We’ve all come to know the experience of the blues, being down, heartbreak, disappointment, sadness, or what some might even call depression. All too often the worst part of the experience isn’t even the sadness or the bad feelings themselves, but rather the way sadness is able to change the way we see ourselves, our past, and our hope for the future.
Depression may try to convince you that it holds the true assessment of your personality, weaknesses, and limitations. But before you become completely convinced by depression there are six important things you should know.
1. When depression enters your life, its main goal is to impact your identity.
Your identity is what is most meaningful to you, your talents, your character, what makes you uniquely you. Depression knows that this is the key to taking away the most hope and happiness from your life and keeping you under its thumb. Simply ruining your mood isn’t enough for depression; it aims to shake the core of how you see yourself.
2. Depression is a master manipulator.
It starts by discrediting your proud and good-feeling moments in your memory. It will insist that you didn’t really succeed when you thought you had, that you simply got lucky. You may think the compliment you just received wasn’t really genuine, that they were just being nice. It may even go as far as to say that your friends don’t really care about you and that you are totally alone. It will suggest that everyone else has this figured out and the fact that you don’t makes you a loser, a failure, unlovable, or any number of other things.
3. Depression doesn’t play fair.
Depression isn’t concerned with facts or even your opinions. Its agenda is to twist every experience into evidence that you are fatally flawed and to get you to question what you know to be of value about yourself.
It is as if you have been issued a pair of depression goggles that view yourself only according to depression’s skewed version of the events. It will bring up certain moments in your memory when life was at its worst for you, moments of loss, embarrassment, heartbreak, rejection and so on. It will suggest that these are in fact the most telling moments of who you are. You may find yourself thinking about a distant break up, that time you were passed up for a promotion, or a moment when you felt so very alone. These may even be memories or experiences you haven’t thought about for quite a long time, but depression is now keeping them fresh in your mind to try to dismantle your confidence in what you value most about yourself.
4. Try to spot your depression goggles.
Have you ever looked in the mirror one day and thought “Hey, I look pretty good” and the very next day thought, “Oh, I really need to lose some weight. I look awful, maybe I shouldn’t go out?” The situation really hasn’t changed on that second day, but viewed through depression goggles everything just looks worse, even hopeless. Start trying to notice when depression is attempting to take over your mood, your view of yourself, or is attempting to re-edit your life story. It takes some practice to even spot it, but it can be done.
Try to find even that tiny part of you that doesn’t entirely agree with depression’s conclusions about you. This is the part of you that wonders if depression might be wrong about you or the way it’s twisted the meaning of the events in your life. In fact, it’s probably that part of you that propelled you to read this article in hopes of improving your life. I ask you, this tiny part of you that doesn’t completely agree with depression’s ideas about you, what does it know about you that keeps you from being completely convinced by depression? Does it know that you have been through tough times before and made it through? Does it know that you have built relationships that will help you through this? Does it know that you have what it takes to carry on or even improve things?
Who in your life also knows these things you value most about yourself, a best friend, a special family member, co-worker, even a pet or treasured person from your life who has passed away? If I asked these special people in your life what they value most about you, or why they chose you to have a close relationship with, what might they say? Visiting with, speaking with, or even just thinking about how these special people would answer these questions helps to keep that spark alive and even start to give it a bit more impact on your mood, view of yourself, and life story.
5. Try your best to listen to that tiny part of you instead of depression.
Look for the moments when you might have a little distance from depression and try then to reconnect with that tiny part of you. These might be times when you are with someone you love, watching your favorite movie, snuggling with your pet, or taking a bubble bath. Any time you notice your mood is just a touch better and depression doesn’t have such a tight grip on you is an opportunity to reconnect to that tiny part of you.
Try thinking about what you can do to help keep that tiny part of you alive in spite of depression’s influence. Try writing down what is most meaningful and valuable to you, and what others see in you. Maybe keeping out a photo of that favorite aunt who always saw the best in you, or journaling about the decisions you have made in your life and why you stand by them will help tip the scales in your favor and away from depression. You could even write inspirational words on your mirror in lipstick. Get creative and find something that supports what you know and value about yourself.
6. No one but you can decide the meaning of your life and the value of your identity.
All so often depression will subtly and invisibly try to sneak its way into changing our opinions about ourselves. However, arming ourselves with the knowledge of depression’s tricks and tactics allows us to start to see depression’s influence upon us more clearly. Use this knowledge to spot when depression starts trying to whisper in your ear. Little by little you can begin to change the hold depression has on you.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Mar 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2011). Depression’s Secret Plan For Your Identity. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/10/05/depressions-secret-plan-for-your-identity/