About a month ago, I put in a new faucet. Our old one was leaky, old, crusted over, and the dripping, dripping, dripping was torture to my ears. Imagine trying to sit and write something brilliant with that going on in the background every 1.7 seconds?
Finally, I took it upon myself to take care of it. I thought I’d suffered enough with this thing, more misery than it was worth hoping something would happen. Since my husband wasn’t too enthused, I decided I’d tackle it myself. I was going to “fix” my faucet. I did get the right parts at the store, wrestled with the old faucet for a while, and finally got the thing working.
What pride I had in doing it myself! I was reluctant even to ask help from my husband after a while when I was stuck on the last piece — yes, the last stinking piece before I could turn it on. I stuck to my resolve and found a way out of my pickle. Truly, this was something I had fixed on my own, top to bottom, inside and out.
While that worked out pretty well for my faucet, that approach didn’t work so well for my depression years ago. For starters, I didn’t even realize the miry bog of despair and anxiety was a significant treatable problem. I thought it was normal after your life turns upside down as a new parent. And guess what — I’m the professional you’re supposed to call in these kinds of things. I’m a therapist and I was still bamboozled by depression.
I told myself every which way ’til Sunday that this was something I could beat, something I could get over. It would change when this thing would happen. Once my daughter was this old, all that stress would be gone and things would be good. Or if I just try to “do better” or “be better” at this working mother and wife thing, I’d feel much better. Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. Not even barking up the right tree.
It would be like me trying to figure out how I could argue with the city utilities office to make the flow of water into our house slow down. We’re paying too much for our water for some reason and the inside of my sink keeps getting wet when I’m not using it, so it must be something with the city pipes or the water supply. And if we could just quit washing our dishes, we could get rid of the sink so it wouldn’t get wet anymore. Maybe we didn’t need any water to our house. Yes, what a solution that would be.
The other problem with my self-help approach to depression is that I was looking for a fix. Here’s the truth of the matter — depression can’t be fixed. Nope, working through depression requires a process. That’s layers of awareness, understanding, challenging, accepting, persevering, reaching out, and doing it all over again.
So maybe a bad mood on a Saturday afternoon is a self-help fix job for yourself — much like replacing your own kitchen faucet. Months or years of depression including weight changes, lost sleep, no motivation, lack of energy, no enjoyment of life, and some scary thoughts about living one more day – no, this job requires professional help. This is going behind the walls to replace all the worn out pipe attachments, rusted pipe sections, checking each and every faucet, and monitoring everything to keep the whole system working smoothly.
So if you know that you have a history of depression or if any of the above symptoms sound familiar, you need to ask yourself a question. Is this really a self-help job, or do you need to call a professional?