Many years ago I described my periods of demotivation as depression. Then I had the realization that these periods were connected to the arising and resolution of childhood trauma that I had repressed. It was not that I was “depressed” it was more that my focus was turned inward to process events that I had not been capable of processing as a child.
The dictionary defines depression as the state of feeling sad. This is the way the word is commonly used. However, it is possible to be clinically depressed and not be sad. This was one of the reasons I stopped using the word to describe my demotivation. I actually could be “depressed” and be happy. The greatest sadness I felt was the result of resisting the slowed down state my body and being required. It is a great disappointment to wake up one morning and no longer feel like doing any of the things that just the day before were exciting.
I remember, twenty years ago, calling a wise woman on just such a morning. She said, “Well, you know the first thing to do when you are depressed…”
I answered, “No, I do not. Tell me.” And waited for her to give me the secret to happiness that I had been looking for.
She simply replied, “Be depressed.”
I was shocked by the simplicity and inherent truth of her statement.
Still today (in 2015) I continue to struggle to “be depressed”. I often try to ignore it and do my day. I tell myself that it will pass. When I steam-roll ahead I find that my addictive cravings start up and become stronger and stronger.
There is a balance I have to find each time. I have learned that completely vegging out makes me more depressed or at least doesn’t relieve my depression. And while maintaining my basic internal arts practice when I am depressed can be extremely hard, it boosts my sense of well-being. I may be depressed, but being able to take care of myself fortifies me.
An alternate definition for depression is “a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way”. The diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (DSM-IV) is:
- Depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks.
- Mood represents a change from the person’s baseline.
- Impaired function: social, occupational, educational.
- Specific symptoms, at least 5 of these 9, present nearly every day:
1. Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
2. Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day.
3. Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite.
4. Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia.
5. Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
6. Fatigue or loss of energy.
7. Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
8. Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness.
9. Thoughts of death or suicide, or has suicide plan.
If the symptoms are a result of or can be explained by another psychiatric disorder, the abuse of substances, another medical condition, or bereavement then care must be taken in determining if the “depression” can be classified as its own illness.
It would seem to me that the “qualifications” would eliminate all proper diagnoses of depression. Processing trauma is considered another psychiatric disorder and bereavement, the state of grief over a loss, would pretty much sum up many people’s experience of life in this reality. We can grieve the loss of a friends, pets, family, as well as, peace, dreams, opportunities. Of course, such sadness is “okay” or “normal” as long as it is limited in duration. But, what is it when one is barraged by a continuous stream of disappointments?
I guess the question should be, “Does labeling yourself as depressed create more freedom or less freedom for you?” “If you are “depressed” do you have more possibilities or less?” I have found that the term depression is like a bottomless pit. I have more possibilities when I avoid labels and identify what is true in any one moment. Some of the best questions to ask are:
- What is right about this that I am not getting?
- Is there something that I am denying or pretending not to know?
- How does this state serve me?
- How can I take advantage of this?
- What can I choose that will create a completely different reality?
- What else is possible?®
- What is beyond this?
- If I wasn’t doing this what could I be doing?
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Diagnostic criteria: http://www.psnpaloalto.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Depression-Diagnostic-Criteria-and-Severity-Rating.pdf