In my work as a psychiatrist, I see again and again that clarity of thinking and precision of language make a difference in fighting emotional suffering.
The term depression doesn’t offer much meaning beyond the idea of suffering with sadness. I prefer to think of depression as a problem of “defeat.” Depression means a troubled (yet changeable) state of engagement with our world, not just a sad mood. In people who suffer from depression, I see a kind of personal surrender in important areas of living. Our goal is to get back to life’s challenges and gifts. The feeling and behavior of defeat can be transformed. Even in a depressed state there is a strength within that can be used to cope. No matter how exhausted we may feel in depression, we never entirely lose the capacity to move forward.
The emotional pain of depression or defeat might feel like it is irreversible but there are two powerful forces that can reverse it. First, talk therapy can offer a person a lifeline out of depression. Second, in severe, prolonged or genetically driven depression, the anti-depressant power of prescribed drugs can be combined with the talk therapy to provide relief and to speed recovery. I cannot emphasize enough that anti-depression drugs are not magic or instant, and they are not for every patient. But when these drugs are used, they are best directed by a therapist who understands behavioral treatment.
Founding Father Ben Franklin was a genius in many fields, including physical and mental health. His wisdom is still available to us in a best seller from the 1700s, “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” Once a part of everyone’s education, it ought to be so today. For people who are in the midst of depression, his advice, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy…,” is terrific medical advice, even if it must be enabled with proper medication.
It is painful for people in depression to get up and face the challenges of the day. But it is many times more painful – and will worsen the core sense of defeat — when depressed people do not. Staying in bed past wake up time is harmful in many ways:
- It opens our minds to a flood of negative and defeatist thinking that drives depression.
- The bed itself physically and mentally traps the depressed person in a pattern of defeatist thoughts and feelings of unworthiness.
- It exposes us to feelings of shame for running away from our duty to cope with the day.
- It reinforces our (false) belief that nothing can be done for our pain and for our situation.
In depression it can helpful to make a simple daily morning schedule that includes:
- gentle physical movement
- perhaps some tea or coffee
- simple, brief tasks
- writing down troubling thoughts so as to spot the negative exaggerations that depression spawns and aggravates
Depression, although it can feel as if there is no ending, is not a permanent state and getting out of bed everyday –no matter what– is the best gift you can give yourself if you are depressed.
I hope this helps.
Copyright 2011, Jerrold Bonn M.D., Psychiatrist. All rights reserved.