This post was originally published in 2013. The words are still true today.
Gifts, family gatherings, celebrations. The holidays can be filled with such joy but they can also be filled with great sadness and depression.
Its arrival is never prefaced with an announcement. It barges in uninvited and unexpected. And once settled it makes no attempts to move on. It depletes your strength and makes you feel as if death is the only release. It’s depression.
Some years ago as I sat across from my therapist I asked: “Are there tests that can prove I have a hormonal imbalance?” His response was “No”. I went on to question how doctors could say hormonal imbalance was the cause of depression if they had no proof. At the time I was coming out of a period of severe depression. My treatment plan was a combination of anti-depressants and therapy. The anti-depressants did not cure my ailment. Instead, they numbed me. My usual feelings of grief became buried under a pile of indifference. Therapy was a great way for me to gain insight into myself and my thought patterns. Yet, this also provided no cure.
Fast forward to today. I no longer share my innermost thoughts with a therapist nor do I take brain-altering medication. But more importantly, I am no longer plagued by depression. I experience good days and bad, pleasant and unpleasant experiences. I too become sad, angry and mourn loss. Yet I refuse to let these passing emotions linger.
I remember the darkness that surrounded me at every turn. The tears and the anguish I lived with daily are lodged in my memory. Pain was my constant companion. However, a chemical imbalance wasn’t to blame for my state of mind. My emotional responses to compulsive negative thoughts were to blame, i.e. I was to blame.
After years of suffering from this illness, I now see the truth. After years of watching my triggers, thoughts, and emotional reactions it has become clear. There is nothing wrong with my brain. It is perfect in its composition. There is something wrong with the way I think. As I began to watch my thoughts more closely I noticed that certain thoughts led to negative emotional responses. And eventually, all these negative emotional responses took on a life of their own. I was depressed because I indulged in compulsive repetition of negative thoughts which in turn fostered negative emotions.
If I constantly replay the time I was betrayed by a lover the negative emotions associated with that memory replay as well. My life has been no cake walk. As a result, pessimism became my way of life. Past life events left me feeling victimized and certain that history was doomed to repeat itself. So each day I walked in fear of being hurt by people. My thoughts were habitually rooted in residual pain and disappointment. If you suffer from depression I implore you to watch your thoughts and your emotional responses to those thoughts very closely. You will most likely find a pattern of negative emotional responses resulting from unpleasant compulsive thoughts.
Each day as those thoughts enter my psyche I am forced to choose what my emotional response will be. I can choose not to go down the road which leads to depression, anger, sadness, and pain. I can choose to stop a thought that is destructive, replacing it with one that is constructive. And so can you. The mind is my tool, its tendency towards compulsion will no longer control me. I control it and I banish depression.