Dealing With Depression: When ‘Doing’ Doesn’t Do it Anymore

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben

Yesterday morning. I’ve been looking forward to this meeting with my therapist for a week. Ever since the last session, really, which was 8 days ago. The reason I look forward to it, is that it makes me feel like I’m doing something. Like at least I’m tackling the problem instead of just sitting there idly.

As I tell her about the previous week, I hear myself recounting all the things I’m doing, or trying to do, to make myself feel better. I’ve managed to maintain a relative level of neatness since the cleaning lady came for the first time, and it helps me feel less stressed (but not happier). I try to go out for walks, often. I watch comedy shows and talk to friends. I talk about how I feel, on this blog, with friends, with family. I make a painting just for myself.

And yet, even as I’m walking around a clean home, which would usually give me energy, drive, the want to do something, I feel none of that. It seems to have little impact. Where I’d usually cheer myself up with a fun video, a salty or sweet snack or some other dopamine triggering behaviour, most of those activities have lost their power. It’s as if my brain has become immune to my efforts. If therapy and deep conversations often created shifts and movements in my thinking, I now notice how things really just stay the same: empty and dark.

As she does pretty much every session, my therapist points out that I’m probably overthinking things (this blog is a great example of how much I think about things, which at times is definitely too much). She also indicates that wanting to ‘fix it’ is probably not going to work this time. “You’ve used doing things as a survival technique for years. That’s a very masculine way of approaching a problem. What you’re invited to do now is not do, but just be. Be with the pain, be with the darkness, be with yourself.”

Stephen Fry, the comedy genius and storyteller pur sang, was a guest in a late-night show on our national television (you can watch it here, in Belgium for sure, not sure about other countries). In the last half hour of the two hour interview, he touched upon the topic of depression. Being bipolar himself, his mental health is something he’s learned to manage over the years. He described it in a way that is both beautiful and very apt:

“My mood is like the weather. Sometimes it’s sunny, and sometimes it rains. When it rains, there’s no use in pretending it’s sunny. The rain doesn’t go away if you ignore it. You can’t choose when it rains. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. It is also not your fault that it’s raining. It just happens. We don’t control the weather. But the fact that it’s raining right now does not mean it’ll rain tomorrow, or even later today. You simply have to let it be.”

Stephen Fry, December 11, 2021, Alleen Elvist blijft bestaan on Canvas (paraphrased).

It was raining hard yesterday. It rained in my head, and it poured out of my eyes. “Good”, my therapist said, “I’m so glad to see you cry. When you let tears flow, you let energy flow, and when it flows, it can change.”

Not doing is not my forté. At some point, part of me decided that if it was in my mind, I could will it away. I should be able to think my way out of it. But you don’t think your way into mental health. When your mind is your biggest trap, you need turn to other places. You need to turn to parts of yourself that don’t think. And you need to surrender to them.

2 thoughts on “Dealing With Depression: When ‘Doing’ Doesn’t Do it Anymore

  1. The black and white photograph called my attention because you generally post color images. Then I went to see closer and it says credit to you. Maybe carry the phone or a camera more often might help to express what you are, or are not feeling. Do you think the shorter and darker days of winter contribute to your depression?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do like taking photos, always on my phone, i don’t really know how to work with a camera anymore…
      I think the dark days and gloomy weather here definitely have an impact. I wouldn’t say they are the cause, but I’m less able to resist them now, and if it does brightenup I don’t get out of it, but it usually does get a bit better.

      Liked by 1 person

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