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There is no typical depression.
There is only your constellation of irritable guilt, hot shame, stubborn lifelessness, locked-in silence, simmering anger, relentless agitation, early-up insomnia and zero motivation.
Grief can curdle into depression. Even decades after the loss. For example, a child who loses a beloved grandmother at 12 is not rare. But for some, it might have created a vacuum that the child could not understand or reach to others to fill. In another scenario, a frightening medical diagnosis can plunge a person into deep emotional water, not right away, but after treatment is done, and it’s all over. The world seems to forget, but feelings of mutilation and coping with long-term side effects hang on. Friends who were concerned good listeners seem worn out hearing about it.
Do you see how different each scenario is? The path out will be different too.
The woman who lost her grandmother needs to remember what it was her grandmother meant to her in the presence of a trained ear. We would find out which parts of herself seemed to bloom under her grandmother’s gaze. And what parts shriveled when she died. Once all of those things are known, affirmed and grieved, she will feel a little lighter.
The man who makes a full recovery from cancer is the nurses’ favorite during active treatment.
His Instagram feed is full of friends and reviews of the food they brought him in the hospital. And after the follow-ups go from three months to six months to yearly, his mood crashes. His path out may include howling at the moon over the randomness of it all. The two years lost. The neuropathy in his hands that make sports painful. This person has to re-imagine the arc of his life. He may not even know what he’s lost because it hadn’t happened yet. It was a dream of a plan. Here my role is to put words on the dream he didn’t know he had and sit with him while he rages over the unfairness of it all, ensure that he kicks free of bitterness, and fan his hope for another kind of life.
Perhaps your family tree is shot through with people who struggle with what Winston Churchill called “the black dog.” Depression can be baked into your genes or you may have learned it by loving depressed people and copying their way of being in the world. We will sift through all of this. Is there trans-generational trauma? Did your family members realize they suffered from depression? Sometimes it’s tricky. We will focus on the strategies you used. The dilemmas you were trying to solve. Maybe it’s time to download a new strategy. We all have automatic responses. In a psychoanalytic psychotherapy, we slow those down, pull them apart and see if they need a revision.
I wish it were simple and I could tell you exactly what was going on and how long it would take to feel better.
A depression that lifts and stays gone takes a while to comb out. If its been going on a long time and you can’t even remember a time that wasn’t smudged gray, we may start with two sessions per week to get our heads and hearts around it.
Working with anger and rage as I have for decades, I often end up working with depression. Because rage is one way out. It’s not a good way, but it’s a way. We can find another way.
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