Many of us haven’t had easy lives.
Do you ever feel if you listed out a timeline of all the stuff that’s happened to you, it would floor most people? But so many of us don’t like to talk about it. We don’t want to dwell on things. We don’t want to be a permanent victim. So we’ll shut up and carry it with us while people tell us things like, “Maybe you should exercise, take vitamins, try essential oils, do the Keto diet, see a therapist, buy this book, attend this seminar, go out into nature…” etc.
True. Many of these things are vastly impactful on your quality of life. But people telling you these things do not understand your phase of depression.
When you are here, desperate for relief, depression feels like you are caught in the jaws of the beast. You can struggle all you want, but nothing gets you OUT. Nothing can release you.
Depression is a totally hopeless feeling. You might feel like your time has come and gone. Everything you had hoped for yourself is now out of reach. Or you’re looking around at everyone rising every morning, going to work – For what? What is the purpose of all this? To live for a short time, then die? Are we all competing with each other? There is always someone smarter, better-looking, better at our job than we are, etc. What is the point of all of this?
One of my favorite pastimes, when depressed, used to be endlessly Googling things like:
“Life seems pointless”
“Everyone would be better off without me”
“I don’t want to live anymore”
“I’d kill myself, but I don’t have the balls”
Yes, I could be a regular Eeyore.
Was I fun or what?
I was praying Google would give me the answer out of nowhere. It never happened. I might get directed to an article with one of the universal “Thanks, but that doesn’t help” tips like…”Hey, exercise! You’ll feel better!”
While this is true, when you are feeling like the walls are closing in and you are having a hard time just breathing, shallow advice is not what you want to hear.
Your mind is in crisis.
You don’t tell a man who is having a heart attack to get up and run because it prevents heart disease and he’ll feel better. He is in crisis. He needs immediate help.
When you have reached crisis level depression, if you are brave enough to tell someone the severity, they tell you things like “My door is always open” or refer you to the suicide hotline. A person truly in crisis may feel insulted by this. They may not need talking off the ledge. They just need to know RIGHT NOW what to do to relieve this horrible feeling. Not tomorrow, not next week. Right now. They are stuck in a moment so painful they need help getting through it.
At the worst, they end up in a psychiatric hospital. Now, they get to carry the stigma of “crazy” because they were depressed. Why is it depression is never taken seriously until it involves suicide or suicide attempts. How sad is that?
Most people don’t really want to die.
They just want to learn how to live.
With a heavy dose of medication, they’re sent on their way. Maybe, if they’re lucky, they get a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist who is worth a damn and they are able to walk through the root of the cause.
The problem is, the ones who need help the most usually don’t get treatment. Maybe they can’t afford it, have anxiety so bad even getting to a therapy appointment and through it is more than they can take, they’ve had bad therapists before that didn’t help them, or maybe they were put on medication that didn’t solve their problems but made them feel like a walking zombie.
If you’re in crisis and you’ve found yourself here – Welcome. I have an exercise for you. While it’s not the physical exercise your friends are recommending, it’s one that will help you mentally.
I get you. Stay with me, friend. There is light. There is hope.
Depression’s Link With Anger
Right now, you may not know how you’re going to get through another minute of this. Breathe and relax.
For now, we’re not going to focus on what you’re upset about right now. The reason you are not dealing well with the present is because you have never learned to deal with the past. If you need to skip ahead and do the exercises to come below for present things you are dealing with – You are more than welcome to do so. For generalized depression, we’re going to start in the past and move forward because you will see how these things build on each other a little easier.
Sigmund Freud once said: “Depression is anger turned inward.”
It’s true. Think about it. If you were ever suicidal or knew someone suicidal, many times they were someone others knew as good people. They probably had a lot going for them to everyone else.
Often, they are the nice people, the funny ones, the ones who give so much to others. But they become tired and weary. They are taken advantage of over and over again for their kindness.
When they need to heal, other people are asking them to take on their problems. “They won’t mind“. They suffer in silence while anger slowly builds. They become the butt of other people’s jokes because “They won’t mind”. Other people know them as someone with a good sense of humor.
