The first time a therapist told me I had depression, I was all, “DON’T YOU PUT THAT EVIL ON ME, RICKY BOBBY!” because that was a long time ago when Talladega Nights was cool, because I get weird in awkward situations, and because I already had enough problems- I didn’t want to add depression to the list.
But Nancy didn’t seem to get the movie reference because she was insufferably lame. And to be honest, she probably couldn’t hear me clearly through the irrational sobbing that I had been doing for the last hour. So maybe she was right- maybe I was depressed.
I know it probably took you awhile to accept depression as a fact in your life as well. It’s a scary label to stick on yourself, but accepting there’s a problem is the first step to finding solutions to that problem.
Some people call this progress. And perhaps it is. But now we need to rework that progress, because if you ever want to leave depression behind for good, like absolutely leave it behind, you need to start understanding the concept of depression in a new way. It’s an understanding that gives you access to freedom in countless moments every day.
Some beliefs perpetuate depression
Once you’ve accepted “I have depression,” as a truth, once you believe yourself to be a depressed person, it’s easy to get trapped there indefinitely.
But depression should not be a life sentence.
If we don’t really have a clear picture of what freedom from depression means, we have no way to recognize when depression is gone or climb back out of the hole when it’s over. If you believe depression is an uncontrollable and mysterious dark force that hangs around you all the time, no matter what you do, then you can never be free again.
For example, if you believe you have depression, and you wake up tomorrow feeling great, you’ll see yourself as a depressed person having a good day.
But what if you have two good days, or six good days in a row? Are you just a depressed person having a good week? What if you have six good months followed by three bad days? Are you a depressed person with a good streak that just ended?
At what point will you allow yourself to be cured?
And some beliefs perpetuate freedom
The magic lies in shifting your perception of your life and feelings from an ongoing story you tell yourself to an experience of life moment by moment.
We all have an ongoing story that we tell ourselves about our life. We call it our identity. It’s all the things that you believe about who you are and where you’ve been, and all the things that have happened to you and why they happened. It’s a very convincing story that we get really attached to, but it’s just a story. It isn’t reality. It’s a compilation of images, memories, projections, and assumptions.
Reality, on the other hand, is this moment right now. Reality is you reading this article in this moment, and nothing else. Reality has no past, no future, and no identity. Reality doesn’t have a story, only an experience.
Depression is both a part of the story and a result of the story. “Depression” is a concept defined as a condition over time. That means it can only exist as part of your story. It can’t survive in the actual reality of each moment independently of your story. You can never be free of depression in the middle of a depression story, but you can sure as hell be free from depression in reality, in this actual moment, right now. Depression is an illness with a diagnosis based on your feelings. That means if you don’t feel depressed, then you can’t be depressed.
The truth is that you might find symptoms of depression in some moments. But you certainly don’t experience those symptoms in every moment. There are tons of moments every single day when you’re free from depression, because depression has no power over you when you aren’t actively thinking about it. In each moment you’re distracted by something else, you’re free.
Are you depressed while you’re sleeping? When you’re lost in a book? The moment you step on your kid’s Lego in the dark?
It’s easy to see how you can incidentally be free from depression when you aren’t paying attention to it, but you can also find freedom on purpose. Each time you choose to stop accepting depression as a given, and start asking what the truth about this moment is, you’re free.
So the next time you’re mind goes on autopilot and starts spitting out the thoughts, “I’m depressed. I’m trapped. I’m helpless,” you can press pause and realize that it’s just your mind on autopilot spitting out lines from your story.
And you can ask yourself what this moment really is. You can experience this moment independently of all the other moments that came before. Check in with your body. Feel the temperature of the air around you. Listen for what you can hear. Are you ok? Aren’t you ok in this moment without the weight of that story?
Then we find out what else is going on
Once this actual moment is free from your depression story, you can ask my favorite question, “what else?” What else am I? What else is happening in this moment? What else do I believe? What else do I feel?
Make a habit of this, and the power of the depression story will start to dwindle. You’ll start untangling reality (the experience of this actual moment) from your imagination (the story.) You’ll find over and over that the simple reality of this moment is contradictory to the scary and consuming story of depression that you believe in.
Your thoughts will change from, “I’m miserable. I’m trapped.” to “I’m sitting at my desk. I can hear raindrops falling outside. I can feel the warm air from the heat vent.”
Reality isn’t usually as dramatic and entertaining as the story, but it’s honest, and it leaves room for possibility and healing that the story would never allow.
When you pause and choose to look, you will find a million moments of freedom. And in that freedom you have the opportunity to untangle the thoughts and beliefs that brought you to depression in the first place.
So was that therapist right? Was I depressed back then? Likely.
Am I still depressed, right now? Nope, I’m a little peaceful, a little hungry, a little tired.
Can I be depressed ever again? Never. Because depression is dependent on a storyline about life that I don’t tell anymore.
What about you?
How is your experience of “being depressed” different from the moment to moment experience of real life? Let me know in the comments, and join me on Facebook or subscribe to the Winterbritt mailing list below for updates on new posts.
Thanks for reading,