The vicious cycle of struggling during a depressive episode

Even though more people are being aware of the importance of destigmatization of mental illness, it is still difficult for one to accept being in a depressive episode.  On the contrary, some people might feel “proud” of being mentally well or feeling happy in general.  They might think they did really well to maintain their mental well-being.  There is nothing wrong with being satisfied with one’s good condition.  However, when a person is striving to maintain a “happy mood” all the time, it may be difficult for them to face the reality of inevitable emotional ups and downs in life.  A client of mine recently had a depressive episode and was very uncomfortable for being depressed.  Whenever, she talked to her family members or friends and felt that they were feeling and living well, she felt a deep sense of inferiority.  She thought others must be judging her for not being well.  As a result, she started to withdraw from others and felt helpless for her persistent low mood.  At the same time, she struggled to plan for activities for herself, such as going to the gym running or doing meditation.  No matter how hard she tried to stick to her plan, she failed to do so and felt more frustrated for her situation.

It is easy for us to feel “special” for being and living well all the time.  It seems that people would think that we are extraordinary or more superior if we have a good life.  This craving for thinking about ourselves as a special person may make us trapped in a false sense of self.  It also makes us less likely to have a genuine connection with others.  It is because we did not show the whole of ourselves to others and this illusionary sense of self built a wall between us and other people.  

How could we be more authentic when we relate with others?  One of the ways is to practice mindfulness and pay more attention to our moment-to-moment mind.  Whenever we remember, bringing our awareness back to our breathing.  At the same time, we may also see if anything is arising in our mind.  For example, when someone is giving me positive feedback on something I had written, I tried to bring my awareness back to my breathing.  I may be aware of craving for being “great” or “special” in my mind.  As a result, I talked to myself I notice this craving.  When we are being more able to observe our inner self, we could break the wall between ourselves and others.  It is because we can shift our focus from focusing on how “special” we are to the social interactions or to what the other person is trying to convey to us.  

One more point is that it is also very easy to fall into the trap of craving for letting go of our illusionary sense of self.  In fact, we may fall into the trap of craving for being “selfless”.  To avoid this, we may just be relaxed and be whatever we are at the present moment.  

Similarly, if we are depressed, it is also common for us wanting to get rid of this depressive state as soon as possible.  We may try to relax and be compassionate to ourselves that we are currently depressed.  If we stop struggling, we may be able to gradually pull ourselves out of the depressive state.

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