getting through depression

when people ask me, “how do i get through this depression?”, one of the concerns behind this question is often:

“i’m overwhelmed by and afraid of the pain, effort and time that goes into dealing with this depression”

they usually already know that there are few quick-fix solutions. the way they phrase the question, “how do i get through this depression” shows that they see this as something that needs to be walked/worked/lived through. it also shows that they have hope – the idea of getting through something implies that there is an end to it.

it’s often a question of resources, then. the person who is depressed needs support and intelligent reassurance (not platitudes).

questions that can be asked are

“what would help you feel less overwhelmed?”
“what would you need to be able to withstand the pain?”
“what might help you get more energy?”
“is there something that you can take off your plate so that you can spend more getting strong and healthy again?”

it’s important to listen patiently for the answers, and to listen to them if and when they come. the answers may be very simple and straightforward, and may often be embedded in a negative statement, for example, “having to go see dr. smith every second day sure doesn’t help.”

a gentle and genuine offer to assist with that will not get the person out of the depression, but it may take a bit of a load off – what’s more, the person knows that they’re cared for.

i also often let my clients with depression know that generally, people do get through it. i don’t give them platitudes like, “don’t worry, you’ll be fine” or “jane miller did it and so can you.” but when the time feels right, i do tell them stories of people who’ve struggled with depression and somehow muddled through, coming out at the other end changed but still a whole person.

(this article has been included in the carnival of healing #99)  

isabella mori
moritherapy
counselling in vancouver

10 thoughts on “getting through depression

  1. Wally

    These are great questions. It’s a wonderful guide to break out of depression. I’m sure that it will help a lot of depressed people get back to their normal happy lives.

  2. Wally

    These are great questions. It’s a wonderful guide to break out of depression. I’m sure that it will help a lot of depressed people get back to their normal happy lives.

  3. Jan Karlsbjerg

    Alternative interpretation of the “how do I get through this depression” statement:

    For most other medical problems patients/ client/ whatever’s would ask “How do I get rid of this problem?”. But not so with depression. Maybe they know (or think they know) from experience that it’s not possible, and they have to wait it out. Maybe it is possible (maybe they’ve even done so themselves in the past), but in their current depressed state, they don’t imagine that it is.

  4. Jan Karlsbjerg

    Alternative interpretation of the “how do I get through this depression” statement:

    For most other medical problems patients/ client/ whatever’s would ask “How do I get rid of this problem?”. But not so with depression. Maybe they know (or think they know) from experience that it’s not possible, and they have to wait it out. Maybe it is possible (maybe they’ve even done so themselves in the past), but in their current depressed state, they don’t imagine that it is.

  5. isabella mori

    thanks, wally and jan.

    there will always be alternative interpretations 🙂

    when a depression occurs for the first time, “how do i get rid of it?” can definitely be a question, although it’s often directed at the symptons. more often than not, depression is recurring, and when it happens for the first time, it often shows up disguised. in such a situation, the person may want to get rid of insomnia, or tension headaches, or persistent low energy.

    and you’re right – when an individual is in a depressed state, an otherwise hopeful disposition might be completely clouded over.

    it’s interesting, too, that you use the word “imagine”. imagination, and particularly a positive imagination, can be severely crippled during depression.

  6. isabella mori

    thanks, wally and jan.

    there will always be alternative interpretations 🙂

    when a depression occurs for the first time, “how do i get rid of it?” can definitely be a question, although it’s often directed at the symptons. more often than not, depression is recurring, and when it happens for the first time, it often shows up disguised. in such a situation, the person may want to get rid of insomnia, or tension headaches, or persistent low energy.

    and you’re right – when an individual is in a depressed state, an otherwise hopeful disposition might be completely clouded over.

    it’s interesting, too, that you use the word “imagine”. imagination, and particularly a positive imagination, can be severely crippled during depression.

  7. Pat

    This is wonderful. These questions do help patients get the reassurance they need to cope up with their depression.

  8. Pat

    This is wonderful. These questions do help patients get the reassurance they need to cope up with their depression.

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  13. Amanda

    What a wonderful post! My sister, myself and a friend all suffered from depression of varying degrees whilst at uni and too often the response was simply “it’s just stress – everyone feels that way sometimes – you’ll get through it”. Realising that this doesn’t help when you’re feeling low is a major step in helping people and it’s good to be reminded of that!

  14. Amanda

    What a wonderful post! My sister, myself and a friend all suffered from depression of varying degrees whilst at uni and too often the response was simply “it’s just stress – everyone feels that way sometimes – you’ll get through it”. Realising that this doesn’t help when you’re feeling low is a major step in helping people and it’s good to be reminded of that!

