I was reading a blog the other day in which the blogger wrote how she was depressed and wanted to stay depressed and didn’t want anyone to try to talk her out of it. Readers chimed in saying that they hated the way happy people were so…annoyingly happy.
So when is it comforting to be depressed – and when does that depression slide into murky self-pity? When do we draw the line and say we’ve felt enough sadness, enough is enough? And if so, how do we get out of it?
The first thing is: move a muscle, change a thought. Sitting around will only make us want to sit around some more. Are we genuinely sad about something or do we just have what the French call, le cafard, which literally means a cockroach but also means the blues. (And not just because wonderful Carla Bruni who sings one of my favorite French songs, “Quelqu’un M’a Dit” will no longer be the French First Lady.)
When I start singing the blues, and it lasts a wee bit too long – it feels like an emotional hangover – I have to ask myself, is this something specific or am I just having a pity party? When that happens, I remember my friend Kate who’d set the egg timer for five minutes and say to me, “Aw, go on, have your pity party for another five minutes and then get cracking.”
Sometimes depression borders precariously close to self-pity.
Sometimes I have to remember that it’s surprisingly, paradoxically comforting for me to be depressed, the way I get pleasure from watching sad movies. (Or books – I can read Charlotte’s Web if I want a good cry about losing a friend, and Ethan Frome, if I want a really good cry about doomed love.)
My brain automatically goes into rewind mode and plays something that I don’t think I don’t like thinking about, just to taunt me. In the middle of a yoga stretch, let’s say, I’m zipping back to the time this guy snubbed me in 1986. Or I can remind myself how poorly I acted toward a friend precisely 10 years ago. (I apologized to her, but still.) Is it just me or do you also find yourself rewinding and pressing play again and again on scenes not worth repeating?
I have to train my brain not to wander into that negative neighborhood. Instead, I have to fill my mind with positive thoughts of all I have to be grateful for. And if I stay in the moment and don’t let myself drift backwards, then I’m on contented, solid ground.
Earlier today, I had to apologize to my friend, Lily, because I’d cancelled our work meeting yesterday at the last minute to work on something else. I knew it was wrong – I have a pet peeve about double-booking and there I was doing the same thing – so I knew I had to make my amends.
“I’m sorry about yesterday,” I told her.
“I organized my whole morning around meeting you,” she said with a slighted tone to her voice.
“I won’t do it again,” I said. “I’m really sorry.”
“Never mind,” she told me. “That was like so yesterday.”
Then we both had to laugh.
What do you think about the times you slip into sadness? How do you know when you’re genuinely upset or you just feel like crooning the blues?
This is what the Dalai Lama says on depression:
“On most days the news from Tibet is heartbreaking, and yet none of these challenges gives grounds for giving up. One of the approaches that I personally find useful is to cultivate the thought: If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it…
Then it is clearly more sensible to spend your energy focusing on the solution rather than worrying about the problem. Alternatively, if there is no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway. In that case, the sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be for you.”
Don’t go wandering in that negative neighborhood. It’s like so yesterday.
He’s a wise man but this statement misses the point. Often (some would argue always) depression brings benefits to the depressed. Whenever we find ourselves stuck in a particular state of mind – look for the benefit and there you’ll find your reason to stay there. My Dad suffers from IBS, has done for years and years. He understands perfectly that his IBS is psychological. He continues to take new pill after new pill to sort out the physical problem that has a psychological cause. His benefit? He hardly ever leaves the house, all his kids and extended family have to go to him. He gets to stay at home (something he’s always done) even though we are all scattered to the four winds. On another level he has guilt that he didn’t do more with my mother (now deceased) so he can use his IBS as a reason why not. All this he knows. But he refuses every offer of psychological help. Hmm.
Hi Stuart, your point is fascinating. I agree with you that sometimes depression becomes just a comfortable habit, a familiar frame of mind. Your sensitivity is commendable. Thanks for your comment!
Every action we take has a reason and if we keep acting in such way is because we’ve got a reward. Depression is the same: if we wouldn’t have dividends from it, we wouldn’t depress ever. However, if we don’t change, we’ll end up getting bad consequences in the long run
I don’t think he is any more worthy or unotwrhy of being president based on his ridiculous behavior in his private life. I have no idea what kind of president he would have been, nor do I know what kind of husband he is. Neither matters at this point. He’s not president and I’m not married to him. I am merely frustrated with “deniability” as the new “accountablity” when people get caught lying. Lying raises a question in my mind of a person’s integrity. I am disappointed as I did believe Edwards to be a person of integrity, and now I don’t think that way anymore. But this is based upon my own admitted bias/tolerance when it comes to lying.The affair may have been a mistake, but the lying appears to be on purpose. And this is what bothers me.One of my mantras is, “Lie to me? Say goodbye to me.” (applied to adults obvioulsly.)
I’ve been dealing with a depressive disorder for just about two years ever since my hubby Dan passed away, and one of the ways I’ve tried to recover is by getting to know as much about depression as I can. I’m currently leading a discussion group for women who are suffering depression, and I came across your article while hunting for materials to go over in this thursday’s meeting. I don’t know how it works for other people, but for me, understanding is strengthening, and the more I learn the closer I get to feeling normal again.
Thank you, Louetta. I wish you strength and perserverance.
I loved your friend Kate’s “egg timer” solution. Very wish friend!
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