Nobody likes a whiner.
Who might fit this bill? Let’s say you’re filled to the brim with self-pity or a sense the world is against you. You can’t get a break. Bad things seem to always happen to you. Promotions don’t come your way. Your kids never call enough or come by. Your ex ruined your life.
Happiness eludes you and you don’t waste much time in telling others about it; self-pity prevents you from taking responsibility or realizing potential solutions. It’s paralyzing.
Self-pity in and of itself is paralyzing. And I wouldn’t wish that trait on anyone. It’s hard to break that habit and learn to take on more of the responsibility that’s actually yours to take. And stop blaming.
Is there a difference between self-pity and depression?
But then there’s depression.
Depression is far from feeling sorry for yourself.
If you are clinically depressed, you’re dealing with an unwanted and unchosen barrage of negative, destructive thoughts and emotions. When you’re drowning in those thoughts and emotions, it’s very hard to be engaged with others or interested in anything outside of your own head. At times, you’re fighting for your own life. Literally. That very detachment can be unfairly criticized and labeled as, “You’re just feeling sorry for yourself. Snap out of it, and start thinking about someone other than yourself.”
That is like telling someone who’s deaf to listen — or blind to see. At that moment, until the depression subsides, the mind isn’t capable of healthy thinking. To compound things, the more severe the depression, the more difficult it is to crawl out.
This Ted Talk video with Andrew Solomon eloquently describes the struggle.
Society can make healing more difficult by stigmatizing you just for suffering from depression.
How? Because seeking help, revealing all of what’s going on, getting support and guidance become things that people will not do — for fear of being labeled as a whiner. In studies I conducted in 2015, women’s major reason for not seeking therapy was how it would be perceived socially. For men, it was due to their belief that they could fix it themselves.
It’s true that depression can remit on its own, with time. But not always — and not without doing damage while it exists.
We, as a culture, have to stop looking down on ourselves or others for experiencing what is a disease.
What’s terrifies someone who experiences perfectly hidden depression?
What is perfectly hidden depression?
Here is an early video of me describing what perfectly hidden depression looks like.
This is a syndrome I’ve described, where perfectionism masks a silent depression. You won’t allow your pain or sadness to be expressed. You are petrified of anyone being able to see an inkling of self-doubt or sorrow, fatigue or vulnerability. So you’re seen by others as a “mover and a shaker” — you know how to get things done, and done well. Your life looks great — absolutely no whining coming from you. You count your blessings, every day.
There’s not a self-pitying bone in your body.
No one sees what you are hiding inside. No one knows the amount of insecurity, self-loathing or shame that exists in your reality. Because it’s perfectly hidden. So, the fear of exposure can become intense. It can feel as if your whole world will cave in if anyone finds out that you struggle — or that you have secrets you’ve never shared.
The fact is that it won’t; the far greater risk is getting lost in your own silent and very lonely hell.
Self-compassion versus self-pity...
Acknowledgment of pain or hurt from the past or the present leads to to understanding. If you wallow in that hurt, it can turn into self-pity, because you allow that pain to define you. But to make the connection between painful experiences and who you are today, how you’re making decisions and functioning, is extremely helpful.
Self-compassion is healing. Self-pity is destructive. There’s an immense difference between the two, yet all too often we get them confused.
And because of that you may be alone in your struggle with depression.
If you know someone suffering with depression, listen to them with compassion, support them as you can, and encourage them to seek appropriate treatment.
And have the same care and compassion for yourself.
You can hear more about dealing with depression and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive my weekly blog posts and podcasts, as well as her free downloadable ebook, “Seven Commandments of Good Therapy.”!
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My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression will be arriving November 1, 2019 and you can pre-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.