I haven’t been really depressed in awhile. I’ve had bouts of minor depression, but even that has been pretty much kept at bay recently. I consider myself lucky although I sometimes do worry I’m standing on the edge of a cliff about to fall over. But we can’t dwell in the what ifs, right?
Even though I feel myself removed from that person I was years ago, I still can’t help but feel fiercely protective of her. Depression is hard, and precious few people understand it.
That was all in my heart as I approached this article on Psych Central that discussed a study that’s conclusion was that sometimes depressed people choose to avoid activities that could make them feel better.
I’ll let you read the whole article to get the specifics, but basically some studies were completed where participants (some depressed, some not) could choose to either engage in a stimuli that they knew would make them feel better or one they knew would make them feel sad. The depressed subjects, more often than the non-depressed ones, chose the stimulus that would make them feel sad.
The authors of the studies and the article use this information to show that interventions that help people manage their negative emotions might not be wholly effective because people need the motivation to change those feelings.
That’s all good, and I trust the study’s authors as well as other mental health professionals understand what that means. Depression hinders motivation.
What I fear, however, is how others — both depressed people and their loved ones — might read that same information.
When I was at my most depressed, if I would have heard that one of the problems was that I didn’t have enough motivation, it would have just given me more reason to hate myself.
And I know that if some loved ones of depressed people read this, they might take it to mean that their loved one doesn’t want it enough. If they would just try harder, they could feel better.
Looking at it from an emotionally healthy perspective, I can see that neither of those perspectives is accurate. The truth is that depression takes away our motivation, and we simply cannot just will our way through it. Depression lies to us and convinces us that feeling better is pointless. It convinces us that we aren’t strong enough. It convinces us that happiness is a lie, a facade.
In other words, depression is its own best friend. It does anything to help itself thrive — and a big part of that is convincing its prey that feeling better is fruitless.
I love living in this information age. I love that we have easy access to information and opinions from people all over the world. I think it is so helpful that with the click of a few keys on our keyboard, we can connect with other people like us, and we can also see into the psyches of people quite different from us.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t downfalls. Knowledge doesn’t equal wisdom. Sometimes I think we have all become consumers of information without always becoming intimately involved with the information. And that’s why we need experts.
I’m glad these new studies are out there. I am a fan of anything that can help us understand depression better. I just want to also make sure there are voices out there who advocate for the depressed. Who scream loudly that while they may lack motivation to feel better, that doesn’t mean they are weak or that they like their depression. It means they are sick, and that lack of motivation is a symptom not a precursor. It’s the illness not a character flaw.
With all this new information coming out daily, professionals can learn ever more effective ways to help patients. We just need to have the patience to let the experts speak rather than come to harsh conclusions on our own.
Depressed woman photo available from Shutterstock