Hope you have been noticing what’s going well.
I know I usually start every blog with a reminder to notice and pay attention to the positives. This doesn’t mean that I am suggesting you ignore the negative experiences we ALL have. I am not suggesting we put on the rose colored glasses and just see the world as this wonderful happy place where nothing bad happens. The truth is if you are keeping score, there are many points on the negative side of the score board. Some days the negative may outnumber the positive. Although I believe this to be unlikely and depended upon ones perspective on life in general. However, the fact does remain, there are negatives in life.
So, what can we do about the negative times? First step in my view is to acknowledge them. They are real. They hurt. They may make us feel sad, frustrated, disappointed, angry. Feelings are okay to have and experience. Sometimes it is scary to feel sad. If you have struggled with depression for a long time, start feeling good and then have a sad experience occur, it might be rather scary. You may start worrying, “Am I becoming depressed again? Am I having another depressed episode?” Feeling sad when something sad happens is normal. I encourage you to feel sad if something sad happens. It means you are alive, human and have emotions. This is a good thing. If you didn’t feel sad when something sad happened to you, then there is a possible problem!
As I described in the last blog, the key is learning how to manage and take charge of your emotions. Sometimes this is referred to as emotional regulation. We need to regulate and balance our emotions, especially our emotional responses. If we are sad and start crying that’s okay. It might not be okay if we are crying every day for several weeks. Although, if someone significant in my life dies, I might be crying every day for weeks. Because that would be very sad and overwhelming to me. It makes sense to feel sad and cry when feeling sad.
So what’s the difference between being sad and being depressed? The primary difference has to do with your ability to function. If your ability to function in your day to day life is impaired, then there is a problem. Duration is also apart of the equation. To be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you must be experiencing certain symptoms for a specified period of time. (For a description of various depressive diagnoses, read through Appendix B of my book, When you can’t snap out of it: Finding your way through depression).
The point this week is, when you have a negative experience occur, it’s okay to experience it. Let yourself know, “This is normal and healthy. It’s god for me to feel emotions. It means I am human.”
~ Dr. Lou