The ideas here are primarily those of Steve Hein and are based on a combination of research and over 15 years of direct experience in youth suicide prevention.
|Depression as a
Depression may be thought of as secondary emotion. This means that there are other feelings which contribute to and cause it.
For example, one might feel alone, lonely, rejected, discouraged, loss, grief, unfulfilled, disconnected, uninspired, invalidated, used, abused, unproductive, unaccomplished, uncertain, misunderstood, pessimistic, powerless, etc. Together, all of these feelings drain our energy, kill our motivation.
|The Value of
Identifying Specific Feelings
When depressed, or preferably before, it helps to isolate each specific feeling which contributes to the over-all loss of motivation and energy. When the specific feelings are identified, you have more information to work with. From this information you will be better prepared to take action or least think about a plan to address each specific negative feeling individually. With each specific negative feeling, ask yourself, "What would help me feel less (lonely, unproductive, discouraged)"?
|Helpful Questions to
Here are some questions which might help you if you are trying to understand your own depression:
Then ask yourself:
Taking your feelings one by one helps you feel less overwhelmed. And it helps you identify you emotional needs. When you feel better in just one area, it helps you feel more capable of handling the other negative feelings.
Sometimes when someone is depressed and not talking people will say, "What are you thinking?" For many people, this is not a helpful question. When they are depressed it is too hard to answer that question.
When you are depressed your energy level is very, very low. To explain what you are thinking may take take too much additional energy.
That is why it is better to ask someone how they are feeling. There is a chance that they can find one word to summarize how they are feeling, or one word to tell you the main feeling. For example, they might say, "Alone." If they see that you accept how they feel, and you don't invalidate their feeling, they may feel a bit more understood. This could help give the a small emotional boost and be a start to helping them talk.
Or if it is too difficult for them to say anything you might get them some paper and a pen, or colored markers.
Or you might show them a copy of the common negative feelings and ask them to just circle the ones they are feeling.
One of the keys to helping someone who is extremely depressed and not talking is not to ask them to do anything which requires a lot of effort, or even any effort. As mentioned above, asking them to tell you what they are thinking is probably something which requires a lot of effort at that moment. Also, if you ask them what they are thinking, they might feel pressured to say something and since they can't, they only feel worse and less understood. If you get frustrated with them they will feel disapproved of on top of everything else. When someone is depressed, mostly they need to know someone cares about them and won't reject or abandon them. If they are asked what they are thinking, and they can't reply at that moment, or if they asked, or told to do anything which they can't do they may be afraid of your rejection or disapproval, which is causing even more discomfort for them.
You might ask something like, "Are you afraid of telling me what you are thinking or how you are feeling?" They might say yes. Or they might say nothing. Here is a case story:
- Don't tell depressed people what you think. If they tell you something, don't disagree. Just listen.
- If they have an idea, don't discourage it. Just listen.
- Don't try to explain anything. Just listen and let them come up with their own explanations. If they want to hear your opinion about something, they will probably ask you, but even then try to keep it short and let them talk more than you.
- Don't say things like
The problem with all of these is that it puts you in a position of providing explanations instead of them. When you explain something, it gives you a bit more authority or power in a relationship, yet depressed people usually already are feeling somewhat powerless. So it would be better to help them find their own explanations. This also helps them feel a bit less dependent on someone else.
- Don't tell them what you think before you tell them how you feel. Or maybe, don't tell them what you think at all.
- Help them feel in control and cared about.
- Give them some control by asking things like "Is it okay if I stay here?"
- Show them that you care by staying with them, if that is okay with them.
- If you need to leave, tell them where you are going and when you will be back so they won't feel abandoned. If possible, ask them if it is okay if you go before you leave..
- Ask if you can sit next to them. If they can't talk ask if they could give you some signal for a yes or a no answer such as showing one or two fingers. Or if they would like you to take their hand, ask them to squeeze it once for yes and twice for no. The more in control they feel, the safer they will feel and the less pain.
- If they can't move or talk or express anything, tell them how you feel, if it is not something negative. Show acceptance, caring, understanding, patience.
- Try to reduce their fears you will abandon them.
- Do not betray their trust.
|Nature's Purpose for
Depression has a natural purpose and survival value for the human species. It causes us to slow down and rest. This provides us with an opportunity to think. If we use this as an opportunity to reflect on why we are depressed, and to identify our unmet emotional needs, we can start to get some insight into what changes we need to make in our own individual lives, and in society as a whole.
Medication, Cause and Effect and Society
Here is a reply to a reader's question:
Here is a quote from the Neogenisis site about depression and learned helplessness
It is hard to be depressed and in action at the same time.
