Depression Is More Common Than We Think
A few years ago I was taking a walk with my husband in the Northwest on a golf course overlooking the water. It was foggy and we were bundled and moving quickly when I stated, “I think I may have depression”.
Let me share some questions that were probably running through his mind. “Like, forever?” “Are you dying?” “Are you still going to be able to work?”
I hope you are uncomfortably chuckling at the tension of how absurd his responses seem, and yet how common they actually are. I recall actually feeling a bit vulnerable stating this despite some obvious factors that would seem to prove otherwise: 1) I’m a therapist – I can live with ease in depression for up to eight hours a day; 2) I’m a woman. (I needed the period there though clearly, it should grammatically be a semicolon); and 3) I’m sharing this with my husband, supposedly a safe person.
I share this short, personal story in hopes of revealing how common, how normal and how very real depression can be. It can rush into us like a roaring wave and fall back with the tide just as quickly. It can also affect our system slowly, and stay put for a long while or a lifetime. And yet, despite its common presence, we hold this struggle with embarrassment and shame even to the people closest to us. Somehow, we have learned that it’s much easier to share this experience once it is resolved. What a bummer.
We know that depression can be biological factors and environmental factors, and that one can precede the other in many varying fashions. I wanted to write down some explicit environmental factors in hopes of possibly normalizing your past or current experience.
- Something has changed (this was me). Is your child growing and needing you less (or perhaps you just had a baby, which means the exact opposite)? Have you changed jobs? Perhaps left a relationship or lost someone? Even though these could all be positive changes, our days, purpose and goals can feel new and even daunting. Possibly hopeless, possibly too much.
- We haven’t dealt with something. Our body and our brain knows when we are holding onto resentment, grief or anger. Unresolved stuff can increase depressive symptoms. I see this over and over in my counseling practice.
- We can’t get our needs met. When you are feeling at the bottom of the totem pole at work, with family or in dating or marriage, this means effective communication is not happening. This place is isolating and undervaluing. It’s loneliness at its core.
I could start a gigantic “to-do” list of what to do (call the doc, start therapy, tell safe people), but I will stop here. If this resonates in any way, I hope you feel comfort, and I hope you feel normal. We’ve all been there.