Depression – Into the Nothingness
Some of the content written here may trigger thoughts or feelings that you need to talk through with someone. Make sure you have a support person available. Above all, look after yourself.
When you experience depression, it can sometimes feel like an overwhelming sadness. A cloud that always seems to be there and that reaches into every part of your life. Even if you manage to spend time with people you feel like you are faking it and you sometimes feel invisible, or like you don’t even really exist. Sometimes it can stop you from going out or feeling like you are ‘good enough’ to talk to others, and sometimes it is too much to even get out of bed in the morning.
For some people, it feels like an empty nothingness lives inside you and you often feel numb. People ask “What’s wrong?” but you don’t know what to say or how to describe the nothingness.
You know that people want you to feel ‘better’ or to be ‘ok’. But that just feels like more pressure which seems to make it worse and to make you feel more alone. People might tell you that they care about you, but you cannot feel that care and you do not feel worthy of it. It seems like something that you just can’t touch or that can touch you. Many worry that their feelings are too much for people and that they are a burden.
Perhaps the worst part about experiencing depression is the loss of hope for things to ever be different. When you look ahead you just see blackness and fog. It can feel like everyone around you seems to have something that you don’t.
There is no singular fool-proof plan that works for everyone. As ancient philosophy tells us: Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. (Commonly attributed to Aristotle). The way forward is finding out what works for you, what doesn’t and learning to love and accept yourself for who you really are.
Listed below are some ideas to think about and see if they might work for you. Sometimes you need others to hold hope for you until you can find your way to it. Please reach out.
You are not alone
It may feel like you are alone, but it can be useful to remember that you are not the only one. In Australia alone, around 1 in 11 people experience depression in a year (Australian National Health Survey, 2014-15).
Help is available
One of the challenges that can come with depression is persistent thoughts that others will not understand and that you shouldn’t burden others. It is just not true. There are many people out there who understand and who can help you through. It is all about finding the right people.
It’s not exactly the same for everyone
What you experience might not be exactly the same as everyone else. There may be similarities but how you relate to the depression might be different – because you are you. This is why it is really important to talk to people you trust about what is going on for you. While people may know about depression or may even be trained to support you, they really need to know what it is like specifically for you.
It’s ok to not be ok
Often when experiencing depression there are scripts or tracks running in our mind that tell us that it is not ok to feel how we feel. “You shouldn’t feel sad/angry/pain/depressed”. “You should feel happy – what is wrong with you?”
The problem is that these ideas just make us feel worse and work to deepen the depression.
It may sound strange (because who wants to feel like this !!) but it can be really effective to learn to allow yourself to just not be ok. When we spend lots of energy and time trying to get rid of how we feel it can just make those feelings get stronger, more stubborn and less likely to shift. When we can learn to accept that it really is ok to not be ok and let ourselves feel how we really feel, evidence shows that we can find our way through.
Remember, these feelings and this experience, is not all of who you are.
Learn new ways of Being
For life to be different we have to do things differently. It is about learning new ways of experiencing ourselves and the world. The great news is that it isn’t always about making big changes – sometimes it is about the little things. The trick is finding out what works uniquely for us.
Finding a practitioner who can support you can be a useful ally. You need to find the right one for you, and remember that not everyone will be the right fit for you. The most important thing is that you start talking to someone, because your well-being matters.
Be careful of the quick fixes
When people experience depression or other challenges, they sometimes reach out for ways to feel differently that have other negative consequences. They might choose alcohol, substances, food, disconnecting from support, busyness or other ways to make the feelings of discomfort temporarily go away. The problem is of course that you now not only have the depression to deal with, you have other impacts happening in your life you don’t want. For instance, trying to deal with anxiety or depression and a hangover is awful.
Once you get in the habit of using these coping mechanisms they can be really hard to let go of. If this is happening it is really important to seek specialised help so that you can learn new ways of working with your feelings.
It takes practice
We live in a world that demands quick fixes and outcomes. There aren’t quick fixes when it comes to our well-being and learning about who we really are. It is important to remember that it can take time to unlearn ways of being that might have worked for us in the past but that we want to now change. It is not the same for everyone. Everyone’s time frame is unique.
Be gentle with yourself
How we talk to ourselves matters. We often talk to ourselves in a way that we would never dare talk to a friend or someone that we cared about. It can make a big difference when you learn to be kinder to yourself with every little choice you make, as well as what you are saying to yourself.
Maybe you have had experiences in your life from when you were little that taught you that you had to be harsh or that you didn’t deserve kindness and love. Learning to be gentle with yourself can be life-changing.
Invite it in and see what it needs from you.
If depression continues to hang around and knock on our door, it can be useful to invite it in and ask it what it needs of us. This is a technique used by skilled therapeutic practitioners that can be a game changer for people experiencing depression.
Some Final Quick Tips
Before you read this, please be assured that this is no way suggesting that these tips will magically make depression disappear. That would be minimising your experience.
What is suggested here is a guide and a practice that with time can be useful tools alongside other supports.
The self-talk suggestions are more effective when they have been experienced repeatedly and sometimes this needs to be in partnership with a trained professional. But it is worth starting today.
Something to practice:
Sometimes our mind can take us in the past or the future. It is really useful for our well-being to stay as grounded in the present as much as we can, choosing our thought ventures as much as possible.
This isn’t that we never think of the past or future, only that we practice being able to choose our thoughts. In order to do this, we need to practice grounding ourselves in the present, which can be achieved with a practice called mindfulness.
Take off your shoes and spend some time feeling the floor touching your feet. Notice where the floor touches your feet and how it feels. Take time to press each toe into the floor. Notice where you feel tension and where you don’t. Is the ground smooth or bumpy? Cold or warm? Focus your mind on nothing but what is happening with your feet on the ground. Slow things down as much as you can.
You might notice thoughts popping into your head. No need to get cross with them (or you). Just notice them there and bring your attention back to your toes and the feeling of them touching the floor, right here, right now.
Doing this doesn’t need to change how you feel. Just practice noticing.
You might not be up to it, but if you are, then get outside and feel the grass or sand beneath your toes. Feel the sun on your skin. If you can, head out for a walk. Even just around your house or around the block. The important thing is to only do what is achievable for you at the time.
Whether you are outside or inside, take a few slow deep breaths and remind yourself:
- It is ok to not feel ok. I might not want it or like it, but it is ok because it is how I feel
- I have feelings (even if it is numbness) but I am more than those feelings
- All things pass
- Change can take time and little changes make a difference
- I deserve kindness
- I will get through this.
If you only choose one of these to repeat and that is all you can do today, then that is enough.
Most importantly, always take care of yourself. Reach out for help if you need it. If you are ever having thoughts of hurting yourself or thoughts of suicide then you need to tell someone today. Call the 24-hour support service at Lifeline on 13 11 14, speak with your GP or another helping professional.
At Seeds of Life Counselling, you will find a place you can find a way through. Call and make an appointment today.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘4364.0.55.001 – National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15’, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2014-15~Main%20Features~Mental%20and%20behavioural%20conditions~32