The First Courageous Step

Written by: Meaghan Heighway, LMHC-P

 

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

 

Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend when you had the passing thought, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me”?  This question comes across as cynical at first, but let’s pick it apart.  What are we really saying, when we contemplate this?  Maybe what we’re truly meaning is closer to, “I have parts of myself that are not always smiling.  Parts that are exhausted, trudging through my to-do list.  I sometimes snap at people I love, and don’t have time to keep up my hobbies.  I’m not fun to be around.  If I were to really show you what I feel inside, I think I would lose your friendship.”

Here’s a fact: we’ve all had moments like that…Moments or hours or days or even weeks when we’ve felt like we don’t have enough resources to keep going.  It’s normal, and while that may be an odd form of comfort, it’s also a disturbing idea.  Who wants to think about being sad?  No one!  Life’s short, eat dessert first and don’t focus on the bad stuff.  But consider: if being sad or frustrated or over whelmed is something everyone experiences at some point, why don’t we talk about it more?

What are some signs to consider if you or someone you love is feeling blue? Consider what is going on in life right now – has a major change occurred (moving, a marriage or divorce, birth or adopting a child, starting a new school year or a new school, surgery or a hospitalization, a sudden or chronic illness or disability, a significant loss, etc.)?  All of these major changes can be catalysts for feeling sad, because they ask resources of us that we might not be able to give.  Also consider some warning signals: loss of interest in things that were once enjoyed; a sense of hopelessness or apathy; significant weight loss or gain; inability to sleep, or sleeping too much; etc.  It may be hard at first to discern if someone we know is going through something like this, but you might be surprised at the relief you’re extending to them by gently inquiring.  Try something like, “I noticed you’ve stopped coming to our book club lately – we miss you!  I know your schedule is really packed right now, but I wondered if you were doing okay with everything.  How has life been going?”  Even if they brush you off, consider asking again at a later date.  Sometimes the best gift you can give someone is your attention and empathy.

My guess for why we don’t speak about this thing called depression more often, is because we’re scared.  Scared that if we make the decision to look more closely at what keeps us up at 3 AM or leaves us feeling drained and lethargic, we wouldn’t like what we found.  We’re scared of… what?  The unknown, the possibility that the chance that admitting depression is to admit we’re crazy or the possibility that.someone we love dearly is depressed.  Yes, admitting our feelings that we or someone we love might be wrestling with depression is a very frightening thing.  But it does not mean that craziness is even in the picture – rather, it means that we’re choosing to take that first courageous step towards change and a better life.  To feel depressed does not mean that the person experiencing it is weak, lazy, selfish, or crazy.  On the contrary, to admit that we’re wrestling with it or know someone who is, is choosing to make that first daring leap into a new way of perceiving life, and is the most courageous thing we could ever do.

 

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is intended to educate, inform and entertain. This does not represent psychotherapy, therapeutic assessment, or any other form of therapeutic intervention. This should not be used as a substitute for consultation and treatment with a licensed mental health professional. If you have questions related to the material contained in this site please contact CCM or a licensed mental health professional of your choice.

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