Monday, May 01, 2006
Depression: What's That Cloud Over Your Head? - By Steve Roberts
I'm 53 years old. It was only two years ago that I finally beat the depression in my life. Gone. Done. Nadda. But, as one who spent 51 years of my life feeling blue, exhausted, not worth much, unproductive, and with a kind of numbness around relationships, I have a fairly clear picture of what this kind of life is like, and how to get out of it.
A reader recently asked: "My whole life has pretty much been one bad experience after another. There have been good moments, but I am always dealing with some kind of bad stuff. Whether it be home, work, relationships - you name it - always something bad to deal with. How do I get rid of the cloud that hangs over my head?"
This experience is far more common that you might think. And, if this is your personal experience in life, you probably think that you're just about the only one. I assure you that you aren't, and that you're not crazy, and that with a whole lot of personal work on yourself life can be quite the incredible journey. Remember, I know personally of what I speak.
What I Learned About How This Gets Started
Simply put, for most of us the Cloud gets started in early childhood. We face painful experiences from poor parenting, abusive people around us, or some kind of loss that could not have been prevented by the best of intentions.
At this very tender young age we form coping behaviors to deal with the pain and fear. If you think of your earliest life memories, they probably represent something of how you believe the world and you to be. You could have chosen many different things to remember, but you somehow chose to remember just these particular memories. That is significant.
For instance, my earliest memories are of making mistakes of some kind. My belief was that I'm some kind of a "screw up."
Once we have these early beliefs, an incredible, but terrible thing occurs. Our brains start looking for evidence that supports these beliefs, and discounts the evidence that would contridict them. I've always been able to identify how I "screw up" but rairly could claim my true abilities and giftedness.
If you're stuck on how illogical this seems, please realize that we're not very conscious creatures. We're only 10% consciously aware. The other 90% is unconscious and runs on some fairly primitive programs that are very, very connected to the fight or flight response.
So, to keep this short, the summary is: We create distorted beliefs early in life to explain things and to protect ourselves in some way, and then as adults we either interpret the events in our lives in these negative ways, or we may even create events to match our expectations.
Take my word for it, you've got to read books on this simple idea to really understand how deep and persistent it is.
What I Learned To Do About It
This is the tough part. What worked for me will not exactly work for you. You developed your own particular storyline along these broad guidelines. This is where it helps to have a therapist, coach or mentor at your side. Your recovery needs to be tailored to you.
But, for what it is worth, here's a quickie version of my Cloud story.
1. For years I believed that if I just found the right environment "outside" of myself that I would feel better. This meant finding the right friends, the right food, the right job, the right vehicle, the next enticing thing, or even insisting that people around me behave in certain ways.
It didn't work. The problem came from inside me, not from the outside.
2. I tried traditional therapy. It helped a little. But mostly the guy just listened and stared at me. Big deal.
3. In my counseling training, I fortunately found a supervisor that really cared about me and started me on the road to caring about myself. At least, to the degree that I could at that time. This was the real start of my journey.
If you don't find this in your first therapist, keep looking!
4. I hit a really down time and decided that I needed to try anti-depressant medication. Even though I had referred many people for medication, I still had trouble with the stigma attached to such drugs. But I did it anyway.
It was Incredible! It was as though I had been color blind and could now see in color for the first time in my life! I walked around amazed that most other people felt this way most of the time.
And, it made for wonder in my marriage. No longer was I irritable all the time. I regretted all the years my spouse had to put up with me that old way!
That was over 10 years ago. As with so many, the first couple of good years didn't last. Anti-depressant "poop-out" syndrome occurred repeatedly. I tried many other medications along the way.
5. About 6 years ago I took up meditation. That's a challenging discipline for somebody with ADD! I credit meditation as breaking loose some of the blocks so that later success could come my way.
Several years ago I tried writing daily affirmations to myself as so many success gurus suggest. This helped in many other areas of my life, but the Cloud was still there.
6. Finally, I asked spiritually for the removal of the Cloud. Two months later I had the experience that enlightened me. I saw deep within me how I create the feelings, and therefore, how I can control them. This was nothing I hadn't known consciously before, but now I knew it deep, deep within me in an unconscious place I cannot even describe.
You'd think that having been a pastor or a pastoral counselor for over 20 years that this would have been my first step. But I think it took all the other steps to get me into position for the final magic to work. I don't believe there is a quick fix for any of us.
Ultimately, it is a spiritual journey. To follow the metaphor, the Cloud is blocking the Light from our lives, and it is a rediscovery of this Light that enables our choice to remove the Cloud each time it reappears.
The Cloud does reappear. Once we have this old programming that believes things to be a certain way, it tries to come out from time to time. But we get better and better at putting it away and making the choice to see the wonder all around us and especially the wonder within us.
Once in a while we get a quick push, as I did two years ago, but mostly it is a slow dawning of letting a little more Light in each day.
And, did I mention there's no quick fix? You'd best find that counselor, mentor, or coach right now!
Steve Roberts, "The Couples Guy," is an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist who shares tips and real life relationship secrets from over 20 years of practice. Get Insight and Wisdom for your Relationships at: http://www.whatworksforcouples.com/
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Posted by Anna A. at 12:09 AM