6. Depression Doesn’t Define You As A Person
If you suffered from a broken leg, you wouldn’t say “I am a broken leg.” Similarly, if you suffer from depression, it’s a temporary state.
According to Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC, a licensed clinical therapist practicing in Summit, N.J., and author of Lose That Mommy Guilt: Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom:
Treatment for depression is perceived by many people as a “weakness” of who they are as a person. When someone has a broken leg, they see a doctor. When they have symptoms of diabetes, they see an endocrinologist. When they have symptoms of depression, they think, “something is wrong with me,” and often blame themselves. This skewed thinking is partly due to the depression itself but also due to the overall perception of mental illness or behavioral health as different from other health issues. There reality is, it is not different.
Dr. Ben Epstein, a psychologist who blends traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with mindfulness and acceptance techniques, says:
No one construct defines any human being. Each and every one of us is far too complex to be pigeonholed into a DSM category. Once that happens you inevitably have set yourself up to see the world as you define yourself (even if that means having to see yourself in a pretty unflattering light). You are more than your thoughts and your labels. So please label your clothes, not yourself or others.
7. Getting Familiar With Your Depression
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to depression. Everyone experiences depression differently, and the causes for depression will also vary. This also means that the treatment that works for one person may not work for you.
Tina B. Tessina, PhD (a.k.a. “Dr. Romance”), psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction, says:
With clients, the first thing I would do is ask what happened to make them unhappy. If it’s a result of an event, like a breakup, then I’d guide them through grief—writing, talking and creating a ritual all help people express and move through their grief. I do a lot of listening, because grief needs a witness. Then I help the client re-frame the relationship. In a breakup, I help my clients sort out their feelings, figure out what they’re angry about, what they’re sad about, and to help them see the relationship more realistically, recognize its flaws and why it ended. After getting through the initial stages of the grief, we’d talk about what went wrong, and what the client can learn from the experience to improve future relationships.
If the classic signs of mild depression are there, and it’s chronic, with no discernible trigger event, then I treat for mild depression, which is a result of poor mental hygiene—the client thinks in self-defeating ways, and is basically hostile toward self—so we delve into past events and examine the self-talk, so the client can learn to be more accepting of self and figure out how to create happiness and a balanced psyche. If the depression is cyclical and the client is unable to function, I refer them to a psychiatrist for medication, and then treat for depression in concert with the psychiatrist.
Getting familiar with your depression necessarily means that you must see if there’s a reason behind the depression. Dr. Robert Epstein, PhD, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology (AIBRT) explains it in this way:
The main thing I think people need to know about depression is the critically important difference between reactive and nonreactive forms of depression. It is normal and natural for you to feel down for days, weeks or even months after the loss of a pet or a close relative. Although it doesn’t feel good to feel down while one is grieving, that kind of depressionis perfectly normal and healthy. It shows you cared, and it also shows you are gradually adjusting to your loss.
The kind of depression one needs to be especially concerned about is “nonreactive” (sometimes called endemic). This is depression that seems to come out of the blue, that persists no matter what is happening, and that doesn’t seem to be related to events in your life. If you or a loved one seems to be suffering from a nonreactive depression, it is important that you seek professional help.