The Self-reinforcing Nature of Depression

One of the hardest things about depression is the way it drives the cycle deeper.  I’ve been watching myself slide deeper into depression over the last week.  I know that part of it is associated with the holidays, I know that there are many people out there who are having a hard time.  Images and stories of people having fun together make us aware of how our own lives fall short.  For those of us who grew up in alcoholic and abusive families, our memories of the holidays are darkened by pain.  Even when you manage to have a really good time, as we did over the solstice weekend, there’s always a let down.

We celebrated the Winter Solstice at Neskaya with dancing and ceremony, then Saturday and Sunday, we had our “Beginning of the World Party.”  There were old friends and new, lots of good food, dancing and celebration. There were rituals for letting go of what you didn’t want and naming what you did want.  It was an enjoyable weekend, and one which contained depth, we were aware of the larger cycles we are a part of, and connected with our ancestors.  But after a good weekend like that, I nearly always crash.

This time was tough.  I got some positive feedback on Monday which helped, but a difficult conversation with a good friend on Christmas Day brought me down.  Looking back, I see that I was already badly depressed but in denial of it.  So I went into defense mode — talking very fast and refusing to deal with negative subjects.  Then I had a row of empty days, and the friends I usually call on for help were either away visiting family or had family here.  Being alone, I just didn’t have energy for anything.  So I haven’t been getting enough exercise, and I haven’t been eating well.  I just don’t feel hungry.  Not eating enough, not getting enough exercise has the effect of lowering my energy, which makes it even harder to eat well and get outside.  So I’m in a place where it takes all I’ve got just to prepare food and wash dishes.  At least I know I’ve been in worse depressions.  But at the moment,  I can’t imagine what I could do to bring myself out of it.  I’m feeling defeated, hopeless and helpless.  That’s exactly how someone feels when they’ve been traumatized.  I’m also, at some deep level, angry at myself for not being able to make the effort to get myself out of this.  That doesn’t help.

The paradox is that trying to get rid of depression doesn’t work.  Trying to overcome depression doesn’t work.  What does work is acceptance and compassion.  Right now, “accepting” depression means accepting that I won’t be able to get out of it.  I can’t find any compassion for myself, I’m so mad at myself.  sigh.

I go back to Bruce Levine, back to the passages I wrote down because I found them so helpful.  Bruce Levine on “choice.”  “Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic.”

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