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The Problem With Telling Ourselves Not to Be Depressed

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It’s a place no one wants to be, sobbing uncontrollably on the floor. Knowing I couldn’t do it myself but begging God to make it stop or to just let me die. The feeling of the carpet on my knees. I even remember watching classic antidepressant commercials saying “depression hurts” and thinking, “No, crap!” I felt so violated. It’s almost like experiencing a trauma.

This may sound extreme or dramatic, but that’s exactly what depression is, a scrappy relentless animal. It fights hard and doesn’t give up. Even when we think we have it beat, it comes back for round two, three, four or more. It’s been several years since I’ve faced depression of this magnitude, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

So what if we tell ourselves not to be depressed? To watch out for sadness and beat it off with a womping stick before it gets too close. To guard our happy with thankfulness, kindness, servitude and even busyness. It works sometimes.

What happens when it doesn’t? What happens when the sad creeper comes and camps out in your brain, despite your best efforts to keep his nasty at bay? If you are like me, then you feel defeated, alone, confused, not good enough and violated all over again.

So what does work? If we can’t beat it off or busy ourselves out of it, then what helps us in the moments when sadness seems like too much? I’ll tell you what works for me. It may sound silly or oversimplified, but it works.

Drop the rope. Drop the rope and stop fighting it.

It’s often the fear that depression will get too bad that takes us from sad to miserable. We borrow trouble from past experience and drag it willingly into the present and future. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t fit there. So instead of kicking into full-fledged panic when we feel sad, what if we just learned to accept it for what it is? What if we didn’t make it bigger or smaller? What if we didn’t tug it closer or smack at it in attempts to make it go away? Just letting it be what it is.

I’m not saying depression doesn’t hurt. We all know that it does. What I’m saying is, we don’t have to make it go away or never struggle with it again to live life. Depression can ebb and flow, and you can keep on going. It may be a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define you.

Depression is tough, but so are you. You don’t have to be violated. You can welcome it for what it is, and at the same time know it will get better. Soon enough, you will find joy.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

Originally published: August 10, 2016
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