(There are two sides to this. One is positive in the sense that if you need temporary relief from depression it might help to get busy doing something, such as cleaning the house, going for a walk or bike ride. But action is not a permanant solution because it does not address the cause of the depressive feelings. Some people use activity to avoid facing the causes of their depression and to avoid allowing themselves time to feel. In the long term, merely being active and even productive does not fill the required unmet emotional needs.)
For me, depression is a sign of not dealing honestly with my problems.
(This quote is by Patrick Wakeling's and comes from his chapter in the book Wounded Healers by Vicky Rippere and Ruth Williams)
Most depressed people think a lot. And they have a lot to say. But for too many years no one has listened to them.
Most depressed people are also intelligent, both intellectually and emotionally.
|Advice or commands from
"well-meaning friends and family for him to 'snap
out of it' provide only frustration for he can no more
"snap out of it" than the diabetic can will his
pancreas to produce more insulin.
Also, the depressed person will then feel more alone and less understood.
First quote from depression.about.com/cs/amidepressed/a/sadness.htm
|The Right to Feel Bad, Leslie
Note from EQI - Hazelton uses the term the "right" to feel bad. It might be also be helpful to say there is a natural and evolutionary "need" or "purpose" for feeling bad or depressed.
Feeling good is no longer simply a right, but a social and personal duty. We have become convinced that if we do not feel good, we are at fault - weak or ill, dysfunctional or wrong. The right to feel good has been exaggerated out of all proportion - to the extent that we now have to reclaim the right to feel bad.
We have to reclaim the right to the whole range of feeling, including the right to mourn the vast range of loss that we are prey to. This is the right to react as human beings instead of as automatons who keep to the one path of happiness with grim determination, ignoring the realities of their lives.
It occured to me that if I could write down how I felt, I might even be able to write it out of me. I turned, went home, and wrote all night and into the morning, then went to bed and slept the first really restful sleep in weeks.
Some months later I read through those impassioned notes for the first time. I began to trace what I could not see at the time - the pattern and the logic behind my depression. Tentatively, since the subject was still shameful, I began to talk to others about it, and that was the first time that I realized I was not alone, that almost everybody knew these same feelings firsthand. That relaxation determined me to write this book.
Chapter 2-4 of this book look at what has been done to depression - the numerous ways in which it has been stigmatized and invalidated, and the vast number of ways in which we have been persuaded that to feel bad at all is unacceptable. This means looking at the social and psychiatric pressures which have tried to determine how we should feel while ignoring the yawning gap between their "shoulds" and our reality.
Chapters 5-8 take a close look at the experience of depression itself, at what really happens in depression and why. This means exploring it not as an illness or malfunction, but as a healthy reaction to various kinds of loss and to the very real problem of existing in a complex and difficult world. Depression can then be seen not as a waste of time, but as a valuable process in which we think about the terms on which we exist, reexamine our values and our selves, and find the way to a renewed sense of purpose and meaning. Without such times, we would be the lesser people.
Chapters 9-11 explore ways in which we can come to terms with depression - accepting it, tolerating it, facing it without fear, and thus giving it a chance to fulfill its role in our lives. No magic pill will do the work for us. The new antidepressant drugs, though effective in severe depression, are of questionable use in normal depression. And though other drugs can be used to escape awareness, they also limit us as human beings.
To be fully alive means to experience the full range of emotions, to struggle with the downs as well as to enjoy the ups. Life is certainly difficult and even unpredictable - full of meaning and purpose at one time and utterly meaningless and purposeless at another; sometimes so desirable that we wish to freeze it at a certain point and remain there forever, and at other times so undesirable that we may find ourselves wishing we had never been born. But it also has it own dynamic. There is no real happiness without the experience of depression to balance it. If we are not capable of depression, we are not capable of happiness either. In a very real sense, depression keeps us alive.
Instead of fleeing it, then, we need to shed our shame and terror and see depression for what it is - not an ogre or enemy, but an integral part of life itself.
|Some Journal Notes by Steve H.
- We can learn from depressed people
- We can learn from depression
- A teen once said "Depression makes you think about important questions"
.- When I am depressed, I sleep. Sleeping restores my energy. I need un-interrupted sleep without anyone forcing me to do something else, or invalidating me. But depressed teenagers don't have the freedom to sleep. To rest. To think. They are ordered to get out of bed. Told to "cheer up", go to school, smile. Thus they don't have time to heal from whatever it was that depressed them. Depression comes from emotional wounds, emotional pain. Time and sleep can heal those wounds naturally if people don't interrupt the process, and if the person hasn't been taught to think self-destructively.
- Teenagers also don't have enough privacy. There is almost no privacy in schools. Many teens I have known tell me they go cry in the bathroom, but I have heard that in the USA teens are now being followed to the bathroom by an adult who waits outside and will come in after them if the adults think they are taking too long.