I am very good at denial. Seriously I’m the queen of denial! One of the biggest examples of this is my history of depression. I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember (at least 20 years) and yet it’s only in the last year and a half that I’ve begun to work on overcoming it.
No matter how many times my life fell apart because of depression I refused to accept that I needed help or that my depression was pretty much ruling my life. I was stuck in an endless loop. Get a job, be ok for a few months, start taking time off, get multiple warnings, leave the job or get let go…rinse and repeat. This cycle did, of course, affect other parts of my life too with me often having to live off very little and causing my debts to skyrocket.
This changed around eighteen months ago when I finally stopped and took a long hard look at myself. I’d just been signed off sick from my latest job and I was doing my usual routine of thinking how I would play it down, how I would deny how ill I was.
I’m not sure why but it was then that I stopped my damage control and actually looked…really looked at myself. I realised that I was never going to overcome my depression if I couldn’t even accept it. Of course, I didn’t just say “Hey depression, I accept you!” and suddenly everything was as bright and cheerful as a dick van dyke film.
But I did begin to get an idea of what things I needed to work on.
1# Admitting That I Couldn’t Cope
The first thing I had to come to terms with was admitting that I wasn’t coping. Why did I have such a hard time with this?
Because being unable to cope meant that I wasn’t in full control of my life and that scared the hell out of me! The thing is that I wasn’t in control even when denying that I couldn’t cope. All I was doing was hiding from that fact and burying my head in the sand wasn’t making me feel any better.
On top of that was the feeling that if I admitted I couldn’t cope, I would be seen as a failure. I had listened to the stigma around depression for years and I had turned that stigma on myself. I truly believed that being unable to cope meant that I was weak and that everyone around me would see me that way. Part of learning to accept my depression was realising that what I believed wasn’t true at all.
Yes, some dismissed my depression and saw me as weak or an attention seeker. But those who truly cared about me were just the opposite. I had several important people in my life tell me they couldn’t believe how strong I was for facing this head-on.
Just admitting to myself that I couldn’t cope felt like some weight had lifted from my shoulders. Yes, it was scary but it was also freeing too. Instead of using so much energy to appear fine, I could use it to start making things better.
Admitting I couldn’t cope ultimately allowed me to seek help. I felt like I had permitted myself to talk openly to my GP and to finally get the treatment I had needed for so long.
At the end of the day, we all have times where we can’t cope and it is 100% ok to admit that.
2# Learning To Reach Out To Others
I learned at an early age that I couldn’t rely on others. Doing so ended up with me being rejected over and over and I became terrified of rejection.
Avoiding rejection became so important to me that it coloured everything I did. It still does if I’m honest. In my head, this meant pleasing everyone and putting everyone first. It also meant not being a burden in my mind asking for help would make me a burden.
I just couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to stay around me if I was a burden. Of course, I held myself to a different standard than everyone else. I didn’t see others as burdens when they came to me for help.
To me, it was ok for them to reach out as they were more valuable than I was. They had more to offer. I saw myself as someone who had little to offer as it was without then reaching out for help.
A close friend asked me once why it was ok for others to reach out for help but not me. Logically, the answer was that it was ok for me too. But logic goes out of the window where depression is concerned.
Recognising that my thoughts were warped by depression helped me begin to reach out. I would remind myself that my thoughts were not realistic and that it was ok to ask for help.
This hasn’t been an overnight miracle by any means, I still struggle with my deep-rooted beliefs about myself.
I still often feel like I’m not as good as those around me, and that to avoid being rejected I need to be perfect. But I am slowly getting better at reaching out and each time I do it feels like a victory over my depression.
But what if you don’t have anyone that you feel comfortable enough reaching out to? Thankfully there are a lot of resources out there to help. Check out some of the places I have gone to seek help on my resource page
3# Stop Bottling Everything Up Inside
Another thing I learned young was how to hide how I felt. How to act happy when inside I’m crying. How to act confident when I’m terrified. Showing my true feelings left me vulnerable and being vulnerable was dangerous.
But more than that I had things that I thought I had to hide, things that I knew would rip my family apart if discovered. Showing how I felt would risk them coming out so I stopped showing how I felt and hid it all inside instead.
The trouble is if you do something often enough it becomes a habit good or bad. Even now when I know it’s ok to show how I feel I still struggle to do it. But I’ve begun to understand just how harmful bottling things up can be.
I have constantly tense shoulders and neck from keeping everything in and I get a lot of tension headaches not to mention migraine attacks. Not only that but I’ve spent so long bottling it all up that I’m now having the problem of not being able to let it out. It’s as though it’s all got stuck inside and there’s no way of getting it unstuck.
But even if I struggle to let it out I can at least work on not adding to the stuff that’s buried. Now when I start to bottle something up I remind myself of the stuff that’s stuck. I tell myself that it’s ok to express it rather than burying it.
I’m learning that it’s ok to show my true feelings, to be vulnerable sometimes.
Looking for ways to help you get out some of your bottled up emotions? Check out this article by Healthline. I found it really helped me understand what I was doing and how I could let stuff out.
Do you struggle with accepting your depression? Have you managed to move past this? Let me know in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to like and share this post if you found it helpful!