There are steps you can take to overcome depression and steps you can take which will keep you stuck.
A How- To Article on How Not to Overcome Depression?
Why would I do that? It feels awful to be depressed. Why wouldn’t I write about how depression feels awful and what you can do to feel relief? Well the reason I decided to write this is because sometimes it’s very helpful to know that you are doing that is keeping you depressed. It’s important to understand the steps you take to get and stay depressed, and sometimes we can see ourselves in other people.
But wait! Isn’t depression something that “just happens to you”? Probably not. It might seem that way, but only because the depression habit is so vague and automatic that you don’t exactly know how you do it. In fact, it’s likely you might not know.
That is often the case when people struggle with depression.
This post was born out of a recent session I had with “Stu”. Stu is a man who has struggled for many years with Major Depressive Disorder. As a result of the psychotherapy he has done, he is much better. But recently his contract with a large company ended, leaving him with too much time on his hands. Add to this mix, a recent breakup and you have the perfect ingredients for a depression relapse.
For the past month or so, Stu has felt “stuck and depressed”.
His depression deepens as the weeks go by. Discouragement, displeasure and disconnection settle in.
Stu and I have a good connection and in therapy, sometimes we joke with each other. Despite what some people think, psychotherapy isn’t all just grim rehashing of pain. For example, today we began by playfully kidding with each other.
“I need your help with something” I said.
“You are a very experienced project manager and engineer. If I wanted to, how could I make sure that I feel as stuck and depressed as possible? What would your advice be? I’ll take notes.”
My lighthearted approach cut through the heavy seriousness. Immediately, he knew where I was coming from and played along. Below is Stu’s recipe for being stuck and depressed. He even joked that he wants you to know that this recipe has been in his family as far back as he can trace his family tree. “It’s one that has been passed down from father to son for generations. It’s stood the test of time”.
So Let’s Begin.
First, if you want to be depressed, one of the most effective things you can do is to obsess about hopelessness. Spend hours, not minutes, letting your mind spin endlessly about how everything is going to feel bad forever. Also tell yourself nothing will ever help, even if you know that’s not entirely true.
Second, avoid trying. It’s a good way to protect yourself from feeling more hopeless.
Third, thoroughly review past situations that were failures. Don’t gloss over them and let them go. Ruminate. Savor every horrible detail. This mean it’s important not to let anything negative or painful go. Remember, you can also minimize or discount any successes you have had.
Fourth, don’t do things because you are afraid of failure. Ignore reflecting on any positive results that you have obtained. They are just painful reminders of all the other things that didn’t go well.
Fifth, ignore your therapist. Don’t take his advice. Also, don’t let him solve problems with you. And be sure to complain that “therapy doesn’t work anyway”. It’s important to dwell on all the ways therapy hasn’t helped you and to minimize or forget the ways it has. Sometimes it helps you stay stuck if you tell your therapist that not only do you not want solutions or advice, but also that “talking at all is also a total waste of time”.
Also, in terms of therapy, remember, it’s best if you can complain when your therapist gives you encouragement or appreciation too. You might try telling him that “they taught you to say nice things in therapy school”.
But maybe you’re “in it to win it”. What if you want to win the Olympics of depressed stuckness.
Don’t worry, Stu has more advice that will help you on your quest for the gold.
Don’t Overcome Depression. Watch More TV…Run Away and Tune Out.
Tell yourself that drugs are going to solve everything. Watch a bunch of TV commercials and tell yourself that you have a Prozac deficiency. Then a few months later tell yourself you have a wellbutrin deficiency, an Abilify deficiency and an incurable “chemical imbalance” plus a “genetic predisposition to depression”.
Surefire Ways To Feel Depressed:
- Focus on all the reasons things won’t work. Expand your list of reason why nothing will work. This means being committed to give up before you try. If you are thinking of going to your best friends barbecue, remind yourself of why it will be stupid.
- Prepare yourself for defeat. Keep your hopes low
- Avoid helpful things and beat yourself up about it. For example, avoid exercise. Stay away from the gym at all costs. Stop your meditation practice and tell yourself you hate the yoga class because you stink at yoga even though you always go. Why bother?
- Don’t stop there. Criticize and attack yourself more. Each day provides endless opportunities
- Feel shame about past and future performance.
- If you take psychiatric drugs, be inconsistent with depression medication
- Personalize everything and do it as much as you can. Don’t let random opportunities for self flagellation slip through your fingers.
- Do less, avoid more
- Be defensive.
- Fuzz out and don’t focus
For Not Overcoming Depression, Isolation is Key
So that means:
- Don’t go out of your house
- Let fear and shame talk you out of attending to your friendships
- Give in to the urge to withdraw
- Do less
- Believe all your negative thoughts and beliefs
If you don’t want to overcome depression, convince yourself that you are powerless over circumstances and at the helpless effect of others. Tell yourself that you a different than other people, and worse.
To sum up; there are ways we keep ourselves depressed and down in the dumps. Often these steps are automatic body and mind habits. So too, there are steps you can take to overcome depression.
Of course you really want to overcome depression. It’s my hope that you can smile a bit as your read the post. More importantly, I hope that you can use it to see some of the ways you might be keeping yourself stuck and depressed.
Learn more about how I can help you with depression here.