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What Is Depression?

Written by: Ryan Light, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

When you hear the word "depression," what's the first thing that pops into your mind?


For many, depression is viewed as a form of sadness, lack of motivation or may even be chalked up to laziness. Yet depression has roots seated much, much deeper than that.

The Cycle of Depression


I believe there are two forms of depression. The first is what's labeled as "clinical depression." These individuals tend to deal with suicidal ideation, respond well to long-term antidepressant use, and most often require a combination of psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral therapy type care.


The second is what I find most of us struggle with. That is, depression manifested through anger – and at the root of anger is ultimately hurt.


This unresolved hurt filters up into anger, which materializes from what I refer to as various cousins and second cousins:

  • Grief (cousin)

  • Loneliness (cousin)

  • Shame (cousin)

    • Regret (2nd cousin)

    • Guilt (2nd cousin)

    • Blame (2nd cousin)

    • Toxic Shame (2nd cousin)


As you can see, depression is not simply a state of sadness but the manifestation of unresolved issues embedded well below the surface.


Anger and Depression


Directly underneath depression lies anger, which can be exhibited in two forms:

  • External: Consistent rage, inability to hold down a job, in and out of relationships, etc.

  • Internal: Isolation, self-sabotage, self-harm, etc.


Whether it be external or internal, this anger emerges due to underlying emotional pain and trauma. However, learning to control anger is not the solution because anger is not the real issue. Until you permit yourself to expose your actual struggles, this anger will continue to simmer, just waiting to reappear during times of stress or when triggered.


Stages of Grief


Grief is not only the experience of losing a loved one but a loss of any kind. It could be due to termination from a job, failed relationship, financial instability, or even the loss of your childhood.


Grieving properly means walking through every stage of the process listed below:

  • Shock - "What just happened?"

  • Denial - "This is NOT happening!"

  • Anger - "WHY is this happening?"

  • Understanding - "I can't change what happened."

  • Acceptance - "It's going to be OK."

  • Moving On - "I can live life WITH, not IN this loss."


The problem is, many of us seem to get stuck in the anger phase because we don't allow ourselves to sit with, validate and work through those feelings of anger.


When grief is not fully processed, it will linger inside like a volcano ready to erupt until a trigger sets off an explosion. When that volcano erupts, it will not only affect your own life but will spill over into the lives of your friends, family, and loved ones as well.


Loneliness vs. Aloneness


There is a difference between feeling alone and feelings of loneliness. The first is a state of mind, whereas the latter is a state of being.


When you are in the middle of a crowd and still feel alone (disconnected, dissociated), that's the epitome of loneliness.


Most likely, this loneliness is rooted in the emotions/trauma of abandonment and neglect. These are the unresolved issues that need to be tackled to lift your feelings of loneliness and, in turn, your state of depression.


Is it Shame or Toxic Shame?


Shame can be a highly debilitating emotion. You may feel transparent and vulnerable; you are afraid that anyone and everyone has direct access to your thoughts and feelings. You want to shrink into the shadows and hide because Shame tells you, "I'm sorry for who I am."

Underneath Shame in the cycle of depression lies four-second cousins composed of guilt, regret, blame, and toxic Shame.


The first three are usually self-inflicted – as in, "I'm sorry for what I did."


Whereas the combination of those three and Shame mixed is what toxic Shame becomes – "I hate who I've become." At this stage, you tend to hide behind a mask and collapse from exhaustion each day due to pretending that you're "fine."


Toxic Shame is in the realm of what I've coined "self-worth anxiety." This is where you can’t stand to look at yourself in the mirror, jump from one unhealthy coping mechanism to another, and at this point, have virtually given up all hope.


Healing from Depression


Here's the good news:


The first step is to understand that depression is not your main problem.

As with any healing work, it will involve time, dedication, compassion, and patience to uncover and walk through those deeper-seated issues.


Like peeling an onion, you need to take it one layer at a time:


Instead of reaching for a drink, pill, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms, sit with your feelings.


Validate your feelings by giving them the space they need to be heard, seen, and felt. Learn the art of forgiveness, not only towards others but most importantly towards yourself.


Accept those events as a part of your story instead of doing everything in your power to escape, run or erase them from existence.


When you can become brutally open and honest with yourself, the pain will dissipate. The hurt and anger will lift, and the depression which has been a staple for so long can start to become a distant memory.


Remember, healing is feeling! By allowing yourself to FEEL what is unwanted now, you’re opening up space to let in all the joy you have been craving in the future.


Follow Ryan on his Facebook, Instagram and website for more info!


Read more from Ryan!

 

Ryan Light, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ryan Light is a mental health coach, author, thought leader, and influencer in the mental health space. Having spent 20 years of his life attempting to run, avoid and hide from the pain of his childhood and adolescence. He struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and panic disorder. After contemplating suicide, Ryan decided to finally confront his traumas through what he now coins “Feeling Work” and heal the real issues plaguing him with various mental health disorders. Today, his passion lies in guiding others through their struggles with anxiety, depression, and/or trauma through such avenues as social media, public speaking, self-paced courses, e-books, live workshops, and 1:1 coaching.

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