Sadness vs. Depression: Either Way, Therapy Helps!
Updated: May 21, 2019
Sadness Sometimes we say we feel depressed when we really mean we are feeling sad or angry. Maybe someone close to us has died or a long-term relationship has ended. Perhaps we feel unfulfilled at work or we're having difficulty coping with our spouse, children or friends. These kind of situations are labeled as depression but actually they are all situational. By situational I mean that we have some idea about where the feeling of pain is coming from. The sadness has a source. It's not a mystery.
When you feel unhappy over something specific, it seems like it might be an easy fix. We think about making a change. Get a divorce, change jobs, make new friends. We've all been taught that the way to get over hurt is to make an alteration or get a replacement. In reality, that doesn't work. More times than not, these situational occurrences display patterns that are detrimental to our well-being.
Therapy can help you discover your original model and re-shape your individual mold. We figure out what is representative of who you are today and make distinct and poignant changes to your core personal belief system. You might be stuck in that job because underneath it all you feel that's all your worth. You might allow yourself to engage with someone who emotionally starves you because you don't know what it's like to be nourished. Situational depression is almost always symptomatic of an irrational belief that no longer serves you. My therapy helps you get over the sadness of today and learn what to do when other painful situations come up in the future.
Clinical Depression When real feelings are left unexpressed, they fester and multiply. The sadness or anger does not go away. Instead, it get stored inside our bodies and left unacknowledged. Many of us grew up in families that did not encourage or even allow us to express any kind of overt feelings. We learned to suppress our normal natural childlike feelings of anger, depression and even joy. Experience proved the old adage 'better to be seen than heard' and we learned to repress in order to survive.
True depression is all about the stuffing of feelings. It is a pervasive low feeling of knowing that something feels wrong but we just don't know what. Life feels like a day in and day out drudge. There's nothing to look forward to. Nothing that brings us happiness. We go through the motions and keep up appearances. Some days are easier than others. Most days we just don't care.
Sometimes the feelings are stored so deeply that we just feel numb. By the time we reach adulthood we don't even know what a feeling is or how to label one. Many people think that all a therapist says is, "How do you feel about that?" Early on in my career, I learned that for many people, the question of "how do you feel?" is honestly impossible. Simply put, deep depression means you are so detached that you really don't know how you feel. You have long ago, drowned in your own sorrow.
Luckily we live in a day and age where you can be 'saved'. If you are in living like a human zombie feeling totally crushed, empty and overwhelmingly sad, there is real help. I always see anti-depressants as a useful tool but I also see it as only one of many tools to help you get on with your life. Medication alone is never enough. Real depression requires real human contact and unconditional positive regard. More often than not, the lack of true support is the root cause of depression. A solid trusting therapeutic relationship is essential for recovery. It's most effective when someone who is depressed is given the power to set the pace.
The healing comes when we unlock and release those stored up feelings. We do this a little bit at a time so that it's not overwhelming. Sometimes it hurts a bit when we clean out the wounds. That sting is necessary in order to make sure we get it totally clean. The goal is to eventually form scar tissue that will not be painful to the touch. The old hurts become a part of your past.
You can feel alive again. As soon as you arrive you've take the first step towards acknowledging that you're worth it. From there we'll schedule regular work-outs so we can exercise that part of you that wants to join the world.
When you think about getting help, you are tuning into the part of you that still has hope. That's the part of you that's still alive. No matter how small, we can take this tiny hopeful part and develop it together. It's like working out. We've got to start slow so that we can effect change that you can internalize. Healing occurs when we unlock and release stored up feelings. From there we develop new thoughts and ways to approach life. Usually we discover that the person you originally thought you were has little to do with the person you are in reality.
© 2008 Jackie A. Castro, MA, LMFT