This is a book excerpt from The Upside of Down. To read more about how Tamra Mercieca overcame depression the natural way, visit: www.theupsideofdown.com.au
Being diagnosed with depression can initially serve as a relief, providing you with a concrete reason for your unpredictable low moods or inability to work. A diagnosis of mental illness can give you something to hold on to – something to work with. But buying into the label can also work against you.
While a diagnosis helps explain to others what is wrong, if you hold on too tightly it can hinder your recovery; you may use the depression as an excuse. You may start to feel that the depression is who you are, when in fact it is not. It is an illness and, like any illness, with determination, time and the right tools it can be kicked to the kerb.
Many of us are led to believe that depression is a lifelong condition, when it doesn’t have to be. This may go against the grain of what you have come to believe, but for the sake of your recovery, be open to new ideas. Allow your mind the freedom to think outside the square for a moment and challenge convention.
Sometimes our beliefs can prevent us from having new experiences. Learning how to lose the depression label was the big turning point for me. It was after adopting this new and somewhat controversial way of thinking that I was able to let go of the illness once and for all.
You can choose to make your depression a lifelong prison from which you get a rare glimpse of sunlight, or you can make it a tough school, which teaches you wisdom.
Depression ultimately, is a mindset. You are responsible for choosing whether you continue to suffer from depression. You can take the doctor’s diagnosis and run with it, or you can refuse to allow this illness to rule your life. You may be suffering from depression right now, but if you truly believe you can overcome it, you will. Ultimately, your cure lies in your head.
Once given a doctor’s diagnosis of depression being a lifelong condition, it can be used as an excuse to be sad, as a mask to hide behind and, worst of all, as a tool to get attention and create dramas in your life.
Depression can be viewed not so much as a mental illness, but as a coping mechanism. It is a label that we can adopt that allows us to withdraw, when reaching out to others becomes too painful or risky. Depression may not be so much your problem as it is your protector.
The way you view depression plays a vital role in how it affects your life. It will take time to change how you view the illness, but what is a bit of time when you can change the quality of your life? The mind controls everything and, when dealing with depression, is our most powerful tool. Reprogramming your mind is the first step in the recovery process.
Consider this: You do not need the depression label. In the East, Buddhists try to accept the gradual divestment of all things until they are attached to nothing, need nothing. Allow the depression to slip from your grasp graciously, so you can move forward.
If we choose to wear the depression label, we end up feeling down. Just as if we wear clothes that are two sizes too big we might feel overweight and unattractive. The label makes people think more about what society expects of the mentally ill, rather than what they think of themselves.
Eventually, the labelled person’s identity crystallises around the label and the person learns to accept the role of the mentally ill. This is evident in a Turkish study done in 1994, which found that providing a psychiatric label resulted in a significantly higher perception of mental illness, more expectation of physical burden and a higher perception of the need for treatment.
Sometimes, to change a belief, it is necessary to change your environment. The people around you condition your beliefs. If someone is telling you that you will always suffer from depression, you need to limit your time spent with that person and start surrounding yourself with people who have already overcome depression or people who believe you can get better.
If you have suffered from depression for a long time it can be hard to separate yourself from the illness. This phenomenon parallels a tea bag being steeped in clear water. After a while the water takes on the colour and characteristics of the contents of the tea bag.
Some teas are stronger than others – just the way depression can be mild or severe and last for different periods. Teabags and depression come in all shapes and sizes. The bigger the teabag, the more powerful an impact it will have on your life, saturating you completely until you forget who you are. Depression becomes you!
When this happens you take on all the characteristics of depression, leaving much of who you are behind. How you walk will reflect depression. Your tone will resonate with depression. Your moods will emulate depression. Your posture will mirror depression and so on.
The depression ‘tea bag’ is steeping itself deeply in your life. When this happens, it can seem difficult to take the depression tea bag out of the cup. But by adding new coping skills you can dilute the mixture back to its original quality. Clear water is who you really are at your core.
You are not depression. It is not part of your make-up. It is simply a foreign hindrance that has attached itself to your being. Do not accept that you will have depression for life, because what you accept will entrench itself in your way of living. Refuse to allow depression to be your lifelong travelling companion and you are halfway to winning the battle. Whatever you do, do not buy into the label!