Living With Depression

How I learned to accept and love the pain

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 300 million people worldwide suffered from depression in 2018, and those are only the reported cases. I can only assume that those numbers have risen in the past year and that many people are suffering in silence.

I’ve recently been struggling with depression and have lately been inspired to open up about it. I’ve been navigating the torrential waters of depression through research, seeking advice from therapists, and speaking directly to people who have successfully steered through the storm.

But the biggest thing that has helped me to find hope and slowly start to feel better was learning how to accept my depression without judgment.

Understanding the cause

Something very important that I’ve learned is that depression is a label for symptoms; it is not the root cause of feelings.

“Depression” isn’t what causes my sadness or my melancholia. Depression is just a term with common symptoms: lack of appetite, hopelessness, lack of energy, etc. It’s what’s actually lying underneath these symptoms that causes my suffering, and it’s what’s lying underneath that, if released, will be my salvation.

I can clearly define some traumatic experiences in my life that have caused me to feel pain: abuse in my childhood, the numerous times I was cheated on, every time I was bullied, or the times I was belittled and didn’t feel “manly” enough. 

The cycle of depression involves self-loathing and self-judgment. So much thought and energy go into the idea that there’s something wrong with me or that I’m doing something wrong. This energy creates an intense cycle and spiral that when I get caught in it leads to depression.

These thoughts and feelings of unworthiness, when coupled with the debilitating feeling of “I’m not enough,” prevent me from believing I deserve better and consequently, inhibits my motivation to want to change. 

Ironically, not wanting to change, I discovered, was the key to overcoming my depression. 

Accepting my depression

When it comes to depression, I can’t want it to be different or want it to be gone because, ultimately, this desire creates an adversarial relationship. By wanting the feelings to go away, I am subconsciously (or consciously) creating a resentment towards my depression and, in turn, a resentment towards myself. 

This animosity to my sadness and pain causes my depression to become defensive. Like an emotionally guarded Fort Knox, it locks itself down, putting its walls up, unable to be penetrated.

When something is so guarded, there’s no way to release it and to be free from it. Any hostility creates a barrier and an impediment from being able to address the root of what is actually happening. 

Emotions need a hospitable environment and space to feel safe in order to be expressed. When a traumatic memory rises to the surface and I try to suppress it because I don’t want to deal with the hurt, I am holding an energy of resistance, which results in the pain staying stuck inside of me.

This opposition creates an enemy of the emotions I feel. The emotions that are begging to be felt and nurtured and held, just like a child. However, like a child who throws a temper tantrum when it doesn’t get what it wants, my depression does the same. Fighting me and screaming at me as I try to quiet it down or ignore it.

And recently, the more it screamed and kicked me, the more I wanted to suppress it. I wanted to change it and trade it in for a different, less challenging child, which led to an unhealthy cycle that didn’t ameliorate my symptoms.

It took me a while to recognize this pattern that I had created. However, once I realized what I was doing, I was able to change. My new self-awareness allowed me the insight to start making new choices. 

I’m realizing that I can’t change my child, and any expectation or desire for it to be different than it is will only create an antagonistic relationship. However, if I choose to love and listen to my depression, as if it were a traumatized or sad child, I am creating a safe environment to process the emotions.

I can bring an energy of love to my depression, which starts by not wishing it away. However counterintuitive this may seem, I learned that by accepting and loving the pain, the anger, the sadness, I am slowly starting to feel my depression lift.

Hello darkness, my old friend?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say depression is my friend, but I’ve realized that it’s not my enemy either. It’s become a teacher. Teaching me how to love and accept myself through the process of loving and accepting my emotions, and my depression.

I’ve long been a believer that our lives are dictated by our choices. I can try to suppress the painful emotions, or I can choose to show up in life and with myself out of love. I can allow the painful feelings and memories to come and choose to love myself as I sort through and process them.

I can support my child and say, “Go ahead and cry. Throw yourself across the floor in hysterics if you want. I’m right here, and I’m not going anywhere.”