If you can see the problem while being in int...that is the first step to get out and resolve it.
The Courage to Be Depressed: Accepting the Unacceptable
The Courage to Be Depressed: Accepting the Unacceptable
Author: Please welcome our guest blogger, Jacqueline Marshall. Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help for Depression. She specializes in the area of psychology and personal development. She has an M.A. in counseling psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.
Michael plopped into a chair in his therapist’s office. “I feel like my head’s going to explode, all I want is to sleep. I know it takes time to adjust, but I should be better and I’m trying. Lily and the kids tiptoe around me - I don’t want that; I want my kids to be comfortable with me. Lily has been patient, but I can tell she’s getting to the end of her rope.”
“I’d like you to take a deep breath,” said Michael’s counselor Tony, “and let yourself melt into a pool of depression. Give yourself permission to do that. No one here needs you to be strong. Let the “shoulds” go and relax into what is really going on with you. Rather than fight against despair with thoughts of how you should be, let’s find out how you are.”
Why would a therapist ask for anyone to “melt into their depression?” Tony was hoping Michael would let go of his guilt about having a mood disorder. The symptoms of depression, PTSD, or other diagnoses are difficult to handle. The added pressure of guilt prevents Michael from addressing the causes of his depression effectively.
It’s harmful to feel guilt about having symptoms. Feeling bad that you are feeling bad is like adding another illness on top of the original one. This secondary guilt makes you feel worse; negative self-talk increases, and so does the sense of guilt. This never ending circle is impossible to escape when you think you are weak but should be strong.
After Michael appeared relaxed Tony asked, “What’s going on with you now? Do you feel the same, better, or worse?”
“The pressure is gone,” replied Michael. “I’m sad and anxious and so tired, but my head doesn’t feel like it’s being crushed. Now I’m just a puddle of depression.”
“Yes Michael, you are. That’s why come to you see me. Your disorder is your current reality, and now you’ve allowed yourself to be in that reality. You don’t have to like it, but you can’t go anywhere until you accept where you are. One of my favorite quotes is from Paul Tillich, ‘The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, despite being unacceptable.’”
The stigma of mental illness puts self-defeating thoughts into your mind. “I’m not pulling my weight” (reality check: neither does anyone with a bleeding ulcer). “No one in my family has ever had this problem” (yeah, right). “I should be able to yank myself up by the bootstraps and get on with life (some things are too heavy to yank with bootstraps). “I should feel comfortable being home” (what you know will not change how you feel; feelings have a “mind” of their own).
Every human being reacts to traumatic events in their own way. Some people break out in shingles or abuse alcohol. Others have chronic migraines or, like Michael, shut down emotionally.
As Tony told Michael, “Allowing yourself to be a puddle of depression, as you call it, doesn’t mean you’re giving into it. And I know there are situations where being a puddle isn’t appropriate, and you will naturally mask how you feel. But think about this. It takes courage to face yourself as you are and accept your present condition when it “should be” unacceptable.”
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