I come from a family of extremely positive people.
The glass is half full. Somebody else always has it much harder than you, so don’t complain. It could be much worse, so be grateful. Pick yourself up—it’s not the end of the world.
I agree with all of these things of course. So allowing myself to feel anything but gratitude and happiness on a daily basis was incredibly uncomfortable for me.
The first time I experienced depression was after the birth of my first child. He was colicky and screamed almost every moment he was awake. It wasn’t the normal crying of a newborn infant, it was the full-pitched screeching until he was blue in the face wailing that left him choking for air and left me and his dad feeling hopeless, exasperated and exhausted.
By week six, I was in a full-blown depression. Exhausted, sleep deprived, hormonal, aching breasts, unable to bond with him or feel an ounce of real love in my heart for the child I had longed for my entire life—it all left me in shattered pieces.
I remember being ashamed to tell anyone what I was feeling. It should have been the happiest time in my life, yet I was crying non-stop, unable to eat, unable to sleep and wanting nothing more than to run away from the life I had created.
I share this story because anyone in a similar situation as mine could understand and justify their own depression. Who wouldn’t be depressed?
But what about when nothing is out of the ordinary in our lives and we’re feeling depressed? What if everything in our lives is going right, and yet nothing feels right inside? Because this is happening to people all around me.
And I hear them when they say, “I have nothing to be depressed about. So why do I feel this way?”
Here’s what I want people to know: you are not alone. There are lots of reasons we get depressed, even when nothing in our lives have changed.
We think we need to have some major trauma happen in our lives to be depressed. But most of the time, it’s not the one thing that’s happened that puts us in the depression. No. It’s the five or six or ten tiny things that have been happening over the course of several months, and we didn’t take the time to process or feel any of it. We do what most of us have been taught to do when life is happening:
We power through.
Because we have things to do, and lives to live, and we don’t have time to sweat the small stuff. We go about our lives with a stiff upper lip, declaring to everyone, “I’m fine. I’m good…”
We keep going, because who has time to sit around and cry over the tiny things?
But it’s those tiny things—watching friends getting laid off, our kids getting into trouble at school, problems in our marriage, money issues that keep us up at night, unfulfilled expectations, a strained relationship with a close friend, disappointment over something not working out the way we had hoped—that we don’t realize are affecting us.
Until one day, we’re going about our day as normal, and we feel off. It starts as this kind of empty feeling in the pit of our stomachs and then turns into an anxious feeling in our chests. And then soon, our breathing starts to feel a little labored and constricted as if we’re suffocating. And then we realize we have a ginormous lump in our throats and we feel like we want to cry.
And I can tell you that when this happened to me, I couldn’t understand what was going on, because one minute I was driving to work belting out “Hotline Bling” like I was on stage with Drake, and the next minute I was hyperventilating and bawling my eyes out on the L.A. freeway.
And I couldn’t stop.
So this is what I now tell people who find themselves in this very situation:
Just own it. Own that you’re feeling off. Own that you’re feeling depressed. Own that you’re embarrassed about feeling this way (if that’s the case) because on the surface your life is good.
Repressing it and thinking it’s going to just go away? That’s a sure fire way to make it worse.
Telling yourself that what you’re feeling isn’t normal and you should just pull your sh*t together because you don’t cry, you don’t get depressed, and you’ve never felt this way before and you don’t want to burden people by being a downer…will make it worse.
Own the depression.
Talk about it.
Reach out to friends.
Ask for help.
Feel everything. It’s uncomfortable as sh*t, I know. Depression is deeply and profoundly uncomfortable. It feels like a hell that is never going to end. It feels like a prison cell you’re never going to get out of. It feels like being thrown into solitary confinement where you’re staring at the four walls around you because it’s all you can do.
But feeling it…all of it, and not denying what you’re feeling is the only way out.
You will get out of it, I promise you.
When I was in it, I felt it would never pass. I remember saying to my mother, “I don’t want to feel this way. How can I make this go away?”
And she said, “This too will pass. Just give it time and be loving to yourself.”
And you know what happened? It passed. All of it passed. The loneliness, the isolation, the desire to run, the thoughts that I’m not lovable or worthy of someone’s time and attention, the insurmountable tears, the sleepless nights. Gone.
And I realized that even happy people get depressed sometimes. And it passes through us if we allow it to enter. If we can sit with it. Embrace it. Become friends with it for a little while. Give it room to breathe and expand and break us open and release what it needs to release. Allow it its time in the spotlight to tell us what we need to know.
It really is going to be okay. Because even depression can be a gift if we allow it to show us the places inside of ourselves that need a little bit of extra attention and healing—if we allow it to reveal to us where we aren’t being kind and loving to ourselves. Where we need to open ourselves up to receiving more.
And then give those places the love they deserve.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Catherine Monkman