Depression Needs to Come Out of the Closet

What does depression look like?

“The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.” -Glenn Close, Actress, Activist

Life challenges come and go. Without understanding how to permanently let struggles go, we get caught in a web of adverse energetic attachments – sadness, swirling thoughts, negativity, sleeplessness, inability to focus … the list goes on. Once a collection of negative attachments takes shape, we become vulnerable to ongoing negative thinking patterns. This negativity begins to spiral into anxiety and depression, both catch-all words meaning “my brain doesn’t know what to do with this junk so I’ll funnel these crazy thoughts into my heart.” Sooner or later the heart gets tired of this heavy input and seeks another funnel – the physical body. Predictably, the body will eventually show physical symptoms of wear and tear due to the endless assaults.

The overdrive of crushing weight leads to crisis and illness with major consequences. If we avoid seeking professional help, we may turn to substances or suicide in an attempt to alleviate symptoms. Why? Because we default toward the quick fix. It seems easier to turn to mind-numbing solutions than to genuinely turn inward and address root causes for our pain and confusion.

Numbers don’t lie.

Let’s take a look at some sobering research stats on anxiety and depression in the United States. The National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC) reports that depression/serious mental illness:

  1. is the leading cause of disability for individuals ages 15 – 44
  2. suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals ages 15 – 44
  3. ranks as a top workplace issue
  4. costs $210.5 billion in lost earnings per year
  5. more than 60% of depressed individuals do not actively seek or receive proper treatment

Coming out of depression should be a national priority. Make it Your Own #1 Priority!

No doubt about it, mental wellness needs to be at the forefront of our national agenda. We need to invest in peace, love and joy and reclaim our minds and hearts in the pursuit of thriving. We need a socially acceptable space to talk about mental distress – in the same way we discuss physical ailments. We can no longer withstand a society dominated by the existential burden of emotional suffering.

“Mental health professionals take note!

If you’re a mental health professional reading this blog, please remember: taking care of others for a living is NOT self-care! Self-care is going inward, creating meaning outside of work and thriving as a member of humanity. We don’t need to be “on” and primed for rescuing or being an angel to someone. We must be a person who exists alongside and outside of our professional identity.

Cleo’s call for help is heard by an old friend.

Cleo feels the world is closing in on her. For the last five years she has been caregiver to her mother who had weekly kidney treatments. After mom’s passing, Cleo’s sadness mixed with guilt, exhaustion and poor sleep. Symptoms grow more intense each day. It has been a year since mom died and the days pass by with little meaning. Cleo realizes she can no longer use caregiving to shield her from this pain. When she tries to determine a starting point for her depression, Cleo thinks it was the onset of mom’s caregiving and her anticipated death.

Cleo runs into an old friend, Tammy, who remarks she looks tired and low on energy. Cleo quietly admits she is going through a tough time. Tammy has a hunch she needs to spend a few hours with Cleo. They set up a time to walk in the park for a check-in. Before they say goodbye, Tammy gives Cleo a big hug and encourages her to contact her anytime. Cleo is grateful for Tammy’s hug and kind words.

When their park date arrives, Cleo is hesitant. She doesn’t want Tammy to see her down in the dumps again. At the same time Cleo desires to be in the company of someone who believes in her. A voice inside Cleo gently nudges her to go as she recognizes it is long-past time to feel good again.

The walk with Tammy refreshes Cleo’s heart. She doesn’t want to fall into the dark pit anymore. Cleo calls Tammy and asks her to track down a professional who can help her dig a way out of the trenches. The following week Cleo works through the mental wellness checklist with the support of a compassionate professional. Together they construct a healing plan.

Mental wellness is possible. Listen up!

Depression can be managed and even resolved. We either invest in wellness or invest in pain. To invest in wellness means we expand the picture of looking at ourselves and our stories. We reconnect with our intuition and are energized by natural refueling resources such as nature, animals and physical fitness.

Resisting the urge not to check out by checking in

Unsure if you’re depressed or mentally challenged? This simple checklist can serve as your starting point.

(If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others call 911 immediately.)

Facial characteristics

Our face reflects our state of mental fitness. The eyes readily reveal the first chapter of our present life story. Let’s look in the mirror.

Are my eyes bright or dull?

Do I see puffy, dark circles or wide open eyes?

Do I perceive love or pain?

Body sensations

Our body reflects ongoing chapters of our life story. Sit still and do a body scan.

How often do I get headaches or experience lightheadedness?

Do I store feelings in my stomach?

Does my heart hurt?

Do I feel numb when my body hurts?

Do I feel rested in the morning after sleeping for several hours?

Mental tugging

If we’re depressed, negative thoughts bob in a sea of constant turmoil. Take an inventory of what’s going on in your head.

Do I have repeated cravings for something that will never happen?

Do I constantly fight with myself and never win?

Are my thoughts repetitive? Draining and negative?

Am I able to concentrate or do I experience endless distraction?

Internal sounds

Our minds process abundant information. Some messages are loud and persistent. Write down the noisy thoughts you often tell yourself.

Am I afraid of being alone?

Do I feel overwhelmed by a recent change?

Do I like myself?

Outer limits

For many, the anticipation of attending social events or interacting with strangers can be a mighty mental undertaking. For others, they spend too much time with people in an attempt to run away from feeling their own feelings. Ask yourself these questions:

Am I hiding from the world?

Do I prefer to spend time alone and at home?

Do I spend too much time with others to avoid my feelings?

Spiritual aches and pains

Our spirits long to experience extraordinary moments and to feel connected to something larger. Tune into your higher self and learn what your spirit desires:

Do I need a dose of courage? Contentment?

Do I feel hopeful about my ability to get well?

Do my beliefs/values support wellness or illness?

Do I have a place in the world or do I question if I belong here?

Do I view life with
grace and ease?

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