What’s something that hurts too much to think about?

Maybe it’s
a strained relationship with a family member
a loss of someone you love
a loved one who’s sick

Maybe it’s
a toxic job you know you’ve settled for
a toxic relationship you know you’ve settled for
Maybe it’s your painful past,
or maybe all of the above.

For me, for instance, in the last year or so, it’s been the reality that getting married and having kids might not happen for me. It might! But it also might not. The “might not” has been at the forefront and has been the source of a whole lot of pain. Sometimes grief. Sometimes anger. Sometimes what feels like a bottomless pit of helplessness.

I’m guessing whatever you don’t wanna think about also makes you feel helpless, yea? And I’d argue this is when depression tends to swoop in; when the body is registering intense and uncomfortable feeling (i.e. heaviness in my heart registered as grief), stemming from an unfulfilled need (i.e. need for intimacy and love), and the mind can’t find a solution.

We’re wired to find solutions to all kinds of dis-ease. And if we can’t find one, our systems (made up of our mind, body, and soul), will do the next best thing: suppress the feelings of dis-ease. If you think of emotions as energy and sensation flowing through the body in streams, it would be like putting up a damn to block any stream of energy or sensation related to grief (in my example).

This making sense?

Now suppressing or blocking painful emotions can be helpful, sometimes totally necessary actually, in the short term. Like if I were at a baby shower, for instance. Damning up those streams of grief might be useful for a few hours. Kinda like a little anesthesia for the soul. Thing is, we’re not meant to keep our emotions damned up for long. And some of us do. For years. Over time, if we refuse to let energy and sensations flow, our system starts to lose its life force all together. It starts to shut down. We feel numb. Stagnant. Tired. Want to stay in bed. Depression, from my perspective, is a widespread and chronic damning of our feelings, a widespread and chronic disconnection from the energy and sensation in our bodies.

So what’s the takeaway? Well, if you experience depression in any form, one way to respond is with thoughts like, “I’m broken and need to be fixed” (the way we’re taught to think in our current medical system). Another, more empowering way, is to respond with a sense of wonder and curiosity.

What am I not feeling? 
What emotions or memories has my system decided I can’t handle?

How much more support (and what kind of support) might I need in my life to feel capable of facing it all?

Over and over I’ve seen depression lift as people (myself included) break away from the cultural standard of isolation and build more support into their lives (i.e. closer bonds with friends and family, starting therapy, committing to a regular spiritual practice). As we get the support we need to face the pain of life, we convince our system that it’s ok to feel again.

From this perspective, there’s nothing bad or wrong about depression. It doesn’t make you broken. In fact, I’d argue there’s wisdom in it. Depression is your body’s way of telling you there’s something (probably something pretty painful) you haven’t felt yet. And it’s gonna stay with you to numb the pain until you build up enough love and support to do the hard work of healing.

Wishing you the courage and support you need this week to feel and heal