Depression, for some, can be a dirty word and understandably some resist placing that label on themselves. This is often tied to the negative picture our culture paints of what “depressed people” look like, think like and behave like. Part of my work as a therapist is to be the voice for my client’s move towards happiness and well-being when they are unable to be that voice for themselves. Sometimes this means discussing the possibility that depression may be one of the obstacles getting in the way of these goals. Because of our culture’s negative perception of what “depression” is and looks like, I educate my clients about the variety of ways that depression can show up in their lives without them even knowing that depression is there.
Depression shows up in everyone’s lives on a continuum ranging from feeling rather “blah” much of the time to the more extreme of sleeping all hours and not being able to get out of bed. Essentially, one is so in the grip of depression that they can’t function in the world. Most of us have had the experience of going through a period of feeling sad or having a general lack of interest in the activities that we would normally enjoy.
So how do we know that it’s moving along the continuum where it’s getting in the way? One of my clients stated it this way: I used to say “I’m not sad” but it didn’t mean I was happy either. In his depression definition, he wasn’t depressed because he didn’t feel sad. As he journeyed through the process of therapy, he developed the awareness that most of the time, although not sad, he also wasn’t happy. He realized depression could be rather sneaky as it lied beneath his radar influencing his life, affecting him, chewing on him but not enough to recognize the role it was playing in his general unhappiness.
Counseling is an uncovering process and sometimes what you find, like the subtleties of depression, can come as a surprise. I believe the journey towards happiness is making what’s unknown known because once known, it can be addressed.