What if the problem isn’t depression, but how we respond to it?
Over recent years there have been many studies and debates around depression, what it is and why it happens. More and more researchers are questioning whether it is a mental health disorder or whether it is in fact a healthy response to adversity.
When we face adversity we have three main reactions which are fight, flight or freeze. When there is threat or difficulty that is not life threatening or traumatic our first responses are fight or flight which are often felt as anxiety. If this goes on for an extended period or if the event is traumatic our system shifts into freeze as a defence mechanism. Freeze response has the benefits of dulling physical pain and disconnecting us from our emotional pain, pretty clever stuff in the short term.
The challenge comes when the freeze response becomes long term, i.e depression, including feelings of hopelessness and despair or numbness. This can happen if the threat or stress does not shift but also if we are isolated and not given the sense of safety to come out of it.
Connection creates safety for us to come out of freeze/depression, but of course it can feel so hard to reach out when we are depressed. There are a number of barriers that make this so but the main one is shame.
Unfortunately, much of society view depression as a problem, as an illness to be fixed which creates shame and isolation in those suffering from it, with feelings of being broken, and something being wrong with them.
So, what if we were to change how we viewed depression and see it as a natural response to adversity, as a strength in surviving the threat. This could allow us to build a no shame support network of connection to aid our nervous system to come back to safety.
From a personal and professional point of view this feels right and makes so much sense to me. Not only could it help us to come out of depression quicker but it could also reduce the number of people who get there in the first place.
Over the Christmas period (or anytime) if you know someone who is struggling or if you are, reach out. Send a text, arrange a chat or a meet.
Face to face isn’t always possible but we can fulfil a need of connection over the phone or on video chat so don’t let someone being far away or being restricted in face to face contact stop you.
If there are barriers to this, be it shame or anything else please ask for help from a professional as barriers to connection can be barriers to feeling better. For some people the connection starts with a therapist as they can be a safe space of no judgement.
Let me know your thoughts on this and if you have any questions please do get in touch, through my website, Facebook or Instagram.
If you want more information about me and what I do see ‘About my approach’.
For anyone who wants more information on polyvagal theory, which is the technical term for this transition through safety, flight/flight and freeze, this is a great place to start.