Depression Doesn't Have to Be Permanent
Depression doesn't have to last forever. It truly is possible to recover and move on from this otherwise devastating condition. But it is vitally important, as you choose a recovery strategy, that you choose a course that leads to deep-down, permanent healing - not just day-by-day management of symptoms.
Though so many in today's world struggle for years or decades -- though depression has become the top reason for permanent disability -- it doesn't have to be that way. Even if you struggle with depression today, it doesn't mean you have to be under its power for the rest of your life.
Real healing doesn't occur from the outside in, as a passive result of external factors. It occurs from the inside out, as you actively learn and apply strategies that can transform your life, thoughts, habits, and destiny. How can you learn to tell the difference between treatment approaches that simply manage symptoms on an ongoing basis - versus approaches that help you learn how to heal, from the inside out?
How to Choose a Healing Path
Real, deep-down, permanent healing is never something that comes from the outside. It won't come from a pill bottle, a purchase, or a perfect relationship. It won't come from hours of counseling - particularly if that counseling encourages you to dwell week after week on the disappointments or sorrows of your life. In particular, counseling won't help you heal if it is mostly a place to consistently encourage you to take medication to manage your so-called "chemical imbalance."
Healing is a process, not an event -- found on a gradual healing path, not an instantaneous flash of sudden change. Healing consists of providing your mind and body with the necessary elements of wellness - and removing elements that contribute to ongoing illness.
Healing involves identifying painful triggers - but then learning to move through them, beyond them, and out of them, into a happier place. Healing involves learning what is needed to get well and stay well, emotionally and physically - and then developing the discipline to live in ways that promote wellness, not illness - recovery, not permanent disability.
Real Healing Takes Time, and Purposeful Action
None of this healing process happens all at once. Think about a time when you scraped your knee, or experienced some other kind of physical injury. What is the process that brings about healing there? First, to clean out the wound, and prevent infection. Then perhaps, to temporarily bandage or splint the wound. Third, providing the needed water, rest, nourishment to allow the body to heal, from the inside out.
Gradually, over the process of time, that painful, bloody injury turns to a dry, protective scab -- which then slowly decreases day by day, as the body gradually manufactures healthy new cells to replace the injured ones.
Emotional healing occurs in much the same way. It can't be rushed or forced. It involves recognizing and "cleaning out" the painful conditions that brought it on - and then applying conditions to help your brain and spirit to heal gradually, from the inside out.
Ineffective Approaches to Managing Emotional Pain
The first step in the healing process is - Don't be fooled by distractions or substitutes. These include:
- Assessment-Only Therapy: In this process, week after week, a practitioner has you identify all your past pains and sorrows. Traumatic abuse. Destructive parental relationships. Wounding childhood experiences. Dysfunctional family dynamics. This can lead into an endless pit of pain, and can exacerbate feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and trauma. This form of treatment may teach you the underlying causes for your depression. But it can't lead you out of it.
- Medication-Only Management: This now-common practice may seem like a good idea in the beginning. A quick doctor's visit, a short symptom checklist, a momentary visit to the local pharmacy. But what those slick ads for pharmaceutical products will never tell you is this: It's a lot easier to get ON them, than to get OFF. And by and large, they are designed to reduce awareness of your pain - and your other feelings - rather than to actually identify its actual causes or solutions. This method also leads frequently to negative side effects, requiring the use of other medications, leading to yet other side effects. If you try to go off them, withdrawal symptoms are common - often worse than the afflction you started with. Overdose and even suicide are often associated with these drugs. There are better ways to deal with your pain.
- Sef-Medication (Addiction): In our day and age, many distract themselves from their pain by using some kind of external product or experience to numb it. Alcohol. Drugs. Sugar. Junk Food. Pornography. Excessive shopping. Excessive work. Excessive, mindless media consumption. These addictive experiences can nudge pain out of your consciousness for a while. But when the high wears off, you're dealing with the consequences of your binge, besides the pain you started with. This is not an effective method for true or permanent healing.
Developing a Healing Mindset
Real healing begins with the way you think about it. Here are some examples of thinking that promotes permament emotional healing:
- I am strong enough to do this. I have already survived all of the events in my life that have led me to this place. Now, I can use that strength to move forward and heal.
- The power to heal lies inside of me. I just need to activate it, nourish it, and strengthen it over time. My body knows how to heal itself, if I give it what it needs, day by day.
- Even today, good things surround me. Situations, people, and things are all around me right now that can bring me joy and help me heal. I can daily become more aware of them.
- I can get through this - a day at a time, an hour at a time. Yesterday is behind me, and and tomorrow is still hours away. I just need to do what helps me through today.
- It's all worth the effort. I can bring joy to myself and those I love, by finding a path through today's challenge, on to a happier place.
Next Steps - A Quick Overview
Of course, a single blog article is not going to be sufficient to guide you fully through the complete healing process. But here are some next steps you can take, to further your healing process from this point forward:
1) Get this quick-start guide, which you can download today to help you set in immediate motion a healing path for yourself and your loved ones.
2) Explore this blog, which will be updated weekly with new articles and practical tips to help you learn to choose a healthier, happier lifestyle. Subscribe to the blog, to have these resources delivered directly to your inbox every week. You can also explore counselinglibrary.org, which is packed with additional articles, handouts, and other healing resources.
3) Get this comprehensive guidebook, containing all the strategies, techniques, and concepts you will need to build your emotional wellness and expand your joy, over the process of time.
Depression doesn't have to be a permanent condition.
Explore these resources today, to start building a better, happier life for yourself and your loved ones.
-- Carrie M. Wrigley, LCSW
Counselor, Speaker, Performer, and Author of
Your Happiness Toolkit: 16 Strategies for Overcoming Depression, and Building a Joyful, Fulfilling Life
> For more complete Information on this topic, see the book, Chapter 2:
"Overcoming Depression: What Helps, What Doesn't, And How to Choose a Healing Course"