I sacrificed a lot raising my oldest daughter. Let’s just say she wasn’t exactly the sweetest teenager. She’s doing ok now except I’m not. Do you think that kid has even an ounce of sympathy in her? My wife left me for a younger man just over 10 years ago and the whole thing pushed me into a deep depression. But my daughter’s too young to understand. She says it’s all in the past so she doesn’t respect the fact that I don’t want to go out and I’m not interested in seeing anybody. She’s always bringing over funny movies and I can tell it’s all a big thing about trying to cheer me up. How can I get this kid to understand that depression is a serious thing and that it’s perfectly fine for me to avoid people? I know she reads your blog. I need your help. No matter how many times I tell her she keeps showing up with comedies.
Let me begin by thanking you for raising your daughter so well. The fact that she’s compassionately responding to her father’s emotional needs says nice things about you. That said, I can tell you don’t have a history of reading my blog. I like that. A new reader. Welcome.
As misguided as you might feel she is, it’s marvellous that your daughter would find your happiness so important in her own life. That says such nice things about her character. Congratulations. She could only receive that from the people that raised her. But I can empathize with why you would feel offended by her constant attempts to cheer you up. I mean —what a crazy idea, right? Right?
You wrote “I need your help.” I agree. Okay, the way for me to help is for me to focus on you. Because you’re the one that asked for help, not her. You can’t change other people but that’s okay. We all have plenty of our own stuff we can change.
So let’s get to you: in your view, if it was someone else, would a healthy person write the phrase, “No matter how many times I tell her [ that I want to just be left alone to be sad] she keeps showing up with comedies?” I know you’re depressed but remember —that was you defining a moral crime. You actually state that she’s wrong to want to cheer you up. That’s clearly crazy. It’s loving is what it is. She’s wanting you to have better days. That’s something to be grateful for, not something to complain about.
Of course you would like your own life more if you were enjoying it instead of hiding from it. I get that you feel really depressed. You’re still upset about something that happened over a decade ago! Good God man, you grow a new body every 7-11 years pretty much. The you that was present for that experience doesn’t even exist anymore. So why tell this new you stories about his life during its worst parts?
By doing that you’re dosing yourself heavily with chemistry that is not good for the fundamental building blocks of your physical existence. I’m sure you really are very, very sad. And if you’ve been that sad for that long then it makes sense that you would easily tire and would generally lack energy. Who wants to go out when they feel like that. And you’ve been this way for so long it’s hard to imagine yourself as anyone else. But I do have good news. This sadness is useful. You’re just not interpreting it in the ways most beneficial to you.
You’re reading the sadness backwards. You’re not supposed to avoid going out with your friends or watching funny movies because you’re sad. You’re sad because you’re not doing things like hanging out with friends or watching funny movies. Those things lead you toward being happy. So not doing those things is precisely why life feels bad.
The feeling isn’t saying “oh stay in and cry and tell yourself a series of your own narratives about how terrible life is.” That feeling is ugly because it’s a signal that you’re misusing your consciousness, and it’s using the pain to call you to shift your thinking from ‘want’ into ‘appreciation.’ If you wanted to feel better then go appreciate the joy you get from a game of Frisbee. Done.
If your knee hurts you know that’s your body signalling you not to use your knee. Likewise, if your emotions hurt then your higher self will use the pain to guide you to shifting from wanting to appreciating. It’s your literal addiction to the chemistry associated with sadness that is colouring your view to the point where you can see a loved one trying to cheer you up as something bad.
That is clearly nothing bad. But your perspective is bad. Your daughter is trying to coax you out. She is expressing love. And most counsellors don’t want to say this stuff because they’re worried they’ll get fired. But dude, I love you as I love all people, but it was ten years ago. She’s right: stop thinking about it and go out.
There’s no end to a painful cycle of thinking except you stopping it. I know there will be strong reminders or maybe even legal things you have to deal with that cause you to have to think about her, and I know it takes effort. But it takes less effort than what you’re doing now, because at least this way you stop the negative stories.
After 10 years of that it’s like you’ve been living on an emotional Sahara. By rejoining life, the world will feel vivid and amazing to you. You just have to go through the awkward transition part of getting used to dressing up and going out and making conversation etc. But there will be huge perks —like more laughing. Maybe even romance. Who knows? It doesn’t matter what you feel, it’ll feel better than what you have been processing through your mind.
If you incessantly think sad thoughts then please don’t tell me you’re going to hand over the rest of your life to some “disease” called Depression. Because you should at least do the thought-shifting thing first. Because there are tons and tons and tons of people who’ve said they were clinically depressed and that they couldn’t be helped, but they earnestly considered the things I am sharing here and they got happy. Because they understand the reality of their experience. So they understand why they were depressed, and they understand how they can be happy instead.
Everyone who’s done it knows it works for everyone because mechanistically it’s so simple. And once they’ve used it a million times they are super sure about how it works. And you will be too. I encourage you: don’t trust me. Try it for two months. As much as you can, interrupt your thought patterns. Intentionally go to new places that are enjoyable. Welcome your daughter and really watch the movie. Get into it. Laugh. It’s super healthy for you. It’s a great way to face depression.
It’s a dark place where you are. I respect that. And it’s possible to look at it with jaded eyes, half-try and choose 10 more years of sadness. But that’s a choice my friend. Change your thinking and you will change your life. We’re a hyper-thinking culture. It’s the disease. Literally dis-ease. To not be at ease. And why aren’t we at ease? Because of our past? And what is our past to us today? It is only thoughts —memories we choose to replay in today’s time-frame. So the real question is, why choose such sad ones when you could be grateful for that loving daughter instead?
All the best. Big hug.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.