If someone has an anxiety-based form of depression they’ll often spend as much time as possible in bed, turtled away from others. Otherwise pleasant social situations will feel emotionally ‘heavy,’ and requests for our help from even our most treasured loved ones will feel thoroughly overwhelming. We can easily end up feeling guilty and worthlessness. It’s a terrible cycle.
When we’re in these states it makes logical sense that we feel alone and misunderstood. But it’s important for us to remember that our current internal psycho-logical reality does not translate to the larger world, or even to our own future selves.
Anyone in psychology, psychiatry, general counselling; or those of us from religious or philosophical mindfulness practices will have all heard people express this sense of alone-ness countless times because these feelings are a common part of human life.
The roughly 107 billion human beings that have ever lived all share the same four DNA letters, in almost identical locations, with all of us coded to produce certain proteins that combine to form all that we are. As different as we can seem, we are all stunningly the same.
Within those 107 billion lives, each of us uses the same essential set of systems to create and experience our own biochemistry. This is the only reason psychological drugs can have any effect –they are working at the level of the common systems we all share.
Each of these facts is what unites us in a powerful way with those around us. As this set of interviews illustrates, even ‘successful’ people live and work with the sorts of crippling feelings described above. But as these interviews also illustrate, there are ways to feel better even if our lifetimes have inadvertently taught us to habitually create darker feelings.
In the three cases in those interviews, what lead to people feeling better was when they realized a level of responsibility for how they felt. Rather than just feeling impacted by the feelings, they started to feel a sense of control over them. Drugs also helped in one case, but their common realization was they each felt they could have more control over how they felt.
David Alexander Robertson noted, “I was laying in bed, as I always did when I got home from work, and my wife came in and said I needed to get some groceries. I didn’t think I could do it. I felt like I was going to die. She told me that she couldn’t support the family all by herself. And she said, ‘How do you want to live?’ That was a really big turning point for me…. What’s helped me the most is to talk about it. ”
Alicia Elliott noted, “What happens with people who have family members with severe mental illness or with addictions is the idea of co-dependency. You are always wanting to take care of someone or put all of your energy into that. For me, my coping mechanism has always been to listen to other people’s problems, to ask them how they’re doing and to take care of them and not tell them anything about what’s going on with me.”
When we feel deeply depressed reaching out to others can feel counter-intuitive, which is why formerly depressed people often talk about having an epiphany that incited their shift to seek help. But we do not need an epiphany to get healthy –we can generate our own.
There is nothing stopping us from recognizing that our lives are short, there are beautiful experiences to be had, and that the sooner we feel better the sooner our experiences will become more positive and life-affirming.
Do not trap yourself under a blanket of thinking that leads you to feel isolated, lonely, anxious or depressed. Getting healthy can be easier, more enjoyable, and happen much faster than most people would ever assume possible. But as the examples above demonstrate, the first step toward feeling better is to believe that you can, and then reach out.
If you need help; call or write me or anyone else who has a track record of helping people find their health. You won’t get judgment here, you will be welcomed. There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing people awaken to the wonderful possibilities and remarkable strengths that exist within us all.
If you’re depressed or anxious, don’t sacrifice another day. Your new life is waiting to be lived, it only requires your presence.
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.