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Woman Baffled by “Unjustified” Depression, at a Loss for What To Do

03 Nov

Dear Belleruth,

I have 2 small children, a full time job and a husband. These are wonderful gifts in my life, but I recently was diagnosed with clinical depression and am frustrated because I have so many great things (healthy kids, loving husband, great job) and can not get excited about anything.  How do I understand, accept and move forward toward enjoying my life again? 

Frances

Dear Frances,

Well, I suppose one thing you could do is stop criticizing yourself for being depressed. Since a main feature of depression is a sense of worthlessness and directing harsh judgments toward yourself, the fact that you're annoyed with yourself for being miserable is not helpful and is just one of your symptoms anyway!  So please use your excellent brain to step back from that little exercise in futility, and try to cut yourself some slack.

Other key symptoms of clinical depression are lack of energy; a sense of hopelessness; emotional flatness; and some cognitive distortion (not thinking straight).  In fact, you might want to check out the fuller description that I wrote here.

I would suggest that it’s not clear why you’re depressed, but rest assured there are logical reasons for it.  You may have inherited some depressive genes that are creating a biochemical imbalance.  You may be sensitive to the changes in light that come with the fall season (Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD).  Maybe you’re contending with some difficult relationships that you’ve been putting up with for so long, you no longer notice they’re difficult.  Add to this the harsh standards that you impose on yourself – well, that could put you in the soup.

So before you rush in to scold, prod and harangue yourself into cheering up (Hah! Good luck with that!), give yourself some time to figure this out. Talk to a smart counselor, pastor or friend.  Get some blood work and a thorough physical.  Take an honest look at your support system.  Take a good, hard look at how you’re spending your time and what’s left over for your own weary self by the end of the week. 

Because you’re depressed, you won’t have a lot of energy for this – that’s why you could no doubt use the eyes, ears, brains and empathy of somebody else – hopefully objective and sensible - to help you figure this out. Once you have a handle on this, there are plenty of solutions at hand – everything from sun lamps to meds to couples therapy.  Exercising and avoiding sugar & alcohol can also help a lot, as can stopping critical thoughts as they rear their ugly heads. Sometime anti-depressant medication can be a godsend, and there are herbal and nutritional remedies that can get the job done too. Yoga, Tai Chi and breathwork make a dent on depression, too.  And of course, guided imagery is an intervention I’m particularly fond of. The complete laundry list of things you can do is here.

So don't rush to override this before you understand it. This might be an opportunity to make some important changes in your life.  Or, on the other hand, you may just need a sun lamp.  Take some time.  Figure it out.  And best of luck!

Belleruth
 

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award