If you’ve been living with depression, you have probably tried everything to get rid of it.
It’s not as easy as just “cheering up” or “focusing on the positive,” is it? Well-meaning friends and family love giving this advice, but obviously if you could, you would have by now! Instead, you’ve tried distracting yourself by trying to constantly have fun, avoiding uncomfortable situations and focusing on anything that could be considered “self-care” (whatever that means), or just giving in and staying in bed, hoping it would clear up.
Sometimes that works! But inevitably, it comes back. Then you’re not only depressed, but frustrated that you’ve “let” depression take over again, which makes you even more depressed, irritable, and exhausted.
How Avoidance Leads to More Depression
It’s totally normal to avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable. Whether it’s physical pain like a toothache, or something hitting us in our emotional gut, like a bill we can’t afford to pay. For some, if left unchecked, this can lead to even more depression. Avoidance and procrastination can tend to make things worse, despite the fact that they are usually just coping mechanisms for situations that are overwhelming or feel out of our control.
In these situations, depression can develop and even deepen when we allow avoidance to take over, and don’t address the issue. It can then sometimes worsen, prolonging this awful, heavy, depressed state making you feel worse as time goes on. This is why getting help is so important.
How does therapy help with depression?
As a therapist, it is my job to provide you with a safe, contained place where we can work on addressing your depression together. We’ll come up with ways to help you to continue the work outside of our one-hour sessions. The beauty in this is that you don’t have to do the work alone. I will be there with you, to help those feelings of depression lessen—and get to the core of what’s causing them—giving you the tools to be able to do this on your own. But only when you’re ready. Sometimes you just need to talk without someone jumping in with advice. Other times you’re sick of feeling this way and just need actual tools and suggestions to make it go away.
Instead of fighting those negative feelings, invite them in to hang out.
I know, this sounds like annoying therapist-talk, but hear me out.
One way that I suggest working on this outside of your therapy session is by taking, what I all, a “curious approach.” Or, investigating the source behind the feelings. You might ask yourself, “What are these feelings trying to say to me? Is there any benefit to feeling this way?”
This is why I call it, making friends with your feelings. This is about inviting your feelings in for a “chat” instead of avoiding them out of fear or anxiety of what you may discover about them. You may be surprised at what they have to say!
In some cases depression and avoidance can be linked to a type of coping mechanism for managing overwhelming tasks, experiences, or looming issues that we’re afraid to tackle. But you might not know this is what’s happening until you have that “conversation” with yourself.
The reason this works is because it externalizes the emotions; in other words, they are not ALL OF YOU but just a small part of you. A part that you can learn to set aside and pick up later, if you choose to. You can say, “Oh, you’re back. I don’t need your help today. I’m going to leave you over on the nightstand for today. See you later!” Okay, that’s a bit cheesy but you get the point. This will help you understand it better, separate it from your core self, and then let it go.
Be curious. Welcome your depression and related emotions in for a chat, with open arms. Ask it what’s up and then, as gently as you would talk to a friend or someone you care about, let it know it’s time for it to go.
I suggest setting aside a block of time, perhaps first thing in the morning or just before you go to sleep at night, to have this “conversation” with the parts of yourself you’ve been fighting against. You could write it out using a journal, or say it out loud in front of a mirror, or just quietly to yourself. The key is to be sincere, be honest with yourself, and know that you will be better for it - and eventually be able to let it carry on “over there,” without you in tow. Eventually you’ll be able to let the depressive feelings move out just as quickly as they moved in.
Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and orientations in Long Beach, Seal Beach, and surrounding areas. If you’ve been living with depression or anxiety and are ready to let them go, call for a free consultation to learn how therapy might be able to help.