When we talk about depression, many people think about the chemical and biological side to mental illness. Yet we are not simply biological beings. We are also emotional and social beings with distinct personalities. One aspect of personality is attitude. Have you ever been told that you have either a "good" or "bad" attitude? We tend to judge attitudes by how they affect not only our mental well-being but that of others. When it comes to depression there are definitely attitudes or perspectives that help and there are those that hurt. In this post we are going to talk about the types of negative attitudes that can keep you down and make recovery from depression nearly impossible. We are also going to list some antidotes to such dysfunctional perspectives.
- You think people owe you for being depressed or for having difficult life circumstances.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the world is not going to care one way or the other that you are depressed. Why? Because they are thinking about their own life and their own issues. The world does not care that you had a rotten childhood or that you missed golden opportunities in life. Most people will not even know of your struggles. Other people are not responsible for giving you what you feel you have been cheated out of in life. Some people who suffer from depression have an inflated sense of entitlement. They may have unrealistic expectations that everyone should understand their depression and be compassionate and accommodating. The truth is that there are many people who will not understand your depression or what you may be going through. Unrealistic expectations of how you think people should respond or what they will do for you may set you up for feeling angry and disappointed.
The Antidote: Set up a support system of people who do understand depression and with whom you can talk to about your challenges. When there is a chance to educate others or the general public about depression it may help to encourage the types of reactions you would most like to see including acceptance. It is your responsibility to educate others about your depression. It is not the world's responsibility to make life easier for you because you have a mood disorder. You should, however, always expect to be treated with dignity and respect.
- You think you are "special" because you are depressed.
As the now deceased Fred Rogers used to say, "Everyone is special. You are the only one like you." Yes you are special"just like everybody else. If you can name someone who isn't special or unique let me know. We all share that commonality of possessing attributes which make us different from anyone else. We all have things which differentiate us from others such as our artistic ability or inheriting our grandmother's red hair or being able to bake prize winning pies. But if you think you are "special" because you have a mood disorder, you are mistaken. You are special but your depression is not the reason why. Some with depression define "special" in that they are all alone in how they feel and that nobody could possibly understand what they are going through. The individual who defines their specialness through their depression believes that they have the worst case scenario and that they are uniquely scarred for life. If emotional pain were a competition they want to win. This person may feel singled out by God or the world. They may feel special for believing that suffering only happens to them. Having depression in and of itself does not make you special. It is how you deal with it which sets you apart.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 9.5% of the U.S. adult population suffers from some sort of mood disorder. This estimate doesn't even include children and teens. There are many people in this country who suffer from some type of mood disorder. In other words, you are not alone. There are plenty of other people who are coping with grief, depression, or Bipolar Disorder. You will not get the support you need or the inspiration to make a change if you believe that you are the only person in the world going through this or if you isolate yourself from others who can help.
The Antidote: Look around. Be aware that others are suffering too. Do not wear your depression as some sort of badge of honor or righteousness. Let go of the false assumption that you alone have the worst life and everyone else's pain is secondary to your own. Talk to others who are also coping with depression. Learn from others as to how to manage your pain and overcome your challenges.
- You feel you are not responsible for your life because you are depressed.
Despite the fact that you have depression, life does go on. Just because you are depressed doesn't mean that you stop being a parent, spouse, or friend. You may still have a job you need to go to or school. In some cases a break from some responsibilities may be in order. But at some point you will need to find a way to resume activities of daily living and maintain your relationships. Some people with depression will place the conditions of their happiness and wellness on others. It is is not the responsibility of your spouse, parent, child, sibling, or therapist to make you happy. Depression doesn't give you a "get out life free card." Likewise, recovery is an active process. It is not something where you get to sit passively and wait for the world to cure you. You must work at it. Daily chores, interactions, and even getting out of bed in the morning may be ten times harder for you than someone who does not have depression. But it doesn't mean you stop trying. Abdicating your responsibility ensures that over time you will cease to be an independent and functional being. Learned helplessness only deepens the well of depression and self loathing.
The Antidote: Accept the help, support, and treatment you need. You don't need to do this alone. But you cannot rely upon others to make you happy. Only you can do that for yourself. No matter what your life circumstance you are responsible for your mental health, wellness, and happiness. Playing the victim will not help you to achieve your goals. Embrace your personal power by repeating this mantra: "I am responsible for my life." Nobody can live your life for you. And as much as others can help you towards reaching your goals, you are your own number one advocate.
These are but several of the many possible negative thought processes which can lead to feeling trapped by depression. If you want to get unstuck it may be time to revisit some of these unhealthy attitudes in order to change them. Do any of you have any of these bad attitudes? How have you tried to change them? Are there any other negative attitudes that you feel can deepen depression? Let us know what you think. We are listening