Is your depression trying to tell you something important?
In this post, I’ll list 4 different things your depression may be trying to tell you. Maybe one will resonate. Maybe all of them will!
1. You need more connection.
We all need connection. We need to feel like we’re seen; we’re heard;we belong. When these needs aren’t met, we suffer. When we’re abandoned or betrayed, we can shut down too. (For more detail on this, see my post on abandonment depression.)If these needs don’t get met for a long time and you don’t know how to get them met or if you ever will, you may start to withdraw, to be passive, to quit trying. It’s painful to feel rejected and left out. A person who is suffering with depression may find that it’s simpler to isolate, to quit trying, than it is to keep trying to connect and to feel like it won’t work. But your depression could be signaling you about the importance of connection in your life. It may be telling you that it’s time to reach out for help.
2. You need to work through toxic shame.
Guilt is a powerful feeling. When it’s in check, it signals us when we’ve behaved in a way that isn’t in keeping with our values. It propels us to apologize, or to behave differently in the future, or both. Shame happens when we feel a disconnect from other people, and that we’re unworthy of connection. Guilt and shame can lead us to reevaluate our values and our behavior, and to turn over a new leaf. But in the case of depression, guilt turns into rumination. Shame feels like a void that you can’t escape. It feels like there’s no redemption, no way to come back to connection with yourself and with others. You retreat. With help, though, shame can be worked through. Maybe your depression is signaling you that it’s time to do this work so you can find your way out of the prison of shame?
3. You’ve been through a trauma that it’s time to really resolve.
When you endure something traumatic, there’s too much happening to process all in that moment. And you feel powerless. When we feel powerless, we shut down. This is something our brains and bodies do to try to help us! Think of a mouse playing dead so that a cat moves on to chase a live mouse. That momentary immobility, that playing dead, is a way that mouse survives! Humans can have a reaction like this too. When it becomes a habit, it can look and feel a lot like depression. Coming out of this kind of depression benefits a lot from a trauma-informed approach, because this isn’t “depression as usual” — this is a special adaptation, sometimes to one big event, and sometimes to many little events. The impact of trauma can be transformed, and you can get your vitality back. Maybe it’s time to get started on that process.
4. It’s time to get support to truly grieve so you can finally move forward.
Grief can hit us really hard. There are stages of grief we go through as we come to a new equilibrium in our lives, as we arrive at acceptance and resolution. But if your grieving is stopped before it resolves, you can feel stuck in despair, feeling unable to truly grieve or move forward. Grief demands that we grapple with what’s been lost. If you haven’t had support to grieve, though, or you’ve had the feeling that it’s “negative to think and talk about it,” or “crying is pointless anyway; it’s time to move on”, you may find yourself with feelings of depression that are saying, “Wait. Stop! This loss is important. It needs recognition.” Your losses matter, and your depression may be telling you it’s time to give them the attention they deserve.
Depression as a time out to regroup
Depression is often a signal. It’s a signal that it’s time to slow down. It’s time to reconnect with a self that we’ve lost track of, or to reconnect in relationships and hobbies that nourish us.
Depression, when you get help for it, can lead to big life changes. Depression is often saying, “My life no longer feels livable as it is.”
Often, depression is saying something very important. In therapy with me, we listen carefully to your depression. We pay attention to cues of unmet needs. We identify places and ways in your life that you’ve shut down, and we look at how and why that may have made sense for you.
We take a holistic approach, looking at your relationship with yourself, your relationship with others, your work, your lifestyle. Often, this leads to more than just “feeling better.” It leads to finding a whole new sense of who you are and what you want in your life.
Maybe your depression is telling you that it’s time for a change, and it’s time to stop doing it alone.
If this is the case, finding a therapist you click with and who can help you to decode your depression can help!
With help, you can find the keys to decoding your depression, and it can be the beginning of something new, something vibrant, something good.
The process of healing from depression is the process of coming alive again.