Typical symptoms of depression include fatigue and lack of energy; sadness; social withdrawal and isolation; feeling hopeless and helpless, worthless or guilty; loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed; trouble concentrating; trouble sleeping etc.
Could you ever think of those symptoms as something positive? How would you react if I'd tell you, it was your best friend who sent you those symptoms?
You shake your head in disbelief and say " What a nonsense! My best friend would never do this to me! "
"And what if I'd tell you this friend is none other but your psyche?"
"Why would my psyche do this to me?" you are still skeptical.
"Because it loves you! " I pause "Because it wants you to finally think about yourself and start paying attention to your feelings and needs."
"If that was indeed the case, if it really loved me as you say, why would it send me pain, sleepless nights, fatigue and deep sadness? If it loved me it would give me strength, endurance and increased self-esteem! This is what I need to be able to continue to function properly and be again the person I used to be! "
"What kind of person did you use to be? "
"Well, I was always there for others, I never said 'no' to anybody, I was always very helpful and reliable." might be your answer. Or: "I was strong and tough! I always gave my very best, my 150% and never allowed any mistake! And now, look at me now, I can hardly even remember what I've just read and have no drive for anything! "
"Is this who you want to be again?"
" Yes!" your voice becomes firm and impatient "Otherwise I am of no value as a human being!"
"How do you define your value as a human being?" I ask quietly.
You are silent for a few seconds "I am only a valuable member of our society if I give my best, achieve high, am strong and always there for others"
We remain silent for a while.
"So" I say " Does that mean that anytime you make a mistake you lose your value as a human being? "
"Indeed! But what has this all to do with the depression?" you ask impatiently.
"Well, maybe your psyche has a different opinion on your human value" I pause "Maybe it thinks that your value does not vary depending on your performance or achievements. Maybe it thinks that you should pay more attention to yourself and your needs. When was the last time you gave yourself a break or allowed yourself a real vacation? "
" A long time ago " you are quiet for a bit " I can't even remember when exactly. All I know is that even on holidays I can't completely switch off and relax. I would either continue working on something or I'd keep myself occupied with worries."
" Well, do you still wonder you feel exhausted?"
"In the past though, I was capable of coping with the stress" you persist "I used to be strong. And ever since I got depressed I lost all my strength. And now you sit here and tell me this depression is my best friend. What a nonsense! To hell with this friend!"
"Tell me something! If you were to stop eating for a week how long do you think you would manage to keep working hard? "
You think for a moment "A day or two perhaps".
" After that you would be exhausted, wouldn't you?"
"Well," I continue "Your psyche needs regular nourishment as well. You nourish it when you give it rest and relaxation, when you have fun or when you enjoy yourself. If you don't do this regularly it is like you are leaving your psyche to starve. This is when your psyche starts sending you first warning signals: the fatigue, the feeling of exhaustion. Chances are you'd disregard those warning signals If your core self-belief is something like this: "If I don't perform well and achieve high, I am worth nothing'. So you keep working, you keep giving your best and keep letting your psyche starve.
Eventually your psyche sends you more signals of starvation, it send you the insomnia hoping you would pay attention and take your time to relax and sleep. But you keep running, keep performing, keep ignoring the warnings. Instead of relaxing, you push yourself even harder. You are determined to keep up the pace and perform.
New warnings would follow. Your psyche pulls the brake and makes you lose your drive, it makes you lose interest and withdraw. It gives you bad mood and sadness. But you keep ignoring those cries for help, you keep forcing yourself to perform. At night, instead of relaxing you blame or hate yourself for not meeting up your own expectations.
Finally your psyche sends you the thoughts of suicide or it gives you severe physical pain. It is your psyche's last hope you'd finally pull the brake and start paying attention to yourself, start living a life full of joy and happiness."
You remain silent for some time "What do you suggest I should do now?" you ask insecure "How am I supposed to listen to my psyche? I do not even know what my psyche really needs."
to be continued