You know what? I get depressed. Every so often, I get down about things and I don’t want to get out of bed because it grips my mind so tightly. Now that that shocking tidbit is out in the open…You know what else? Chances are, you probably have those days every once in a while too. So, why do we hide our depression away from others and go to such great lengths to keep it a secret?
Recently, I began speaking with others about my own depression and the things that get me down. This is something that even a year ago would have been unthinkable for me. I used to hide away my emotions and all the turmoil, isolating when I’d get down about things and try to “fix” it all by myself with no help from friends or family. However, as a result of my yoga and meditation practice, I began to see how this was not the way to face things at all. I was accomplishing nothing by holding things in and, in fact, I was only making them worse. Through isolating, I was reaffirming in my mind that there was something “wrong” with me because I was depressed. I also led myself to believe that I was the only one who gets this way and that “normal” people don’t get depressed like this.
However, as I began to open up and speak freely with others about these things, I was amazed at how many of them would tell me they go through the same thing. In most cases, all the same symptoms, patterns, wants and needs were there. These conversations were enlightening and freeing because I saw clearly that even the most “together” people I know suffer from depression from time to time.
As things progressed, I began to wonder, “Why – if most of us suffer from some form of depression – do we not speak about it more freely?” Even with mildly depressed states, there seems to be deep stigma attached. It’s interesting that people speak very freely about anger but, when it comes to depression, we clam up. Usually, when we express anger, it’s done in a way that’s bound up with “should haves” and “would haves”; not in a way that’s asks for help from others about how we can better understand our anger and process through it effectively. It’s about power and control, so we have no problem at all expressing it freely. In our culture, however, expressing our depression connotes weakness and character flaws so we hold it all in. My guess is that it’s as simple as keeping up appearances. We don’t want anyone to know we’re down because, in our minds, it looks weak. It all boils down to our inability to allow anyone to see that all’s not right in our realm. We feel we must protect an image of strength and fortitude.
As I continued conversations about depression with others, it occurred to me that perhaps our collective depression is simply a natural, psychological response to the world at large. When we look at the world and see all the war, political scandal, starvation, disease, poverty, domestic abuse, hatred, greed, etc, perhaps it’s absolutely appropriate that we are depressed about it. That response clearly indicates that we care about the world around us and that we should, in fact, be dissatisfied with things as they are. So there is, in reality, nothing at all strange, taboo or weird about us. We’re simply following our Hearts in response to what can often times be a very scary, unjust and downright cruel world. The key is to not get caught up in the depression and wallow in it. Instead, we can recognize that we are going through it and actually turn it on its ear and utilize our depression to inspire us to create peaceful change in the world. I think it’s important that we find creative ways to transform our inevitable suffering into peaceful change. This is how the Buddha transformed all of samsara into the Path to enlightenment.
As we approach the Holidays – a time when many of us “traditionally” get depressed – I think clear, open and honest communication with friends and family is a major factor in understanding one’s depressed condition. Keeping it all bottled up will only lead to further isolation and inner lying. Nothing is solved. I also believe that if we felt freer to speak about these things there would be less medicating of such mental states. Granted, perhaps there are some cases of depression which warrant medication and I’m in no way suggesting that if you’re currently taking medication for depression that you discontinue taking it; not without a doctor’s approval. However, I do feel that many cases would be most effectively healed through communicating how we feel; speaking freely with our close friends and family.
I wrote this blog to let those out there who feel isolated, alone and scared know that you are not alone. I get down and depressed too and I’m here for you if you need to speak; not as a yoga teacher or a pseudo counselor but as a friend. Through open and honest communication, we can get through it and uplift one another; even laugh about our depression, which is especially healing. Speaking about it helps us to process through it and then we’re not apt to live through that particular depressed state again. In essence, through communicating we free ourselves of that bit of negative karma. Bottling it up, it will fall deep into the recesses of the mind but, eventually, it will arise again and there we’ll be, right back at square one. It’s there to be lived through and truly experienced. Depression is a lesson through which we can learn great things; gaining deep insight into our selves and the ways in which we view the world around us. It’s all practice.
May each and every one of you be Well, Happy and Peaceful : )