Depression is a hairy beast lurking in the catacombs of heart, mind and body. It can also be a masked smile that laughs and nods politely at appropriate and inappropriate times.
For some it is as if walking with 18 tons of sludge and still wearing perky purple sunglasses while performing all those normal activities — and yet rarely anyone notices the sadness that lies just beneath the dark blue horizon.
Depression can consume like the densest fog and thoughts can trail off midsentence.
Depression can also distract and be a masterful comedian to downplay the anguish battering around inside of a colossal dungeon of internalize criticism.
Depression isn’t one-size-fits-all.
Depression is very real. On a macro view just look at our world and how wealth is unevenly distributed while homelessness is begging on the street. People are marginalized because of their skin color, gender choices, and religious beliefs. That’s depressing.
Bringing it closer to self we see how bullies scour the hallways of every single school pushing kids up against lockers — some schools don’t even have lockers because the drug use is so high; but that doesn’t stop kids from getting high to fight and deny the depression they hide.
Perhaps on an individual’s level, depression’s voices screams and shouts as well as weeps or stays extra quiet. It wears the comfort of sobriety and the shame when it doesn’t; neither one is right or wrong.
Depression grows just as much in meadowed fields or cemented long blocks of Wall Street’s monochromatic colors to survive.
There’s no way to romanticize depression as much as it can’t be chased away with advice and platitudes:
“You’ve got so much going for you.”
“Snap out of it.”
“You’ve got no right being down.”
“Have you tried to exercise?”
Advice is often dismissive and patronizing because it is telling the person their depressed feelings are wrong. It can push depression into a shame spiral and shame is like a herd of piranhas feasting on every past and present thought regurgitating the negativity and sucking one’s soul into a fractal of psychological warfare.
As a therapist I follow the words and listen to the tones and gather a person’s subtle information. I watch for movements such as a downward head tilt, a shoulder shrug, that sigh that speaks for decades. Our body has an incredibly honest and sensitive language so exquisitely in touch with what’s really going on; it’s there to teach and show and guide us.
“What does your depression feel like?” Tell me a color? Show me with your knowing?”
And those questions might help us to drop down and linger into that space where it is okay to let go of the joking. We can begin to feel around and into those landmines and dull hooks of 'heathered' sadness. We can be unsure, scared, insecure, lost, or lonely — we can explore, in a very safe space what depression is trying to tell us.
So, we don’t climb. We don’t build our therapeutic tool box — just yet. Instead we find out what the depression is telling us. It might be the first time that a person shares about their depression and what it feels like being thrown against heavy grey steel walls and there’s nowhere to climb out.
What wisdom is in that anguish and wanting our attention?
What is in that ‘sigh’ that holds voices of untold decades?
We create a decoder ring and unfold the stillness of depression’s voices — together. That’s where we begin and follow the deepest nature for each depression speaks its own innate truths.
Depression is multifaceted and hardly one-size-fits-all.
Original published on Medium: "Depression Isn't One-Size-Fits-All"
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."
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