Women, life, happiness
  • Why am I so depressed? Will I ever be happy again?

    May 6th, 2010Keryl PesceLife in general

    Let me start by reminding you that I am not a therapist. I'm just happy. So if you are reading this and feel desperately depressed, please reach out to a professional. I do invite you to read on, and my guess is you will find something helpful, but I suggest perhaps you do both.

    Now to answering these questions, which believe it or not, are enough to go on. Many, including most therapists, would disagree. Why? It is common practice to dig into the past, drag out any and all painful childhood memories (even those we would have preferred to forget), analyze our not-so-brilliant choices and search for the root cause, the reason, the justification so you can say "Oh, that's why I feel like shit."

    But I've got to wonder just how helpful that is. How many people end up taking the leap to get help and end up 5, 10, even 20 years later still in therapy without resolving their initial problem? Are there good therapists out there with good methods that help? I have no doubt. But this approach seems like depression reinforcement to me.

    Just look at how this woman, we'll call her Tracy, phrased her question. What is she searching for? The cause of her depression. If that is what she is looking for, she will find plenty of reasons. It's like being stuck in a hole and digging deeper. By the time you get to the bottom, you look back up to the light and it's so far in the distance, you barely see it. How about we stop digging deeper and start climbing out?

    Does the past influence us? Yes, but it does not dictate our now or our future. We do, by the action we take in the present moment. You can take that to the bank.

    So regardless of the initial cause for Tracy or anyone else to become depressed, there is one simple common belief that keeps them there. And that's good news, because it means the solution is simple as well.

    Here's what happens. Our mind plays a trick on us. (Rebellious little bugger if we don't keep it in check.) A person who is depressed is unable to see how her current undesirable state or conditions would ever change. That's it. Regardless of the why or the past, it all comes down to this. 

    How is that a mind trick? Think about it. What is the one constant we can count on in life? That things are always changing, right? Just as the conditions in our lives today are different than they were a year of five years ago, I guarantee you they will be different a year or five years from now.

    Will Tracy ever be happy again? Yes. But that's up to her, not her past or current circumstances.

    All she needs to do is create a vision for what she does want and start moving toward it.

    Feeling excited and energized again is not as complex as you've been led to believe. And I'm not at all making light of the difficulty of being depressed. You see human beings are designed to be goal-oriented and purpose-driven. We're like bicycles. If we're standing still, we fall over. When we are moving toward something, we glide, we have plenty of energy. Think about the last time you felt most alive, when your senses were heightened. You were engaged and driven by a goal, weren't you?

    So how do you get there again? Easy. You already have the answer. You just didn't ask the best questions.

    First, set aside any real or imaginary limitations. Believe for a moment as we did when we were little, that anything is possible.

    Now imagine a future in which your current problem is resolved. What picture comes to your mind? Take a little time here to allow the picture to come clear. Look for details in the image – sights, sounds, smells. Take notice of what you feel physically as that image forms. What kinds of things would you be doing? How will you be interacting with others?

    Now let's reverse engineer your future. How did you get there? What action could you take right now to make that future happen? What's the first step?

    And by the way, don't worry if your answer doesn't come to you right away. It's only because you're trying too hard. Think of it as inviting the answer rather than forcing it. The more you relax, the more easily the answer will appear.

    What happens to us is sometimes our goals aren't realized or our purpose in life has changed, so we need to establish new ones. We need to keep pedaling. Do a little investigative work and ask yourself what your passion and purpose for being here are. Ask yourself in what ways you can contribute to the life of another.

    Then ask yourself these two questions: What one action could I take today toward that end? What one thing could I do differently than I have been?

    Then do it! Do anything, as long as it is different. If what you've been doing isn't helping, stop doing it. Change it up. Put your left shoe on first tomorrow. Walk around the block. Spin around three times before you sit down. I don't care. You are simply in a holding pattern that you need to interrupt.

    Remember, where you stand is less important than the direction in which you are headed. Stop focusing on what's wrong, and what you don't like. Start envisioning a better future, believe you deserve it, because you do, and do one thing different today that takes you in that direction.

    (If you like this concept and want to learn more, pick up a terrific book on solution-based therapy called "Do One Thing Different" by Bill O'Hanlon.)

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