What does depression feel like?
Andrew Solomon, a journalist and author who has suffered with severe depression wrote, “The opposite of depression isn’t happiness, but vitality.”
This makes so much sense; when you’re not depressed that doesn’t mean you’re constantly happy, but instead you have a general reserve of energy and enthusiasm upon which you can draw. Sure you can have bad moments and feel down, but there is a life force that hums under the surface, keeping you feeling capable and giving you a sense of purpose as you face your days.
For those with depression, your vitality might have vanished rather suddenly, perhaps due to a horrific loss or trauma. Or maybe it’s slipped away slowly, the natural result of stress, conflict, or increasingly loud inner voices chanting that you’re worthless or unacceptable.
Your body might hurt. There might be a yawning emptiness inside that seeps into what you think and feel. “I don’t care,” begins to come out of your mouth. A lot.
You want this to be gone; you remember days where you had vibrancy but those times seem to belong to another person in another world. You want the old you back and wish you could snap your fingers and have this oppressive lethargy and disinterest vanish and be forgotten forever.
But what if I suggest to you that you have to accept your depression before you can heal from it?
You hate feeling the way you do, and you hate what depression has taken from you. So why would you want to accept something that’s so devastating? Does self-acceptance mean you give up trying to change back to the old you?
No, it doesn’t.
The role self-acceptance plays in healing from depression...
Think for a moment about the people you love. You’ve most likely loved them not only for their talents, their wit, or their caring, but you’ve also accepted their vulnerabilities. You know they get impatient, or they can’t cook, or they get nervous at parties. You’ve understood their battle with insecurity or self-doubt. You’ve accepted the entirety of their being. That’s love. That’s what knowing someone, truly knowing them, is all about.
Self-acceptance is the act of doing that same thing for yourself. Your strengths are not all of who you are, nor are your vulnerabilities. No one single fact about you entirely defines you.
So why is accepting depression so vital? Because it means you’re no longer denying it but rather you’re seeing it for what it is.
Acceptance is very different from apathy or resignation. Self-acceptance means identifying your strengths and your vulnerabilities, the total package that makes you you. It is an honest appraisal of the where you are right now, acknowledging this without pretending things are otherwise..
You have to accept having cancer before you can fight it. You have to accept an addiction before you can find the humility to admit its power over you. And you have to accept depression before you can learn to understand and alter its hold over your mind.
So you can find your self again.
You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.
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This was originally published on October 29, 2016; was updated on January 26, 2019 and then again on January 2, 2021.