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Are my Symptoms “Me” Or Are my Symptoms Depression?
The greatest lesson I’ve learnt...
About recovering from depression Is:
You can only recover fully from it when you can separate yourself from the symptoms of depression.
In my experience of working in rehab for depression, I was amazed that most clients saw their depressive symptoms as an annoying and embarrassing extension of their personality.
They would usually say something like this -
“But you see I don’t believe these symptoms are because of depression. I see them as me just being lazy, weak and pathetic.”
In these cases, some of the symptoms people pinpointed as loathsome parts of their nature are as follows.
You probably read the above list of depressive symptoms and thought -
“Wait a minute, these are not symptoms of depression, why haven’t I seen it listed like this anywhere else?”
Yes, you are partially right. You are not likely to see depression symptoms, listed in this manner.
This is because the list depicts the self-critical perspective of depressive symptoms.
Symptoms of severe depression and some physical symptoms of depression
Self-critical perspective on depressive symptom (in no particular order)
Lack of motivation
I am so LAZY
I am really just a WEAK and PATHETIC person. I should be able to get over the way I feel
Lacking in energy
I am TRAPPED, just can’t
Increased negative bias
I don't like myself for being such a negative person
Hopelessness and helplessness
How PITIFUL, it’s just plain wrong to feel so sorry for myself.
Poor performance in activities that require thinking
I am TRAPPED I just keep
getting things wrong all the time.
Tendency to self-isolate or cancel agreed social engagements
Why do I keep making life difficult for everyone? If I was not so sad and pathetic, they wouldn't have to worry about me.
I feel so useless. I keep causing problems for people.
Inability to experience pleasure/ not able to enjoy things
My life is so boring and uneventful and it's my fault
I hope you are beginning to see the correlation?
When I hear any of my clients use any of these self-critical sentences, I realize that I have to help them see the symptoms of depression as symptoms of depression.
What saddened me though, is that many of my clients fought hard against any suggestion that these symptoms had nothing to do with who they are.
Some would say something like this
"Why blame depression for everything. I really feel like I am just a fraud"
Unfortunately, helping my client's break free from depression became 50 times more difficult, whenever they held onto this argument.
But why was this the case?
Have you ever asked...
Why do you judge yourself so negatively because of your depressive symptoms?
Personally, I blame society.
Because society has turned you, me and everyone else into prejudicial people.
You see, society has taught us all to judge people by the way they behave.
We often make conclusions on people’s character and nature because of the behaviours we see them exhibit.
Hence when you make a sentence like -
“What a bad man”
What you are really saying is that this man is bad because he has behaved in a bad manner.
Unfortunately, this way of judging people’s character is often extremely misleading. There could be a thousand and one reasons why this man behaves in the way he did at that particular moment.
This man could easily have been the kindest, most generous man on the planet, who was having a difficult moment.
Regrettably, this way of thinking... (i.e. “how I behave is who I am”)... has become a super effective tool which depression uses to hijack and crush your beliefs about yourself.
You conclude that you are lazy because you are behaving in an unmotivated manner.
You crucify yourself because you can't cope with your life whilst you see other people doing way more than you and breezing through what they are doing.
You are tricked into attacking everything that you stand for.
I mean, you don't attack yourselves if flu, cold or some other serious physical illness forces you to lie in bed.
But because depression has no tangible evidence you can latch onto as the reason for the mental and physical limitations you are experiencing,...
“I am the one behaving this way so it is my fault”
“I am the one doing this to myself, so something’s wrong with me.”
You start believing that your depressive symptoms give a true picture of who you are.
This then leads to a decline in your sense self-worth.
As your self-worth plummets, It drags your mood down with it. And once your mood is down, your behaviour will get affected negatively.
At this stage' depression starts to act like gravity.
It pulls you down regardless of your massive efforts to pull yourself up.
You become so low that you are unable to motivate yourself to do anything.
You can't think straight so everything about you or your life becomes coloured with negativity.
The end result...
You are successfully dumped in an interlocking cycle. A cycle where depression feeds of your lack of energy and poor motivation. A cycle that produces darker symptoms of depression.
This is certainly NOT an outcome you want.
You've got to DEVELOP A THIRD EYE!
What does this mean?
And how can this help you in your struggle with depression?
Ever wondered why it is so much easier to offer advice and solutions to other people.
But at the same time, it is so much more difficult to come up with solutions for your own difficulties?
This is because you are often more wrapped up emotionally when dealing with your own issues. You tend to look at other people's problem from a distance.
You take on an observer's perspective.
And this helps you maintain clarity and effectiveness in decision making and advice giving.
In much the same way, chances are that you take on this objective observer's perspective when relating to other people and their depressive symptoms.
For example, It's is unlikely that you'll criticize a friend as pathetic and lazy if they can't motivate themselves because of depression.
No! You'll empathize with them. You'll tell them it is not their fault. And you'll have no problem accepting this too.
You've got to do the same thing with your depressive symptoms. You've got to learn the skill of looking at yourself and your experiences from the third person's perspective.
You start by writing down the self-critical a list of the mental chatter you lay on yourself about the symptoms or thought processes you don’t like yourself having.
So that whenever you notice this self-critical chatter come up in your mind, you tell yourself…
“This is depression. This is not me!”
Work on saying this to yourself with convincing intent and passion.
Then try your best to then focus your mind on something else. For best results, focus on an enjoyable activity.
Repeat this action every single time you notice the thought come up. Then give yourself at least 30 days of practising this way of thinking.
With consistent daily practice, you should begin to notice your own Observer Perspective tool helping you cope better with those self-blaming depressive thoughts.
And remember that...
You may have been battling with depression for such a long time that you now believe depression has become part of your personality.
But be aware that this is depression trying to force you into an emotional coma.
Into a state where you don’t feel you have a choice, you just have to stay in that bad state you’re in forever.
So I say...
Don't allow depression to lull you into that emotional coma.
Refuse to believe all the lies depression tells you about yourself.
Because the words and the beliefs you accept may seem powerless. But these words and beliefs are what determine where you live in life.
They determine whether you'll live in freedom, peace and happiness...
Or whether you'll live in a mental prison fashioned by depression.
And the most powerful word of freedom you can speak on yourself today is...
Yes I may have these symptoms...
BUT MY SYMPTOMS ARE NOT ME!
Yes I may have depression...
BUT I AM NOT MY DEPRESSION!
MY SYMPTOMS WILL NEVER EVER DETERMINE MY DESTINY!