Your Depression is lying to you.
It has told you that you are a depressed human being. That by some ill glance of fate that you drew the short genetic straw and now you're stuck with feeling depressed, crappy, down for the rest of your life. Or at the very best-"coping” with depression. That you are Broken. Deficient. Flawed. But you are not.
The essence of a disorder is that it’s disordered, that means your thinking doesn't work. The essence of a depressive disorder is when you're hopeless about something that actually could work. It's when you’re sad about something even when things are fine. It's when you're completely distraught when things are moderately sad.
And depression changes the way we think- but for some reason we as a culture believe it. Like we love to believe in chemical imbalances and “ born this way” but get offended when someone says “hey-did you know that's treatable?” As if they are insulting us -telling us we’re a failure . Depression lies to you when it tells you there's nothing that can be done. You just have to suffer. Or when it tells you everyone is out to get you. Or that you're a terrible human being, that if people got to know they wouldn't like who you are deep down. But depression’s favorite lie is that “THIS IS WHO YOU ARE” this is some inherently permanent flaw in your makeup.
Now at this point you may be wanting to click away because it seems like I'm saying that you're making up your depression. As if I'm saying “get over it” but that's also one of depressions lies- to polarize everything. Black and white thinking says that I’m either sympathetic or hateful. Depression is real. You didn't want to feel this way. You don't know how to get out of it or you would. Depression is real-but its an experience. Not an identity! It's something you go through, not someone you are.
There’s a problem with with how we use language around mental illness. For example the most common way to say it is- “I am depressed”. People don’t walk around saying “I’m cancerous” they say “I have cancer” or “I’m fighting cancer” but they don’t make it into their defective identity. And that’s where depression colors your perception of yourself. And it’s lying to you.
Research shows that two people with the exact same genes growing up in the same environment (twin studies)- if one of them has depression, the other has a 37% chance of also developing depression. Genetics definitely play a role. But the other 63% is experiences, choices, and other factors. And within that 37%- some of that is environmental and other factors. Basically that means that we have a huge ability to influence our mental health.
I believe that some people are born with tender hearts. Some people are born caring a lot. With a huge capacity and sensitivity for emotions. But I have yet to meet a baby who was born depressed. Depression develops as a combination of our biology, experiences, and choices. When we aren't given the tools to deal with our heart- our tenderness and concerns, our dreams and hurts. Then those pure and sometimes beautifully painful emotions get turned into depression. Depression is real- but it's not who you are.
You may feel discouraged about this because you've tried a few things and it hasn't gone away. Don't give up. I wish everyone knew that there are so many things you can try. So many different treatments that may help.
Depression is real. But it's also treatable. New research is showing that depression is so much more than a “chemical imbalance” it's a combination on many factors- biological, psychological, and social. And those factors can be treated in so many ways. Let me just list a few of the research backed treatments for depression:
Therapy- it actually changes brain chemistry and structure
Exercise- shown to be more effective than medication
Nutrition changes- depression has been directly linked to nutritional deficiencies, and shown to be treatable through healthy diet
Treating insomnia and improving sleep- in one study of people with depression 87% of people who resolved their insomnia saw significant improvements in their depression, with many seeing their depression symptoms disappearing in 8 weeks.
Treating underlying medical conditions- like Thyroid disorders, Diabetes, Lyme Disease, food allergies, anemia, vitamin d deficiency, sleep apnea, etc
Willingness- A skill directly from ACT
Relaxation skills and learning to turn on your parasympathetic nervous system
Existential therapy- finding purpose and meaning in your life.
Building healthy social connections
And many more approaches including ECT, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Nature and adventure therapy, lifestyle changes, Psychoeducation, Self-Help Books, Spirituality,
And when it comes to therapy there are over 500 different models of therapy- you may have to try a few to find a therapist and approach that works for you.
New neural imaging shows that changing how we think and act actually changes our brains structure, function, and chemistry. Our brains are incredibly moldable and changeable even through adulthood.
I've also got an online course up detailing many of these treatments and how exercise and light therapy and other stuff changes brain chemistry. Check out my online course "Change your Brain: 10 alternatives to Medication to Change Brain Chemistry" it's packed with ways you can improve your mental health through simple changes that take minutes a day.
Depression is treatable- don't listen to its lies telling you that this is who you are and it's never going away. Start working to find the combination of changes to your thoughts and actions that can make a difference. A good therapist can help that journey go more smoothly for you.