There are many forms and levels of depression. When understanding depression, some people describe it like sinking in quicksand, with a sense of hopelessness in getting back to safer ground. Often, this will affect one’s daily motivation to accomplish and evolve, which leads to all sorts of other internal dialogues. Some of the feelings that come up in relation to depression include shame, uselessness, self-hatred, lack of caring and fear.
Depression can also be understood by looking at a time line. When one feels really low, the past seems negative, the present seems slow and unmanageable and the future seems hopeless.
When working with clients who feel low, the focus is on looking at the metaphor of the closed door, and on working out how to open that door slowly, peer inside and begin the process of finding joy and meaning in everyday life. It is also about normalising the feelings of depression and those other feelings that accompany it. Each person will experience these feelings in a different way and with a different level of intensity, but depression is extremely common, just sometimes very well hidden.
We work on understanding the present and looking at small steps that can make a difference and bring some positivity and meaning into one’s daily life. It is easy for our minds to help us get caught up in a vicious spiral of not being able to do something, being afraid, feeling low, and then repeating the spiral, until one feels deeply stuck in that quicksand. If one is open to the process, through therapy, a person can work through ways of accepting the feelings but not the actions, of taking small steps in a meaningful direction which gives more life purpose, of finding value and gratitude in the simple things, of increasing curiosity through play and interest, of taking safer and more rewarding risks. All of this can open the door to feeling more peaceful and self-loving, as well as breaking the negative spiral and taking life one step at a time.
Many loved ones ask what they can do to help support those who are experiencing depression. Here are some ways in which family and friends can help:
Notice the changes in the behaviours
Offer and give practical support such as making a cup of tea or running them a bath
Encourage them to find the best support
Be open to all forms of communication, including face to face, texting or online
Remind them that feeling low is not a flaw and is actually very common
Do things together without necessarily speaking about the issues. It is particularly helpful to be outside in nature, even for a little while
Look after yourself so that you stay well. Talk to trusted friends, exercise, learn self-care
Check in with the person. You never know when that right opportunity will come when they are ready to open up
Let them know that you acknowledge they are not okay without any judgement
If you are very concerned, take them to see their doctor or to the hospital