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Wisdom Counselling – Wisdom Sheet

Is there a cure for depression?

This will depend on whether or not your depression is biochemical. If it is you will need medication to stabilize the emotions. The test is this: Is your thinking normally healthy, but you are still getting cycles of depression? This would indicate that it is not caused by faulty thinking. The saying goes like this: Stinky thinking is followed by stinky emotions. So, if it is not to do with the thinking, then it can be a chemical problem which would require a chemical solution.

You can tell if it is biochemical when you keep cycling into depression periodically and yet your thinking is historically healthy.

Where there are cognitive thinking issues, it is far more likely to be a cognitive solution that is needed. Of course, it could be both, in which case medication by itself will not work as a pill can never teach one how to have a good relationship, or to manage feelings or situations that need good Life-Skills to cope.

Some therapies only teach us to 'manage' our depression rather than seek a cure. They do this by looking at diet, exercise, supportive relationships, giving of ourself to help others and some healthy positive self-talk. Yes, these things are good, but often a depressed person never hear that there can be a cure!

Have a look through the following list of causes and pick the ones which relate to you:

  • Stuck depression. This is when you feel stuck between two options, two choices or two beliefs and you have no idea how to move forward. Also called cognitive dissonance, meaning confusion of the mind.

One way through this type of depression is to find a third insight, another option. And to realize you are not powerless, you are not a victim - you always have options. You can work your way through any situation and into a better place.

Of course there may not be a third option to take and you may have to take an unfavourable decision and know that it was not ideal. After all, it can be better to make a difficult decision than to not make any decision at all and stay stuck and depressed. Have you simply been putting off a decision that you know you have to make?

  • Meaningless Depression. The second is similar but it's about one of our core emotional needs as a human; the need to feel a sense of progress. This type of depression occurs when you can't see any purpose, or any point to your life.

To tackle this one, you need work out what you're good at, what you're energized by, then you pursue that. You find a purpose for your life, something to live for.

With those first two types of depression it's like your battery has been slowly drained over time, like you have been gradually leaking emotional energy and you are running out.

  • Sad Depression. With the third kind, it's like your battery was never properly charged up in the first place. It is the result of not being properly nurtured by your parents as a child. Your parents are meant to encourage you, support you, help you get back up when you fail; give you opportunities to learn and grow and develop confidence in yourself. But if they don't for some reason, the result is this feeling of fragility and inadequacy and vulnerability. You don't feel nurtured or strong inside. It's like you are grieving for the sense of belonging and nurture you didn't get and the result is this 'sad' depression.

The need is to re-nurture or re-parent yourself, which means you start doing for yourself what your parents should have done for you but didn't. So you learn to encourage yourself, to comfort yourself when you fail. You learn to celebrate your achievements, and to give yourself opportunities to try new things... If you don't know how to do that, you can ask yourself 'What would a good parent say or do?' and 'What comforting words can I say to myself to coach me on?' Then say or do that for yourself.

It also helps to find a mentor, or 'Big Person', or even a safe family to adopt you and give you that nurture for a time. It's all about filling in the 'gaps' within you. A good counsellor will also be of assistance, as long as they can give you new insights and an effective strategy.

  • Exhausted Depression or Burnout. This occurs when you use up more emotional energy than you have access to. It's like going into emotional overdraft. If you're burnt out you feel emotionally weary, even emotionally exhausted all the time, so you'll start avoiding difficult people and situations; anything or anyone that will require too much of you.

There are dozens of potential causes; being a 'rescuer', not getting enough sleep, being a workaholic, having too high expectations of yourself, trying to live up to an image - basically anything that drains you emotionally.

If you don't have enough of the things in your life that energize you, eventually you'll burn out. The worst part about burnout is that it normally takes as long to get out of it as it took you to slide into it in the first place. So if you burn out slowly over two years, it will probably take you that long to recover. The trick to recovery is to plug up all the 'leaks'. Reduce the things in your life that drain you and increase the things that energize you.

  • Suppressed Emotion Depression. The final cognitive cause of depression is the one Freud discovered, although we take it further than he did. He thought that depression was caused by suppressed anger, but it can also be caused by suppressed grief, self-hatred, even un-forgiveness when it's turned inwards and buried.

Painful and negative emotions are meant to be faced and worked though. Otherwise they linger and cause all sorts of long-term problems, including depression. So you forgive, you grieve, you express your anger, you process whatever it is you have buried, with the process that traces, faces and replaces the lies deep within.

This can also be related to a loss of basic trust, and so you learn how to trust again and understand that trust has to be earned by others. We have to also become vulnerable in this process by trying it out in little steps to see if they are worthy and serious about earning and maintaining our trust.

Note: This is an over simplified account; reality may have more components and values, needing profession assistance.

©2014 Wisdom Counselling, Rangiora New Zealand

These notes are based on David Riddell's 'Living Wisdom Manual' – chapter on Depression.