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Depression Treatment

What is depression?

Depression is a state of consciousness where you experience hopelessness and despair, among many other symptoms. (Click here to read the DSM’s criteria for depression.) It can feel like many things to different people, but overall there’s a distinct sense of disconnection between you and the rest of the world.

In his book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, Andrew Solomon offers that depression is best described metaphorically. Rachel Maddow, who struggles with chronic depression, explains her metaphor for it to Terry Gross on Fresh Air: “When you are depressed, it’s like the rest of the world is the mothership and you’re out there on a little pod and your line gets cut, and you just don’t connect with anything, you sort of – you sort of disappear.”

Click on the box below to watch an informative video about depression:

What causes depression

Your depression is caused by believing and buying into a story about you that is simply not true. This story is typically around you being a failure and a worthless person. This story attacks your very personhood; it seeks to define you as something wasteful. Your depression can be relentless in using anything and everything as evidence to give credence that this story is true.

This evidence can be anything from someone not commenting on your Facebook post, or the way you see the barista at the coffee shop look at you, or how you haven’t completed X, Y, or Z. This story pulls in all the ways in which it has said that you have failed and then weaves them all together into a tapestry that spells out what a sham you are and how you might as well just disappear.

Even though this story feels real and true, it is false.

Sometimes depression can arise because of some past trauma that you’ve experienced. Click here to read more about how unresolved trauma might be negatively affecting your life. Sometimes resolving the trauma can immediately help with depression.

Also, if you have experienced a significant loss in your life, the resulting grief can look a lot like depression. Getting support in processing the grief can typically help the depression move on.

What depression feels like and how it is different from anxiety

Depression and anxiety are both similar in how they can hold you back from living your life fully. However, depression is felt in a very different way than anxiety. Depression can feel like you are a tire and someone let all the air out. It can feel like you are stuck inside the belly of whale with no way out. It can feel like you are pure garbage and need to be burned.

The symptoms of depression are many: experiencing lack of appetite, not wanting to be sexual, sleeping too much, sleeping too little, crying constantly, feeling highly irritable and angry, feeling pervasive hopelessness, not caring about much of anything, struggling to be social, having little to no motivation, and/or feeling overwhelmed by shame.

Different types of depression

Different types of depression

  • dysthymia
  • chronic depression
  • postpartum depression
  • situational depression
  • manic depression
  • major depression
  • depression from seasonal affective disorder
  • depression in men
  • depression in women
  • psychotic depression
  • premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • depressive personality disorder
  • depression from menopause
  • depression and suicide

3 ways to overcome depression on your own

3 ways to overcome depression on your own

1. Practice mindfulness

To best understand your depression, it can be helpful to employ mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you to explore the subtle feelings and thoughts associated with your depression. Without this important tool, you can quickly and easily get swallowed up by the overall story that your depression is telling you. This story is typically about what a failure or waste you are. Unchecked by mindfulness, this painful story can feel very real and true.

Mindfulness guards against that from happening because it uses curiosity. It simultaneously creates distance between you and the story and yet also brings you closer to it. With mindfulness, nothing is too big for it be aware of. Stated another way, mindfulness has the potential to bring awareness to everything you experience.

Start by learning about what mindfulness is and how it can help you, then begin practicing it. If you do well with structure and group support, consider taking a class in the Portland area with mindfulness-educator Laura Martin. She is excellent. Otherwise, there are many resources on this website and online in general that can help you start a mindfulness practice today.

2. What’s the metaphor & story for your depression?

Next, start to investigate what’s the chief metaphor that captures the essence of your depression? If your depression was an animal, what would it be? If it were a landscape or a force of nature, what would it look like? If it were a character from a movie or a book, who would it be? Pick one and begin to see your depression as that metaphor.

Begin to inquire within about what’s the core story that your depression persuades you into believing? Take out a piece of paper and give your depression a voice. Use the prompt, “My depression wants me to believe that …”  Remember, you’re doing this to gain distance, perspective, and ultimately power over your depression. As you let your depression write it’s story about you, notice just how compelling it is.

This writing exercise will only work if some other part of you doesn’t believe the story depression is telling you.

NOTE: If this exercise makes your depressed symptoms worse, then stop immediately and consider getting professional help for your depression.

3. Track your depression

Become an expert tracker of the signs of your depression. Really start to notice when it shows up and, most importantly, how it shows up. What’s that initial thought that invites your depression in to tell it’s grand story about how you suck? What immediately starts to happen in your body the moment the thought and the story are bought into and believed? Does your energy immediately seep out of you through belly? Does your heart just fold up and disappear? Does your stomach turn into nausea? Do you become numb everywhere?

Whatever your experience is, welcome it with curious awareness so that you can study it without buying into it. That’s the trick.

3 ways to overcome depression with help

3 ways to overcome depression with help

At some point, you might find that you can’t seem to overcome depression all on your own, despite your best efforts. If you are unable to do any of the above 3 steps without feeling worse, then that means you need help.

If you have any thoughts and/or a plan of hurting or killing yourself, then it is crucial you get help immediately: Call the Multnomah County Crisis Line at (503) 988-4888.

Of course, your depression will have something to say about you needing help. What is it? Notice it right away. Maybe it says something like, “Only lousy, good-for-nothing people get help … you should be able to do it on your own.”

→ The exact opposite is true: Getting help is an act of bravery. It takes a lot of courage to face your fears and get the help you need.

1. Talk to family & friends

The first step to getting help might be just to have a candid conversation with your partner or a close friend about how you struggle with depression. You’d be surprised just how helpful it is sometimes to simply name your difficult experience as the word “depression” in front of someone who care about you. When you name something, you have some power over it.

Also, you might feel a little relieved to have your partner or a close friend hear you name it as depression. This is because you no longer have a secret thing that you’re hiding from the world.

Talking with others about your depression takes some of the shame away because other people know and can then relate to your experience. When you keep your depression a secret, then it contributes to the isolation and hopelessness.

2. Make an appointment with a counselor

The next step to getting help could be reaching out to a trained counselor. Individual counseling can be invaluable in helping you address the immediate symptoms of your depression as well as support you in exploring the underlying reasons.

Click here to find out if individual therapy is right for you. And click here to learn how individual therapy works. Or, if you’re a male, consider joining our Men’s Process Group to get support about your depression.

3. Consider medication for additional support

Finally, help might be in the form of psycho-therapeutic medication. You might be categorically opposed to it or open to it or somewhere in between. Medication can sometimes be a supportive bridge to help you navigate through a tricky time of your life. Contrary to what many people believe, medication isn’t something you take the rest of your life. There are few mental health conditions in which that may be the case. When seeking medication help, it’s usually best to see a medication prescriber who specializes in mental health matters, like a Primary Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), a Psychiatrist, or a Naturopathic doctor who focuses on mental health issues. Please see a list of referrals by clicking here.

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