The single most common piece of advice you hear when you are depressed is along the lines of “do/think something that would normally make you happy”. It is nonsense because the very description of depression is ‘no longer finding pleasure in pleasurable activities’. And it is even more nonsense because, well, you didn’t think I thought of that already?
But there is an additional wrinkle thrown in that doesn’t get talked about a lot. It is something I bet few of you are aware of. It is something that I have talked at length with many people who suffer from depression about and it is rather common experience for us.
What I am talking about it is that sometimes, in fact, often, something that normally makes you smile will, and almost immediately after you are filled with a deep dense oppressive fog of depression. It is tactile. It feels a lot like remorse, as if you feel like you shouldn’t have been happy for that second.
When I have my rough days, it is almost always the same thing that works its way in, my daughter. I still have to take care of her. On the really bad days my wife will take it all on for me, but on the manageable days, I am still there. And invariably my daughter will make me smile. And when she does, I can feel the steel doors sliding down all around me, as if I just guaranteed a rough go for awhile.
I really cannot explain it. It is not a phenomenon that is easy to find things to read about either. It is like it doesn’t exist, no one wants to talk about it.
I think a lot of it has to do with stigma; how we believe we are supposed to feel and act when we are depressed. We don’t want to allow ourselves to be happy, even for a second, for fear that someone will believe what we are going through is authentic. People who have never experienced depression have so many opinions about it that is can be a struggle to be yourself and let your feelings really flow unopposed.
Authenticity is a big thing depressed people talk about in group therapy. People worry that their family or friends or work don’t believe them. They worry that they aren’t being trusted. People tell them that they are manipulating them or scamming them, or are simply too difficult to be around.
I feel like very often we throw ourselves deeper into depression just to prove how bad we really have it. I want to be clear here that I am not saying we fake it for dramatic effect. I am saying that we legitimately get more depressed as a response to people in our environment questioning our authenticity.
But that is just a theory, one that I haven’t even really thought about much. I wish I knew why my daughter’s laughter can make me more depressed when it is normally my favorite sound in the world, but I don’t. All I know is that I still fight everyday with the idea that people believe that my mental condition is somehow inauthentic, and I wish it would stop.