Can You Control Depression?
Having had depression I know this statement can be quite contentious to many others going through depression.
I feel there is definitely a truth in “depression is a choice” but it is not so simplistic as the phrase would have you believe.
The best explanation I can give you regarding the complexities of depression is from telling you two brief stories of two very different people (one being myself).
I was recently staying with an elderly friend of mine who is 92 years old and one of the most positive people I know.
This amazing lady is still active, belongs to a church group, a choir, paints, walks and is always having friends around for tea and cakes or for a meal.
I find it incredibly interesting when she often talks about her childhood during the war in England and stories of her life then.
She was an only child and talked about having a Mother who was nervous quiet and overall very fragile.
This lady (who I will call Ruby, but not her real name) believed this was due to her Mother being one of fourteen children and her Grandmother being a real tyrant.
Ruby over time came to realize that she could never be reliant on her Mother due to her Mother’s fragile disposition.
In fact a pivotal moment came when she recalls one evening early 1940’s, and at the age of seventeen looking out of her bedroom window and in the distance seeing the sky lightened up by search lights and fires blazing due from the hundreds of bombs being dropped in the east end of London.
At that very moment a realization came to Ruby, as she found herself saying – “I have to grow up fast, I have to grow up now.” “I have to be responsible for my Mother.”
In that moment she felt she was speaking a truth, a Revelation, and a surprise and a previously unknown fact had been disclosed to her.
If you believe in God it is said that a ‘Revelation’ is how God, the Creator of all things, makes himself known to us.
Revelation in simpler terms also means, to ‘reveal’.
Whether you believe in the Christian take on this or not, at that moment Ruby said she felt a physiological difference in herself, but primarily she felt this great confidence came about her and a ‘knowing’ of who she was and who she was meant to be.
She didn’t see taking care of her Mother as a burden but only that she knew she was strong enough to tackle anything that came her way.
At the age of ninety two years old I look and can still see even now that young seventeen year old woman, that confidence, self assuredness, but also importantly, still happy and contented with her life.
Be Careful What You Wish For!
Fast-forward about twenty years and a pivotal moment is about to happen in my life, though somewhat very different from Ruby’s.
I was about nine or ten years old and had had an awful day at school. I had been blamed for something I had not done, was distressed, and couldn’t wait to get home at lunchtime to see and tell my Mother.
On getting home there I was crying and obviously upset telling my Mother about what had happened at school.
This was the point where you expect the arm around the shoulders, maybe reassuring words, a cuddle, something, and anything to give comfort and reassurance to your distressed child.
My Mother stood in front of me with this awkward look on her face probably knowing what she should be doing but just unable to do it….. Other than say – “you’ll be ok”.
I remember running upstairs crying, not just for what had happened at school but as I know now, more for my Mothers coldness and lack of comfort.
This was a pivotal moment for me not just due to this one particular incident with my Mother, it was due to the fact I had had this Revelation… and that was my Mother was and had never been there for me emotionally.
I saw it as confirmation confirmation of what I had always unconsciously believed and known, and that was she didn’t want or love me.
CHOICES SHOULD REFLECT YOUR HOPES NOT YOUR FEARS.
I then did something that was to go on to have a massive affect on my happiness for the best part of my life.
I made a vow…almost a promise to myself, I said… “That’s it! I am going to be lonely for the rest of my life”.
Reflecting back later in life, I concluded that my reaction to my Mother’s lack of action, was to make a vow with such conviction that I believed wholeheartedly what I was saying….that I was alone and always going to be alone.
I was also under the illusion I was punishing my Mother….where of course the only person I was punishing was myself.
So lets ask the question again – Is depression a choice?
So if you take Ruby’s reaction to a similar significant time in her life to mine, with obvious differences, you can see how choosing your thoughts can be the making or breaking of you.
The message is, how you interpret an incident or event at any given moment in your life, and as my example shows, it doesn’t even have to be anything major that can have negative repercussions for weeks months and years to come.
We also choose blame as a way to punish others, who we feel have wronged us, but as in my story, it can easily backfire on you.
Deciding to go down the road of blame instead of choosing forgiveness creates a Victim Mentality.
Choice Theory contends that every part of our behavior – thoughts, feelings, and physiology are harder to have any choice over, but we do have free choice when it comes to our thoughts and “doings” and these impact on the former two.
William Glasser’s theory is that nobody can make us do or feel anything, because all we do is give or receive information. It is our choice how we filter the information.
But of cause we don’t always know we have these choices especially as a child or a young teenager.
If like me you don’t find out until your forties that all those symptoms and feelings were down to “depression” – there is a lot of fixing and undoing to do that has embedded itself in your mind and body over years.
But it can be done! I am here to tell you – IT CAN BE DONE!
William Glasser’s conclusion is, all behavior is influenced from the inside. Every behavior is a choice, even if you are not aware of it.
Firstly you have to choose to work on healing yourself and do whatever it takes. Everyone can change and train their brains to be happier.
You can choose to let your brains work for you or against you.
But like anything else if you practice enough you get better and better. You just have to make the choice you will.
YOUR LIFE IS A PRODUCTION OF CHOICES.
I believe depression is not something we consciously choose.
Life’s difficult moments can creep up on us and overwhelm us before we are even aware of it.
I liken it to a growth that you are not aware of until it starts causing you pain or discomfort. Even then you don’t want to deal with it because it is too painful.
I don’t believe we choose depression but I do believe we choose whether we are prepared to do whatever it takes to get well again.
Unfortunately we quite often unconsciously feel a certain comfort in living in our depression. We have developed habits that seem quite normal to us and this is where we can change these unhealthy patterns of thoughts.
With this theory, all problems relate to a relationship problem in some way, and all problems are in the present, even if you think something in the past caused them.
So without looking as if I am repeating myself…..
How we think greatly influences how we behave. So if we can identify and learn to challenge those thinking patterns as they happen we stop it at it’s source.
So with that in mind try these recommended amazing resources.
You can help heal yourself so start here:
Your behaviors and emotions are an ever ending cycle and Cognitive Behavior Therapy helps you break that cycle and recognize the triggers that start this cycle. Go read about Cognitive Behavior in the link above this, then to help you understand it even better, read this amazing book to give an even better understanding. Feeling Good the new mood therapy. By David D. Burns MD