There’s More to Depression than Pain
In the Los Angeles area, approximately 9% of the population have been diagnosed with depression. That’s about 623,000 people. And around the world, approximately 350 million people suffer from depression. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability around the globe.
There are many reasons why a person might develop symptoms of depression. A combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors can contribute to the illness. For instance, an imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain can negatively affect one’s mood and thoughts. Someone facing the loss of a loved one or unemployment might experience depression. And if a person has a history of trauma, they may be more likely to experience depression. There’s also a genetic component to depression, meaning that someone whose family members struggle with depression might be more vulnerable to the illness.
Although depression is a challenging experience (with symptoms such as guilt, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, social withdrawal, and suicidal thoughts), it might also be an invitation. You see, it’s common to find depression in those who have directed their intense emotions inward. When people become afraid of their own feelings, especially if those feelings are challenging, they can press their emotions inward. Feelings such as anger and shame, especially if they’re intense, can get pushed down. When heavy feelings are stifled again and again, it can contribute to symptoms of depression.
And here’s where the invitation lies. Depression can be a call to go inward. Despite the mess of emotions that exist within, the very path to heal them is to go in. You might have wanted to go over, under, and around. You might have wanted to close your eyes, ignore, avoid, and overlook. But the only way out is through, as the saying goes. The way out of the depression is through the emotions you’ve been harboring.
Sure, that’s not going to be easy at first. You’ve been avoiding your emotions for a reason. But that’s where support comes in. Therapy, support groups, friends, and family can help. Even journaling (admitting your feelings to yourself) can be incredibly useful for those who experience depression. Depression is an invitation to go inward, to begin a process of self-exploration. You may want to get the support of a therapist so that you can safely and gently go inward. Once you move through those feelings, you may find healing, freedom, excitement, enthusiasm, and even joy on the other side.
Keep in mind that depression can cause severe symptoms in some people. If you or someone you know is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, it’s important to seek immediate mental health treatment. Call 911 or go to your nearest hospital.