What? Has she really lost her rocker this time? Perhaps. My kids would tell you that I do that often. But, I am asking you to think outside the box with me on this one … that depression might be an opportunity. Let’s try it on for size.
If seen in a certain light, depression could be an invitation to reflect. It can be the entryway by which we stop and ponder the deeper nature of our being. Who are we? Where are we on this journey of life? Are we living from the the essence of our truest self? Depression can be symptomatic angst that draws our attention to the fact that something is not working well inside of us and needs to change. Are we stalled in our path of growth? Have we been storing anger? Have we experienced a loss yet to be grieved? Have we grown out of (or need to grow out of) a tired relationship? Are we preparing for an important life transition by going inside to later explode outside much like a caterpillar cocoons before becoming a butterfly? Are we having an anniversary reaction to something held back in our unconscious life?
Whatever it might be, it is something. And as I have learned in my life and work, no one is crazy to themselves. Somewhere, somehow there is meaning and reason for the symptoms and feelings we are experiencing and the behaviors we are exhibiting. Depression is thus a possible opening to learn something helpful and important about ourselves. Maybe it is a much needed wake-up call for us to begin a long overdue shift.
Furthermore, depression is a chance to wander the halls of our dark side. In the totality of our humanness, we aren’t meant to be just happy. Happiness is a feeling – just like all the other feelings we are capable of having and enjoying in life. But often, it is not the feeling of pleasure that connects us to our deeper self and to that in others. In fact, frequently, it is in our most unpleasant moments that we get honest, tell the truth, become most creative and get authentically emotionally connected with another person. Many of the world’s best leaders and artists are known to have struggled with depression. From the depths of their soulful painfulness came great art, music, poetry and leadership. Depressive feelings offer you a chance to explore and embrace your yet-to-be-illuminated self. You never know what you might discover.
So, if depression can actually be beneficial, then shame is not necessary. No self-attacking. And for that matter, no attacking of anyone else either. No criticism, judgment or preconceived ideas of what I should be like or feel like. Unfortunately, mental health – or lack there of – remains a scope in the human landscape where we go one-up on the other. This grandiose and entitled jockeying serves to distance ourselves not only from other people, but also from our own anxiety … “at least I am not like that” or “thank God, I am not as bad off as they are.” The truth is … we are all like that … struggling, issue-ridden, imperfect, doing the best we can in the rocky boat of life. Ideally, we take up the journey of growth and discovery on our own accord. But as is often the case, many of us need a good push to get started.
So, this month, if you, or someone you love, is feeling depressed, I extend you the invitation to get curious about the feeling state in a deep way – as opposed to wanting to deny or avoid it. What does it mean? What is it trying to tell you? Why now in your life? Does it have a greater meaning within context of your family? Do you seek misery as a protection against further loss and hurt? Does it offer comfort like a warm blanket? What is it hiding, covering defending against? Explore and embrace your depression as an unwanted surprise. It just might enable an unveiling of an expanded, freer you.