  15. isabella mori

    amanda – “it’s just stress – everyone feels that way sometimes – you’ll get through it” – that’s one of the comments that i sometimes suspect are made more for the benefit of the commenter than for the benefit of the person who’s not feeling well.

    it must have been hard to experience depression with (because of?) the stress of writing papers, doing exams, etc. would you mind sharing one or two things that DID help you?

  16. isabella mori

    amanda – “it’s just stress – everyone feels that way sometimes – you’ll get through it” – that’s one of the comments that i sometimes suspect are made more for the benefit of the commenter than for the benefit of the person who’s not feeling well.

    it must have been hard to experience depression with (because of?) the stress of writing papers, doing exams, etc. would you mind sharing one or two things that DID help you?

  17. Amanda

    Hi Isabella – it was hard and the depression I personally experienced was partly due to the stress of uni and partly due to prolongued ill-health (hormone related) and terrible PMS.

    I personally found that a lot of my depression was due to feeling a complete lack of control so what really helped me was giving myself chance to take back control in areas of my life which I could. It didn’t get rid of my depression but it gave me more “up” times to help deal with the “low” periods.

    I took a position as an administrator on a spiritual message board and the owner put a lot of faith in my ability and I spent a lot of my free time there. I had many people (family included) telling me I spent far too much time online and took on far too much extra responsibility but as I kept trying to explain to them it was doing these things which made me feel good about myself and helped me. Even though they did put a bit more time-pressure on me at times I always had something to be proud of and look forward to.

    I also began learning about Reiki, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and took control of my diet… I even turned down anti-depressants when offered because for me it was a greater help to try and deal with it naturally and in my own way – control again! This all helped but it wasn’t until I began being completely honest with people about how I was feeling and began to allow myself to feel that way (instead of always feeling guilty about it) that I began to heal at a deeper level.

    Things are much better now but I still get affected by PMS related depression but I find it easier to cope with now I feel I have more control over other areas of my life.

    For me the biggest aspect of helping myself was learning to allow myself to feel whatever I was feeling and telling people “you know what? I feel really crappy right now and I just need you to be patient with me/leave me alone for a bit/sit and just talk to me for a while”.

    I agree with you completely when you say that a lot of the comments are made for the benefit of the commenter and a lot of that is due to them feeling uncomfortable or unsure of what to say. When my sister was diagnosed with depression and put on anti-depressants I didn’t know how to deal with it even though I’d been depressed myself and the hardest part was when I asked her what I could do to help and she didn’t know herself because I recognised that feeling but also experienced the lack of control from the other side of the situation. That’s why I try hard to let people know now what I need – though it is very hard sometimes!

    Sorry that is a really long comment, I hope you don’t mind! Thanks for asking me to share it was good to think back and realise how far I’d come!

  18. Amanda

    Hi Isabella – it was hard and the depression I personally experienced was partly due to the stress of uni and partly due to prolongued ill-health (hormone related) and terrible PMS.

    I personally found that a lot of my depression was due to feeling a complete lack of control so what really helped me was giving myself chance to take back control in areas of my life which I could. It didn’t get rid of my depression but it gave me more “up” times to help deal with the “low” periods.

    I took a position as an administrator on a spiritual message board and the owner put a lot of faith in my ability and I spent a lot of my free time there. I had many people (family included) telling me I spent far too much time online and took on far too much extra responsibility but as I kept trying to explain to them it was doing these things which made me feel good about myself and helped me. Even though they did put a bit more time-pressure on me at times I always had something to be proud of and look forward to.

    I also began learning about Reiki, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and took control of my diet… I even turned down anti-depressants when offered because for me it was a greater help to try and deal with it naturally and in my own way – control again! This all helped but it wasn’t until I began being completely honest with people about how I was feeling and began to allow myself to feel that way (instead of always feeling guilty about it) that I began to heal at a deeper level.

    Things are much better now but I still get affected by PMS related depression but I find it easier to cope with now I feel I have more control over other areas of my life.

    For me the biggest aspect of helping myself was learning to allow myself to feel whatever I was feeling and telling people “you know what? I feel really crappy right now and I just need you to be patient with me/leave me alone for a bit/sit and just talk to me for a while”.

    I agree with you completely when you say that a lot of the comments are made for the benefit of the commenter and a lot of that is due to them feeling uncomfortable or unsure of what to say. When my sister was diagnosed with depression and put on anti-depressants I didn’t know how to deal with it even though I’d been depressed myself and the hardest part was when I asked her what I could do to help and she didn’t know herself because I recognised that feeling but also experienced the lack of control from the other side of the situation. That’s why I try hard to let people know now what I need – though it is very hard sometimes!

    Sorry that is a really long comment, I hope you don’t mind! Thanks for asking me to share it was good to think back and realise how far I’d come!

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