Listen to Al as you read along
Question: My wife believes I am depressed and wants me to see a counselor. I told her that I am not depressed and would never tell my problems to a stranger and especially not pay someone to listen to my problems. What is depression and what causes some people to get depressed?
Depression is a common human experience, no more common now than at any other time. People have always reacted to loss and a sense of hopelessness by feeling down and depressed. Also people have always felt a little ashamed of being depressed and have a tendency to deny it and conceal it. In this discussion I would like to define depression, discuss the danger of not confronting it and talk about solutions.
What is Depression?
When people are depressed, they often think and feel that “no one feels the way I do”. We ask, “Why am I so sad and why can’t I get over this”; “Why did this happen to me”;
“Where is the light at the end of this tunnel”? Let’s talk about depression, its definition, dangers and solutions.
Depression is the down feeling that comes from losing hope that life will be good for us in the future. Hope can be defined as a belief that life will go well with us and we will receive what we want in the future. Hope is confidence about the future. When we stop believing that our future will be good and believe that our future holds nothing but disappointment, we go into a depressed state.
Reaction to Loss Leads to Depression
Life includes loss, without exception. All of us experience the loss of something at some point. We lose a job, financial ability, health, a marriage, a loved one and so on. There is no way to avoid the experience of loss. It is what we decide to believe about loss when it occurs that determines how well we handle it. If we tell ourselves that we can do well in spite of what we have lost, then we can be hopeful even tough we will grieve and feel sad for a while. If we tell ourselves that we simply cannot live without what we have lost or that nothing can replace our loss, we will lose hope about the future and even want to stop living. All of us feel sad over losses and sometimes for an extended period, but without sinking into a depression. We sink into depression because we tell ourselves a lie, the lie that life can never be good again because of whom/what we have lost.
Physical Aspects of Depression
Long-term stress experienced as consistent anxiety causes damage to the receptors in the brain. When brain receptors are damaged they are unable to properly process the neurotransmitters that the brain produces to make us feel good and hopeful. Long-term depression can partly be blamed on damaged brain receptors and the inability to process the chemicals the brain uses to produce hopeful thoughts. When the brain is not functioning at its best, it can be very difficult to pull out of a clinical depression. The medical profession has created antidepressant medications that are intended to help correct damaged brain receptors so that the depressed can rethink their situations. This discussion is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of medications, only a statement of information to help us understand the physical side to depression.
Dangers of Depression
Depression robs us of the happiness that we can have in life. Depression is a result of mishandling loss by believing negative sayings about the future and failing to believe positive images about the future. Many people who suffer from depression feel ashamed of it and believe the lie that tells them that only the weakest of us get depressed. Those who feel ashamed of being depressed try to keep it a secret so that their weakness won’t be exposed. Shame about depression only adds to depression and secrecy to hide weakness cuts us off from the help we desperately need. When depression is kept secret it increases and intensifies feelings of shame and hopelessness. The brain becomes overloaded and we sink into a deeper hole within our own hearts. We can live for years with a low-grade depression that hinders our ability to manage our responsibilities and causes us to miss the opportunities to enjoy the pleasures life has for our lives. It is difficult to function as a good mate or parent when we are depressed and trying to hide it. In the most extreme cases, deep depression leads to suicide, the ultimate harm to family and loved ones.
Depression begins as a belief problem that can become a physical problem. The ultimate solution is to change the negative beliefs that evoked the depression and replace it with more positive sayings and images about the future. When we experience loss and decide to believe that our future is going to be filled with nothing but more and more loss, it turns into depression. If we could go back and rethink that decision, we could erase depression. If we could learn to interpret loss according to positive potential, we could avoid depression in the future. So, if you are hearing this and stuck in depression, let me offer you some suggestions that will help you come out of it.
- Realize that many, many people suffer from depression, that it is nothing to be ashamed of and cannot be overcome by keeping it hidden.
- It is not just the weak who get depressed. It is possible that everyone experiences some level of depression at some time in their lives.
- Your efforts to keep it hidden are not as successful as you think anyway.
Tell someone you think will care, what you are feeling and suffering.
Seek professional counseling from a counselor trained to deal with depression
Experienced counselors understand depression, its causes and solutions
Trained counselors have tried and effective methods to help you rethink your life.
Ask your counselor or medical professional about medications.
In some cases, I believe antidepressants can help you come out of depression.
Antidepressants have a short-term function, not a permanent use.
Read and learn about inner dialoguing and the processes we use to think.
Depression is caused by telling ourselves messages of doom and hopelessness
Depression is caused by visualizing scenarios of doom and hopelessness.
Changing our inner experience by choosing to say and see different messages will change the way we feel within and even our view of the future.
Professional counselors can help you understand how to talk to yourself.
My final suggestion is one that I use in my own life to keep me on a positive track. I believe in God and trust what God has said in the bible to help me see a positive future. If you have found God for yourself or think it is time for you to make things right with God, there are links in this website that discuss how to go about entering a relationship with God. My prayers are with you.
Depression, from a Spiritual Perspective