Each year I am surprised when the light comes back. I noticed just the other day. It was 6:00 , there was a warm breeze and this magical quality to the light. And then I realized there was light, that was the magic. Now I know intellectually that each day after December 21st the days grow incrementally lighter and longer. But every year I am surprised. Why? Because each year there is a fear that this will be the year when the darkness does not recede. This is a lot like feeling depressed. You know intellectually that there will be a time when you will not feel this way but it feels as if the darkness will never recede.
As the world around us lightens, literally, it can be extremely hard to feel dark on the inside. The contrast to the colorful flowers popping their heads through the ground, and everyone walking around with giddy smiles on their faces can be a lot to bear when you are hurting. My dad once said, “I prefer a good winter, spring is a gaudy, show off, with all of it’s colors and smells.” The truth is we need both. The light and the dark. The winter and the spring. Here are some points to consider while making this transition.
Disease: If you are depressed or unsure if you are, seek the professional help of a Psychotherapist and a Psychiatrist. Why? Because Depression is serious and something that you cannot expect yourself to handle on your own. Most of us who have been depressed did not arrive there by ourselves. Whether we had the loss of someone dear to us, or the divorce or breakup of an important relationship, are dealing with the abusive wars of our childhoods, or chemicals have aligned in our bodies in a way that creates great, literal depression, or some combination, we did not arrive here alone therefor it is not fair to ourselves to think that we can “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and lift ourselves up and out. At best we are going to get really bad leather burn from too much resistance to that pulling. This is serious but manageable with the help of a professional. If someone had a serious disease you would never say to them, “Aww, come on, you can get better, just try harder.”
Sadness: Sadness is not depression. Sadness is a feeling. A feeling that we feel during a depression. Depression is a state of mind and body. The difference is that we can feel great sadness without actually being depressed.
Temporary: For most people sadness and depression are temporary. Even if the depression is chemical when you and it are treated appropriately the actual depression can be temporary. This is important because it so often feels like it will never end which is one of the reasons it is so painful. When we think to ourselves this is temporary it is easier to accept how we are feeling.
Acceptance: For many people feeling sad or being depressed feels shameful. There is a great deal of beating up of yourself that goes on about feeling this way. We need to feel this way sometimes. I am not saying that if you feel this way that you shouldn’t seek help, but that it is normal as a human being to go through transitions. We change. And sometimes these changes come through a great sadness or depression. As a therapist I look at this as “there is work to do here”. Acceptance makes that work easier to do. Without resistance we move through the experience we are having to the other side of what we need to learn from it.
How do I know if I am depressed? Is each day like walking through water? A struggle to get up to do everything and anything? Your body and every function actually feels depressed. I always say that depression is not a feeling it is a physical and emotional condition. There are all different kinds of depressions: Short term, long-term, low-grade, situational, bereavement to name a few. Have you felt like this all day, more days than not for more than two weeks? If so seek help.
Avoidance: Not all sadness and depression look sad. Sometimes it comes in the form of a great deal of activity. The person who never stops moving. Who is always doing for everyone but never for themselves. Especially if this is on the heals of a great loss of some kind this can be the avoidance of really difficult feelings. Now I am not saying don’t be a giving person. What I am saying is set aside some time to be with your own feelings. And don’t tell me you can’t. I know you have kids or an extremely important job. Things to take care of. All I am suggesting is that you are one of those things to take care of.
Darkness: We all need a little darkness. It is what adds literal depth to us. If you think of bright orange, without darkness we would never have the burnt sienna of the sun setting. As the days darkened all over our country our days became shorter. In the west people came in earlier from their day, spending time on their own and with friends and family. In the east we escaped the mounds of snow at first gratefully cabined in and then by what we hope is the last snow storm, feverishly cabined in. This is the time during which we take stock of ourselves. It is a natural coming in. Sometimes that is painful, but whatever it is it is not without learning. We need that rest and time to prepare us for the Spring.
Spring is here. And we hope we are saying goodbye to the darkness for good, or at least for this year. Someone once said at a celebration that I attended, “It is not the darkness that we are scared of but the light. It is not the failing that we are scared of but the success.” It is hard sometimes to believe that we should take up room. We are so scared of stepping on other people’s success that we sometimes don’t allow ourselves to stretch our arms out and be successful. Go ahead now. Stretch your arms. Be successful at whatever you put your mind to: Gardener, mother, reader, writer, construction worker, baseball player. And consider your successes carefully. Your doing being your success. There is enough room for all of us in this gradually enlightening world.
A word from the Tao Te Ching (loosely translated):
“All life embodies Yin(dark) and embraces Yang(light), through their union achieving harmony.”
-Tao 42, Lao Tzu – Founder of Taoism(570-490 BC)
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(c) Cori Grachek,: February, 2010
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Psychobabble4u signing off:)
(c) Cori Grachek,: February, 2010
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