way.
They were intrinsically linked to what else was (or wasn’t) going on in my life…and how I was feeling about that.
I realised that for me, feeling depressed was exactly the same as feeling bored.
When I went into the feelings behind feeling bored, this is what came up for me: tired, disinterested, uninspired, stuck, flat.
Pretty similar to feeling depressed actually. And then the stories I told myself about feeling this way and how awful it was and how permanent it was caused those feelings to spiral out of control until yes, it honestly did feel like full-blown depression.
Understanding this has been a real game-changer for me in how I handle these feelings.
Being clear on what is going on behind these emotions has helped me get clear on what needs to be happening in my life in order to prevent that black dog from barking.
I’m now absolutely clear that I need to feel energised, inspired, productive and creative and therefore that I need to design my life, my diary, my days in a way that helps me feel that way.
If I don’t actively make these choices, the feeling of depression returns. Without a doubt. If I get stuck in the humdrum of routine; if I’m not productive; if I don’t have purpose; if I don’t have enough variety in my life…I start to feel low. And then lower.
I now refer to my personal experience of depression in a different way. I call it Inspiration Deficit.
Simply put, it’s a lack of inspiration that makes me feel bored as shit.
And lifeless. Literally.
Maybe depression has become a very broad term that has been loosely used to define low feelings, whether circumstantial or not. Perhaps it's too easy to self-diagnose what may or may not be a real psychological issue? Maybe we’re too quick to medicate our way through to numbness before being willing to look at what might be going on beneath all of this?
I’m not a psychologist and I realise this is a sensitive topic for a lot of people. Only you will know what is right for you. I’m not for a minute suggesting that you shouldn’t choose medication if that’s going to serve you in the best way possible. I certainly advise seeking help when appropriate.
But what I am suggesting is that you take a deeper look first.
Get curious about the feeling of being depressed. Try and describe what it feels like in other ways, in different words…and then start thinking about what else makes you feel that way. When else does it show up for you? What leads to that? What makes you feel the opposite? What alleviates it? Are there certain times, days, seasons that you feel different? What’s going on for you there?
For me, personally, I’ve learned that my version of feeling depressed isn’t about being depressed at all. It’s boredom. And when I know that, a new possibility comes into view and I finally feel like I can do something about it.