They walk the tightrope, trying to be a good, decent human being that makes others laugh, and being a miserable, angry person who hates the world. As the facade begins to crumble, they lash out in fits of anger nobody saw coming. They overreact. The anger bubbles over the edges of a long-boiling pot, dousing the flame of life below that kept them going.
Yet, so many still refer to someone who committed suicide as selfish.
Excuse me? These people commit suicide because they truly feel the world, and lives of people around them, would be better off without them. How on earth is that selfish?
The last person most suicidal people are usually thinking about is themselves.
Depression, at its heart, is seething rage. Wrapped in sadness, misery and hopelessness.
If you are depressed, you may not feel it. You feel sad more than anything, because you have not given your permission yet, for this blue-covered sadness to show its angry red underbelly.
But it’s there. Some people may have chemical imbalances or other reasons for depression, but what I’m about to tell you has been life-changing.
The Most Therapeutic Exercise For Depression
I want you to picture your depression as a giant field of weeds. Other people have fields of flowers and – Lucky you! – You have weeds. For the weeds you are picturing in your mind, you can give them some sad, blue blooms if you want, but make no mistake – They are weeds.
Maybe you have some beautiful flowers in there, too, but weeds have taken over, choking them, preventing their growth. Each weed of depression grows from roots of anger underground. How do you get down to the roots to pull them up?
We’ve got to dig deep, my friend.
Trace the stem of one weed down into the dirt. What caused you to feel so much sadness and hopelessness?
I guarantee you, after you trace that stem down beneath the surface into the dirt, you’re going to find glowing red roots made up of unfulfilled destiny, a hurt, something someone said once, something someone did once, some regrets you have, your shame, your fears that kept you from reaching your potential, the things holding you back, the negative people in your life who don’t take you seriously or discount you, the people who want you to fail, the pain you caused others, the guilt you feel…This is the root of your depression. And certain life factors continue to nurture and water the depression, keeping the soil it grows in fertile.
At the time these things happened, you felt some fear or anger. Because you didn’t know how to process these emotions, you buried them. They were seeds. Now they’ve grown into this overwhelming sadness. The only way to get through this is to go, weed by weed, down to the root.
This weed grew because your mother said you were worthless, once.
This one grew because you were bullied in school.
You never realized how much these small incidents impacted you, did you? Remember it like it was yesterday. It’s going to sting all over again, but you’re holding the weed killer. You just never knew it.
Here is where the exercise comes in. Take out a pen and paper. A notebook for this is even better. It might shake you up emotionally, but you’re going to feel better. This might take you months or years to do, but if therapy is not your thing or even if you are seeing a therapist, this is going to help you open a lot of doors and finally tackle some of those weeds keeping flowers from growing in your garden.
Think back to the earliest you can remember. I want you to, total stream of consciousness, start writing the things from your early childhood that made you angry starting with: “I’m angry because…”
I’m angry because my parents never stood up for me.
I’m angry because my brother was the favorite in the family.
I’m angry because of that incident in the kitchen where my brother threw the cereal across the floor and I got blamed and beaten because of it.
I’m angry because grandpa said I was lazy and spoiled.
Let it out. STOP WORRYING ABOUT “SOUNDING LIKE A VICTIM”. Realize this is a projection someone else in your life has put on you to prevent you from handling your problems.
Don’t worry that it sounds like whining.
Don’t worry that it sounds self-pitying.
Stop that thinking. You’re safe here.
In this space of paper, you can finally say all those things that have always pissed you off. You can listen to angry or sad music if you want as you do this. Maybe you are starting to see, shoving your hurt and anger underground and letting it fester has only producing a sad bunch of weeds choking your happiness.
You may want to do a small section of your childhood and stop.
Take note of how you feel afterwards. Relieved? Happier? Guilty? Beware of guilt. If this exercise makes you feel guilty, you may have had someone in your life who did not allow you to properly express your emotions. This is a dangerous thing. They may have stressed to you that “nobody likes a victim”. But guess what? You are getting all this out of your system because you don’t want to be a victim. You are dealing with it. That’s the bravest, most noble thing you can do.
