A person who is depressed will feel it necessary to hide their depression from the outside world. They put on a smile and soldier through the day. It’s possible that people who are around them on a day to day basis would never imagine they were depressed. People who feel depressed are masters at showing the outside world a sort of façade, a fake presentation of themselves. They laugh, put a smile on their face, put one foot in front of the other, participate, seem to be enjoying events, but they really are not. I speak from experience. I am a licensed psychotherapist and I suffer from major depressive disorder. I know from my own life and from the lives of countless people I have had in therapy that people who feel depressed lead lives of quiet desperation.
Many people with depression are so strong, they can feel absolutely numb and still function in the world. Part of the disorder is that they feel it is necessary to hide how they feel and it takes an incredible amount of effort from an already low well of energy reserves. It’s not that people who feel depressed are manipulative or secretive, it’s that they are not able to let anyone in, they are not able to show vulnerability or how low they really feel. They know that even if they did, it would frighten people. It frightens them. They don’t know what to do or where to turn for answers. Their world gets smaller and smaller as they use up their stored energy reserves trying to get through the day. The tunnel vision or blinders grow, but every once in a while they glance out of the side of those to assess how people are perceiving them. People who are depressed want to be perceived as strong. They worry about what others think of them.
People who are depressed don’t realize it at the time, but they begin to lose the presence of color in the world, music becomes irritating and annoying, and thoughts turn negative, whiny and unproductive. They fall into a self-made “pity party” and complain endlessly in their own heads. These are all symptoms of the disorder of depression; the hiding of their suffering from others, the need to deny their suffering to themselves, the loss of beauty and joy from their world, the negative thought patterns and the draining energy reserves.
Sometimes there is a triggering event, the death of a loved one, a divorce, a job lay-off, a move that turns into depression, but many times there is no one event that we can say “caused” the depression. Many times, it seems, from outside appearances, that the depressed person has a great life, has everything they need, everything anyone might ever want, sometimes life is okay or life is very, very good. The depressed person may have no reason or may have no trigger to be unhappy and yet they are. The depressed person is aware of that themselves and they mull that over asking themselves, “Why am I so unhappy? I have no reason to be unhappy what is wrong with me?” And that is the pervading thought, “what is wrong with me?” They feel something is wrong with them because they look around and other people are laughing openly, loving openly, enjoying life openly and they are thinking to themselves, “I don’t get it, I’m a smart capable person but I’m just barely functioning from day to day, soldiering on, putting one foot in front of the other, I’m not experiencing any joy in my life whatsoever. Everything’s a big burden, I’m so weighed down, it’s so heavy, I’m so stressed out, I’m so tired, why is it so hard, is this all there is to life, there’s got to be more than just this, I see other people enjoying themselves, why can’t I enjoy myself.” This is part of the negativity and self-doubt that plagues a person who is depressed.
This is really the inside world of a depressed person. They feel lost; they feel they have no connection to anything inside or outside themselves. I’ve heard it described as seeing a big spider web all around you that other people are a part of and they are enjoying life and you’re not a part of that web. You feel separate from it and you suffer for that, and a lot of times the one thing you can’t put your finger on is, why? And that is frustrating.
Well, I have good news for anyone suffering from depression. There has been a movement in the field of psychology since about 1998, where there has been an interest in researching the characteristics and lifestyles of naturally happy people. Before that, research was focused on people who were already diagnosed as mentally ill or mentally disordered. Scientists would study how they felt, what they thought, what they went through to try to understand the underlying biologic mechanism to develop medicines and theories of talk therapy to help people recover. Research shows that those cures haven’t been highly successful and led to scientists beginning to study naturally happy people. Scientists began to ask, what are the characteristics, the lifestyles, the habits that happy people practice that make them so happy? And can we teach that? As a result of this observation, there was an explosion of research, into joy, happiness and well-being and out of that research grew the field of positive psychology. I discovered positive psychology at about the same time I discovered the field of nutrition and research into the effects of nutrition on the brain and specifically on mood. I started using the techniques of positive psychology and nutrition in my own life and in the life of my clients with great success. Changes in diet, such as eating a healthy whole foods diet and taking the supplementation that I needed to feed my brain and affect neurotransmitters and hormones responsible for mood made tremendous positive differences.
Also practicing techniques from positive psychology such as gratitude, savoring, meditation, thought stopping, etc., affected the negative thinking patterns and replaced them with positive habits. With the help of my physician, I was able to gradually stop taking the psychotropic medications I was on. I now help my depressed clients do the same, working closely with their physicians. It is a rewarding life, full of purpose which is another clue to how to be happy. Even with good nutrition and positive psychology, you still need to have a strong, fulfilling purpose in life.
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