I have read your post earlier and, to be honest, I felt the fears you describe, so deeply, because it has been part of the questions that have often made me feel like giving up. What if my whole life is going to be a never-ending fight in order to just get a decent amount of “normality”? What if I am meant to live a life without feeling true joy? Oftentimes, I feel like I focus on taking steps and actions so I wouldn’t have to think about the existential crisis I feel within. So I wouldn’t have to ask myself what’s the point if I’ll be depressed and anxious for the rest of my life. It’s what makes me believe that, one day, I will just end up too tired by the energy that needs to be gathered for a small spark of life, and will ultimately die by my own hands.
Being honest with you, I don’t have a good answer right now. And certainly that no one can really have one, because this is about something very very intimate and personal, as it is related to the meaning we find into our life. I don’t want to convey any hopelessness though. For what it’s worth, I think there is hope, and there are personal answers to find, but we may not be aware of it right now nor having the practical possibility to embrace life fully. I believe there is hope for you too. That what is chronic, even when it’s a depression, can be perceived and approached in many different ways, ways that we get to decide and nourrish.
You are not a lost cause because you would be “shaped” a certain way. First off, how you feel right now, and how you have felt at your lowest points, doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way for the rest of your life. Depression could be like a shadow, sometimes present, but also sometimes not. What your therapist said is close to approaches based on acceptance. It is an invitation to focus on the present, on what is right here and right now instead of aiming for a specific (and uncertain) goal. It is a fair perspective because our expectations can be so high that we would give up on ourselves easily whenever we hit an obstacle. It could also be a trap because we would have this idea that once we would reach our goal (not being depressed anymore, for example), we could then have a better life than now. But it’s always “after”. “I’ll be happier once I’ll lose x pounds.”, “I’ll be proud of myself once I’ll accomplish this goal”. Truth is, for perfectionists like you and I, this kind of mindset is a trap that slowly kills us, because we’re always focus on the “next” thing, and we think that it’s impossible to be content in the present moment. Especially since it makes any minor inconvenience “wrong”, “bad”, and, in our mind, the manifestation that we are just doomed to never succeed or be happy - which is not fair, nor right, as life is more complex than this.
What your therapist said is an invitation to learn to let go and compose with what is. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same forever! It doesn’t mean you are going to struggle and be subjected to the same things for the rest of your life with the same intensity. When you think about it, a way to approach addictions for example is to consider that one is an “addict” for the rest of their life, even if they don’t use anymore. It is perceived as a vulnerability to be aware of and keep in mind, a higher sensitivity to some susbtances and behaviors. But after a while, and depending on life circumstances, people are not necessarily feeling like battling internally all the time. They grow stronger too. They change and evolve. They feel more asserted in their position and with their own needs. They learn what they might need to avoid in their life or not. Some people, in the long run, will be able to drink again in the example of alcoholism, but in a controlled way. Others would need to be away from anything that contains alcohol. It’s always a personal “recipe” to find over time.
All of this to say, you can live with a fragility without it overwhelming your entire life and consuming all your energy constantly.
I don’t think what your therapist meant was “it is going to be like this forever and there is no possibility of progress”. But more that we don’t know, and so it’s important to stay humble in order to actually progress in the present moment, to learn to let go of specific expectations. I know it’s hard though and it feels like a big slap on the face. When I’ve understood and realized that my depression and anxiety have been there for too long to be “just” a phase, I felt like my entire world was meaningless. There are still times when I feel completely hopeless because obstacles in my life make me feel like I am doomed to never be happy. But there might be some wisdom to take out of our struggles, if we learn to listen to it differently.
A huge element tied to what depression is, one that is more philosophical/spiritual, is what it says to us in terms of personal fulfillment in life. It is a red flag that says: this is not functioning in my life. A major difference between a chronic depression and a clinical one is that the second is often tied to temporary events/circumstances, while the first one is tied to something deeper, something that refers to our core needs, to our search for meaning.
If your depression could speak to you as a friend, what would it say? What does it say to you, not regarding your psychological needs, but for what your heart needs? What does it know about you that you may not be aware of yet, or that you’re afraid to embrace? What do you crave for in this life in terms of doing, making an impact and being impacted? What kind of person do you want to be? What’s on your “bucket list”? What really makes you feel vibrant, what do you feel in your guts? If you feel hurt and disappointed by the idea that you might have a depression preventing you to embrace this life fully, then what are the things you already regret not being able to do, or experience?
These are exactly the things that make this life worth it, and as much as depression is understood and explained clinically, there is still a life and meaning to find beyond psychological and scientific explainations. There is no book and no psychologist that will ever be able to emphasize the power of experiencing things in this life. Therapy is a guidance, not a treatment nor a life sentence.
It’s not all about feeling from an emotional standpoint either. Just your body, for example, conveys so many different ways to experience your relation to the world. Someone who has a handicap and is for example blind for the rest of their life is not living less than others. They are experiencing the world differently, and they even have access to perceptions that we, with our eyes, will always miss and never experience.
Your dreams, what inspires your heart and feeds your soul will always give you a renewed direction to follow. The steps to take in between will be impacted by this obstacle called depression, but that doesn’t mean the journey is going to be a constant pain.
I dont want to just exist i want to feel alive and feel good. but that is not the way my therapy was aiming or any kind of treatement. It was to make me stable not to make me happy.
You are forced to reframe your expectations. It doesn’t have to be less though. It doesn’t to be an all-or-nothing process. It can be a live and let-go one. There is a paradox in healing, with the fact that once we let go of something, we actually start to work on making it possible or getting closer to it. The more we hold onto something, the more it goes away from us. Releasing the grip and trusting the process just as it is, often creates unexpected outcomes. A constant state of happiness wouldn’t be a fair expectation. No one can reach that. Now, what would healing and living mean for you?
This is not a dead end, friend. When a door closes, new pathways can be found, even if it’s not the ones we envisioned at first. Actually, we are generally focused on one way because we are not equipped yet to envision the others. I believe you can still create your own path and not just exist. It is unfair that it requires you to challenge and review your perception of what “healing” means. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process though. You are alive already. You are fully part of this world, even if the perception of it is impacted by this distance that our depressed minds create. Yet you are here, alive, breathing fully, connected to everything around you.
There is more, even if it has to be different than what you’ve always imagined. It doesn’t mean it would be less. After all, we all follow a different journey, and we all experience the world around us in different manners. All are valid. All are real. All are true.