The unfortunate reality for many people with depression, myself included, is that they’re used to feeling depressed. It’s become the “normal” way of life. Every part of your being revolves around the fact that you’re depressed. Living this way has become habitual. Like any other habit, living in a depressed state can be a tough nut to crack.
The very first change that needs to be made by a person with depression is our view of our selves. After years of hopelessness and frustration, it’s understandable that we’re going to have pretty low views of ourselves. That means that we’re also used to thinking and feeling about ourselves in very particular ways. So we’re going to react habitually to many of the thoughts and feelings that pop into our minds.
We can’t control our thoughts and feelings – they just happen. Chemicals in our brains get together in a certain way and poof, we have a thought. We’re so used to looking in the mirror and saying, “You look like hell.” Hair’s a mess, we need to shave, there’s crust in our eyes, our eyebrows need doing. You could look at that same person in that same mirror, and just as easily say, “Well, we’ve got some work to do, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
But that’s so hard for many of us to do. We’ve become conditioned to look at ourselves in a certain way and it’s difficult to imagine something else. We’ve become comfortable in our own discomforts. We automatically assume a negative set of values about ourselves because that’s the way it’s been for so long.
We don’t stop to look at what possibilities we offer ourselves. Our view of ourselves becomes historical. We are what we’ve been throughout the duration of our suffering. That person we used to be is someone else. Confident and funny in high school has turned into insecure and reserved as an adult. We can’t see how we’re going to change from what we are.
We see the world through binoculars. We look at our problems and fears and they appear close and large. When we look at ourselves, we turn the binoculars around and we seem so small, insignificant and distant. Our depression is our lives – it takes up so much space. Any positive thoughts we have seem miniscule in comparison.
But it’s those positive thoughts we need to hang on to. One of my favorites for myself is, “No matter what happens today, I am ok.” And those thoughts can be so small. “I am ok” is a small statement. Yet it’s implications in the face of depression are huge. I am ok. I accept myself. I have an illness, but I am ok. As a human being, I have value. There is worth in my being alive on this planet. I have the potential to make change.
This is what can happen when we put the binoculars down. The habits we have in looking down at ourselves go from being a way of life to just habits. We can see ourselves and our problems as they really are. Our view of ourselves shifts from the historical to the present. And in the present, we can take control and leave our history where it belongs – behind us.
We don’t want to live with depression forever. We’d like nothing more than to wake up in the morning with no fear. We want to hold jobs and be productive members of our families and societies. We want to shower every day. We want to come out from our holes and enjoy our lives. But we need patience – both from ourselves and from others – to break these habits that have been holding us done for so long. Change isn’t going to come overnight, but it’s change we’re working toward, and change that we’ll eventually find.
So go ahead and take that first small step – make a change to help you like yourself a little bit more. Take a partner to give you gentle reminders to stay the course. Remember, “I am ok.” Today’s small step toward change is the building block to a happier, healthier you.