Depression Doesn't Always Seem To Have a Reason
Written By: Mark Smith
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My regular readers know that I have taken an interest in poetry. So on one of my long walks on the beach this week I grabbed my trusty Ipod and began listening to a recent download called "The Best Poems Of All Time". I came to one that really touched me. It described a feeling that I believe many people in our culture have struggled with at times. It is by the 18th century French poet Paul Verlaine.
Tears Fall In My Heart
Tears fall in my heart
Rain falls on the town;
What is this numb hurt
that enters my heart?
Ah, the soft sound of rain
on roofs, on the ground!
To a dulled heart they came,
ah, the song of the rain!
Tears without reason
in the disheartened heart.
What? no trace of treason?
This griefs without reason.
Its far the worst pain
to never know why
without love or disdain
my heart has such pain!
Depression can haunt a soul for decades or even for a lifetime without there being any significant reason for the pain. While I am not a huge believer in body chemistry being the culprit for most of what commonly passes for depression in our culture, it is without a doubt a very real and serious issue for millions of people. The only successful treatment for someone with full blown clinical depression is medication. The right medication can literally be a life saver for someone with this disease. If you suffer from depression and it seems like there really aren't adequate reasons for your depression I strongly encourage you to can an appointment with a psychiatrist for an evaluation. The proper medication can kick start your body chemistry and take you from being dominated by depression to feeling normal and healthy.
Having said all of that I believe that for most people depression is simply a warning signal that is trying to tell them something about their lives. Just as pain can quickly tell us to move your hand for a hot stove, pain in the heart can be a message about your needing to make some changes. Maybe you are desperately lonely in your relationship? Maybe you hate your job? Maybe some disturbing memories are surfacing from your childhood? Maybe you have some losses that you have been avoiding grieving for? What is your pain trying to tell you? Pay attention to it. Don't medicate it away with alcohol, food, work, sex or even an anti-depressant. Face off with yourself. Yeah, it hurts, but the longer you put it off the more it will hurt later when you finally do deal with it.
The classic case of having to face one's grief is middle aged men who have prided themselves in not crying for decades but then are completely devastated when a parent dies. There is a difference between the true clinical depression that the poet described and the good old fashioned pain that comes from life. Men from 35 to 50 are many times shocked to feel all the pain that comes up when a parent dies suddenly. Once this happens it tends to open the flood gates. With all those deep primal feelings surfacing such men many times begin to re-evaluate their marriages, their careers and their belief systems.
Here is a very simple but profound truth - the best thing that you can do if you are sad is to have a good long cry. Told you it was simple. It will make you feel better. It works almost like magic. So the next time that deep sense of sadness comes up for you don't stuff it down with a beer or a pizza or a movie or whatever your favorite "medication" is. Just let it out. So often when a new client begins to cry they actually apologize for it. I say, "No, don't apologize, cry, let it out!" It is not a sign of weakness. It is actually a sign of great strength to be able to face one's sadness face on and deal with whatever come up. To stuff it down and not cry it out is the coward's way out. Life is hard. It will give all of us and occasional bump or bruise or worse. Talk about your sadness. Explore it. It is a gift. People hate when I say that, but it is the truth.
The important thing with depression and sadness is to figure out what is life's sadness that needs to be embraced and what is a life threatening medical condition that needs medication. For the vast majority of us it is the former. If you aren't sure what your sadness is about I encourage you to see a therapist. They can help you figure out what the next step should be. Even taking that step isn't a dark and awful thing - it is actually sort of cool. Give it a shot, you'll like it. See you next week.
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