The other day I was carrying a slab of wood with nails in it and as I took a step down the edge of the wood bounced off the step and aggressively dug into my back. The gross part was I could feel it as it pierced the skin and got lodged. It was sharp enough to break through the skin, but blunt enough to need a good push to dig in. After pulling it out of my back, I then had another set of stairs to go down. Did I turn the wood around so the nail didn’t stick out? Did I bend the nail so it couldn’t do that again? No. I just kept going. Someone with depression would’ve avoided carrying the wood in the first place, but if this happened to them they might feel like they deserved the jab, they could’ve broke down crying about their mistake, but more than likely they would’ve kept going without fixing the problem with the nail like I did. Do I have depression? No, I’m just stupid. People pass the term ‘depression’ around like germs at a hospital. It’s like the go-to word whenever someone feels down. People seem to either be “fine” or “depressed”. If these really were the only emotional states we ever had that would make life so much easier for helping people. (therapist) How are you? (person) “Fine.” (therapist) “And you?” (other person) “Depressed.” (therapist) “Okay, see your doctor about getting some medication and book with me so I can help you work through it.” Unfortunately, human emotions are way more diverse than this; we just tend to miss that. When we say fine or depressed it can mean a whole spectrum of things: (typical man hiding emotions) “I’m fine. No, I’m not angry; I’m screaming right now and I may want to punch my boss in the face, but I haven’t yet so I’m fine. If I do snap and let my fist satisfy this burning desire than I’ll admit I’m not fine.” A very simple way of describing people with depression is a consistent state over an extended period of time where it looks like life has beaten the stuffing out of them. If they were a balloon, they’d be shrivelly and soft. If they were an apple they’d be covered in bruises. If they were a hockey team, they’d be the Toronto Maple Leafs. Depression is not something you simply get like a cold. It’s a build up. Quite typically, it’s a build up of many poor thoughts and actions that culminate to a position where something can trigger full blown depression. For instance, if you consistently tell yourself you’re stupid, a loser, a failure, not good enough, ugly, fat, and other nasty things, you have some good ingredients for one day having depression. Other ingredients include eating lots of junk food, not exercising, sleeping too much, not connecting with people or having alone time, and ignoring the spiritual side of life.
Three states that can be misconceived as depression are:
Being Hormonal: Hormones have a major effect on the brain. Major hormone changes in a person can lead to serious mental health problems, especially at times like puberty, menopause, and andropause. People on the physical down slope (is that a nice way of saying old?) and teenagers can definitely have depression, but hormones should definitely be considered a factor before jumping to conclusions about having depression.
Grief: Grief can look a lot like depression, but the difference is grief is part of a natural healing process for a major loss. I’ve found it can take a good year to really work through the healing process as you go through the firsts like first Xmas, birthday, holidays, and the like. Fortunately, healthy grief will often naturally fade as a new normal lifestyle is developed.
Discouraged: Extended periods of being discouraged can lead to depression, but it’s still its own thing. The big difference between these two is sometimes all you need to get over being discouraged is a good night’s sleep, a vacation, or a new job or new relationship. Depression is more firm set than that.
So why is this important? People overusing a term like depression takes away from those who actually have it. Why is not important? Help often looks the same for all cases: Think right thoughts, eat well, exercise and sleep right, have proper self reflection time, accomplish small tasks, and surround yourself with good people. The important thing is to not let a label or a lack of a label hold you back from healing.
This week may you heal the thoughts and habits that could one day lead you to depression.
Rev. Chad David, www.ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people