You may be depressed, but you could also be experiencing sorrow, grief, sadness, or a yearning for something you miss. Do you know how to tell the difference?
You’ve probably heard of this popular saying: Depression is anger turned inward. It means the anger that you may be holding within has nowhere to go – it simply festers inside. Just like undigested food can turn putrid, the anger can evolve into depression. You may feel lethargic and dull, uninterested in anything – including getting out of bed. You may find yourself crying, or being moody and irritable. Your sex drive may be reduced to nothing and you could be feeling suicidal.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, you’ll probably seek our medical advice and may be prescribed any number of antidepressants. These medications will likely prove useful, as they alter the chemistry of your brain, which has been thrown off kilter by the repressed anger you’ve been feeling. But, the medications are only helping alleviate the symptoms; they’re not removing the cause.
Thus, the question is: Are you depressed, or is something else causing you to feel this way?
There is another saying: Underneath anger there is sorrow. It essentially means that our anger is really an expression of loss or unresolved grief – which makes perfect sense, since the second stage of loss and grief is anger.
As outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the five stages of loss and grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are not necessarily linear and may arise in various shifting sequences. Also, current research suggests that there is a sixth stage – the phase of “yearning.” Yearning is a powerful feeling, which may permeate the other stages as an underlying reality experienced as a hole in our heart – something missing which we desperately want. These feelings don’t necessarily mean you’re depressed, but they are definitely correlated with depression.
I would suggest that the fourth stage is actually sadness, not depression, which when expressed leads directly to acceptance. Depression itself is not exactly a natural emotion. It is a distortion of sadness and sorrow, which comes from loss. The difference between sadness and depression is that sadness runs its course whereas depression can go on for years and years. Our loss can be anything: a person, a shattered dream, or a material thing. And, we may yearn extensively for that person or dream to return.
It’s OK to feel depressed.
Our life contains many losses, and we are often conditioned to treat our losses in a stoic manner, depriving ourselves of the natural response of grief. Our culture is also rather inept at understanding the energy that stems from anger and how individuals prone to anger can best express it, and therefore release it.
Anger at a loss can quickly give way to sadness if we understand and allow the sadness and sorrow to unravel without suppressing it. Feeling depressed as a result of this is not the same as having depression, but there are parallels.
As William Shakespeare states in his play Measure for Measure “…Yet in this life lie hid more thousand deaths…” suggesting the myriad of losses, or “little deaths” we experience in a lifetime. Even the natural process of maturation requires us to lose our childhood to adolescence, and our adolescence to adulthood. We must often lose our innocence to experience and our heart to love – for who has not experienced a broken heart? And who has not been angry over such loss, when in fact sorrow is the real emotion so often disallowed by our culture.
If depression or anger is your current reality, examine your life for the many losses you have suffered. As you begin to touch upon these losses, let yourself feel the sadness and sorrow; allow yourself to cry actual tears and release the pain. Let yourself yearn for what you’re missing. And although you may be deeply saddened, you will feel much less depressed and a lot more alive as a human being.
And ask yourselves, are you depressed, or is something else the problem.
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