Andrea J Schrage, MA, LPC, CMT
Why is it that most people feel familiar with Depression? Why is it that if you start talking about taking anti-depressants that people come out of the woodwork to tell you about their experience on meds? One of the pieces in the puzzle is that people do not know how to distinguish sadness from “feeling depressed”
To give you a generalized idea of the succession from sadness to depression, it can often look like this:
- You have an emotion
- You do not know how to attend to it or choose to not attend to it
- The feelings get stuffed down via ignoring it or covering it in a addictive pattern
- You feel depressed
This is a simplification to help you see all the steps that happen before the depression sets in. Often what happens in this process is that there is a lot of grief that is not getting tended to. When this happens the world can feel unsafe and people tend to start protecting by shutting down their emotions. The blessing and curse in how our bodies work is that when you shut down one emotion, they all tend to get shut down. The curse is that if you don’t want to feel sad then you limit your ability to feel joy. The blessing is that if you don’t feel joy, it may cause you to look for the problem and then heal it.
To help clarify more we can look at “symptoms” of sadness and of depression.
Sadness can come in the form of:
- A feeling in the throat, heart, or chest
- It may come in waves that peak and then lessen
- It is temporary
- It is usually related to an event, even if it is an old event
Depression can come in the form of:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Not finding joy in things that you used to find joy in
- A negative outlook on most things
- On-going sadness without an obvious cause
- Changes in eating patterns
- Disconnecting from others
- Difficulty getting up and going in the morning
- A lack of emotions
- A change in sleep patterns
Most of us did not learn to properly attend to emotions, we are taught to analyze, ignore, and cover up any emotions that we have. What is surprising for most of us is that we are just as scared to feel real joy and success as we are of feeling sadness and pain. This fact is usually left unnoticed, but it anchors in our system of wanting to avoid emotions. If you can start separating your feelings out, you can tend to them, which will allow you more power and consciousness about the choices that you make in your life.
Ways to start dealing with emotions are through writing, mindfulness, releasing them through the physical body, or through therapy. As you do this practice over time, you retrain your system to not fall into habitual depressive patterns. You will also learn to tolerate feelings and you will begin to pick up on the early cues that you are heading towards a depressive episode. If feelings are overwhelming for you or if you have a history of trauma, then please seek support through professional help.
For more questions about this process you can reach me at: 404-818-6114 or email me at AndreaSchrage@KarunaCounseling.com