The Peace of Resolution
You’re not done just yet. Acknowledging the feelings is one thing, but I’m not going to ask you to do something about it. What are you possibly going to do about an incident that happened when you were six that still brings you painful feelings? Instead, I want you to open another page and write down the first thing you wrote. I am going to ask you to bring closure to the incident.
“I’m angry because my parents never stood up for me” then add a big comma + BUT afterwards:
“I’m angry because my parents never stood up for me, but…”
And now I want you to reflect on this. You’ve been feeling this anger for a long time. Maybe you never really acknowledged it, but it’s been there. So don’t dwell on your parents never standing up for you. Think – Has anything good happened as a result of this?
“I’m angry because my parents never stood up for me, but because they didn’t, I learned to stand up for myself. I learned what it feels like to have nobody on your side. As a result, I’ve always stuck up for the underdog. I’ve always helped people who are hurting. It’s made me a better parent, a better person, a better friend. My kids will never feel like they have no one in their corner. I’m learning to parent myself the way my parents failed to and stick up for myself.”
Don’t make excuses for someone else’s nasty treatment of you. If you forgive them, you can write that, too, but don’t excuse someone else’s bad behavior. However, for even the worst of the worst of incidents, sometimes there are things you learned or something from the incident that caused you to relate more with other people. Sometimes there is a positive side. Not always.
Go through every one of your “I’m angry because…” statements. It may still make you angry to recall. You don’t have to redefine everything in positive terms. Making the negative positive is not going to bring you healing. Sometimes negative is just that. What will bring you healing is defining an END each of the events by giving your final thought on it. You’re acknowledging it happened and saying, “It is what it is” and giving your final thoughts on it or stating any lessons learned. Sometimes it will not be positive or pretty. You have a right to own that anger and justify feeling it, then closing the door on it. “I was angry then, but now it’s funny because look at the source!”
“I’m angry because grandpa said I was lazy and spoiled, but you know what? Grandpa was an alcoholic jerk who only saw me twice a year and didn’t live with us to see all the chores I did and how much I did to help my parents. Grandpa was also talking to a 7 year-old kid who acts like a child. Most kids aren’t the picture of productivity at that age so Grandpa can shove his opinion up his you-know-what along with his hemorrhoids”
It’s okay to make yourself laugh during this. You are now in a place of healing. After you’ve felt the anger, it’s important to point out the lessons learned, the ways it changed you, to reframe the incident or to point out the sheer ridiculousness of what happened. It’s totally okay to make light of even the darkest situations in your life.
You’ve been carrying anger with you for so long. It’s time to set it down.
The weird thing is, as you dredge up these old memories and resolve them, more that had upset you that you’d forgotten about will crop up. You’ll be truly amazed at how much hurt you were hanging onto from childhood. I was shocked at some of the stuff that still pissed me off.
It should be no surprise. As children, we encounter situations all the time that we don’t know how to process yet, mentally. We’re still very young. If we had traumatic childhoods, we could have fields of weeds that stretch on for miles. I wasn’t capable, at the age of five, to put many things into perspective. I was still angry with the boy next door who stole my Star Wars figurines (Of course, maybe I should still be angry. Those things would probably be worth money now).
I’d recommend keeping a notebook. You can write them down as they happen and resolve them as you move on with life. I’m not there yet, myself, but maybe one day, I can learn to take an incident that happened as it’s happening and learn to reframe my thinking so I don’t let pain blossom into a full blown weed again.
As cheesy as this whole exercise sounds, it’s the only written exercise I’ve ever done that has been so powerful and instrumental enough that it allowed me to express the anger, found rationality in the anger and allowed me to calm, self-soothe and dismiss the anger.
Sometimes the great philosophical minds of our time are right. Freud certainly was. Anger – A million tiny papercuts to our soul – Is often the cause of debilitating depression.
I don’t care if it sounds corny, from one person with depression to another – Try it. Put yourself in control of every bad memory. Rewrite the angle of every single one like a screenwriter would write a movie. It’s all about perspective.
You deserve every happiness.