“I feel like blah. I am struggling to get up, to take a shower, to brush my teeth. I don’t want to do anything. I am managing to go to work, but that’s about it. I don’t like this feeling, but, then again, I don’t feel like doing anything about it. I’ve felt like this for a couple of weeks now. My partner says it’s depression, and that I need to ask for help, so I decided to talk to a dog that I met on the internet, because that’s how I roll. Hagrid, what do I do?”
When I read your letter, my initial thought was to tell you to stop going to work. As a dog, if I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it. After all, I don’t see any problems with laying around all day…
But then, my human sidekick reminded me that while that approach may work for most dogs, people who lay around and don’t go to work will get fired. While I’m not entirely sure what that means, I do know that you won’t be able to afford dog food. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen.
So, first of all, I’m sorry. It is tough to be a human struggling with depression, because your life is a little more complex than mine, so you can’t just dump all of the important things in your life and burrow onto your cushy dog bed until it all goes away.
When we dogs feel low, we just lay there. When we feel energetic, we get up. We don’t have to do anything except for feel-what-we-feel. It’s fantastically freeing! On the other hand, we also rely on humans to provide all of our needs, down to having to ask to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. You feel me? There are definite perks to being a human.
When humans struggle with mental health issues such as Depression, it can get complicated, because you folks have to feel-what-you-feel WHILE also trying to behave in healthy ways towards all of the things demanded of you by your regular daily life. You’ve probably got loved ones, family, job and/or school, dishes, breakfast, hair, and other stuff like that to take care of. Ugh. Like my sidekick always says, those teeth of yours need brushed whether you feel like it or not (though I will add that I don’t think the youngest kids agree with that last bit)…
You want to continue taking care of your life, if/when at all possible, because, when Depression isn’t hanging out in your head, you generally like those various things and people and responsibilities…and some of them won’t necessarily be around for you later if you just leave them to their own devices. Particularly the important things like, say, your job or perhaps your partner. Both tend to want your attention now and then, which is fair enough.
But it’s hard to care about much of anything when you are sunk in a deep emotional hole.
Have you ever heard that saying, “Don’t doubt in the dark what you’ve seen in the light?” The saying makes a salient point. When the lights are on, you can see clearly. When the lights are off, it’s hard to see.
That doesn’t mean that everything is gone.
It just means that you can’t see it.
Depression tends to be rather opinionated about what it thinks matters and doesn’t matter. As in, it tends to tell you that nothing really matters, including you. But it still does. You still matter. It’s just that the lights are off right now and you can’t see it.
You aren’t your Depression. You have Depression, yes, but you aren’t the Depression. You are you. You just can’t see well at the moment, because Depression is hanging out in your head.
Depression messes with a person’s perception of self…and others…and life.
What you love and care about still exists. It’s all there in it’s beautiful messy glory. Trust me on that. I’m a dog, so I know what I’m talking about. Depression is just blocking your view.
You aren’t your thoughts. That’s a good thing. Because that busy-body Depression has a lot of opinions about everything, rattling on and on in your head, full of authoritative proclamations about your (lack of) worth and (the lack of) meaning and (the lack of) hope, blah, blah, blah…
Humans often mistake Depression-fueled thoughts for “truth” because the thoughts are being voiced in your very own head (and humans tend to believe what they think). But, don’t. You aren’t the thoughts in your head.
Those thoughts are not the voice of your core Self coming from deep inside. It’s just Depression, jabbering on again about doom and gloom and hopelessness and worthlessness, because that’s what Depression does. At least, that’s what it does anytime it hangs out in a human brain.
But you are not Depression.
Depression might be hanging out in your head, sure, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the boss of you.
In the next post, I will share some ideas with you about how you can work with the Depression instead of letting it call the shots. It won’t hang out in your head forever, but while it is, might as well learn to live with it instead of be pushed around by it, right? Until then, please continue to shower and show up to work for as long as you are able. That bag of dog food won’t buy itself.
P.S. Please do me a favor and please get in touch with a counselor about setting up some sessions. Depression responds really well to counseling help! You could ask some trusted friends for a good recommendation, call your local community mental health center and ask about your options, or search for a private counselor by typing your zip code into Psychology Today to see who might be available in your town. I have written about counseling before, here, which might be helpful if you are new to the idea and aren’t sure how they might help.
That said, if you aren’t all that into counselors, then please schedule a visit your doctor and let her/him know about the way you are feeling. They can run some tests and make sure it isn’t your thyroid or something similar that can cause depressive symptoms. Also, medication for depression can make all the difference for some folks. It can’t hurt to at least consult with your provider about your options.
Depression is something that most humans need a little extra help to navigate through, and that’s especially important when it increases in severity. Your recent bout of Depression sounds like it is moving that direction (if not already there). It’s just smart to reach out to a professional that can give you some assistance. Don’t wait. Your lights-on self will thank you.
P.P.S. Thanks so much for talking to a dog that you met on the internet, by the way. Makes perfect sense to me!