5 Reasons Why Practicing Acceptance Helps with Depression
I periodically get depressed episodes. The episodes are very fickle and vary with intensity. Sometimes they are mellow and only last a few days, and other-times they are intense and last for a few weeks. They are about as temperamental and predictable as the weather; you never quite know when it’s going to rain, but you can be sure it’s a storm is coming and every so often you get blindsided by a hurricane.
Depression is the sort of illness that never leaves you. It’s one of those illnesses that may go into submission for a few months or a few years, but it’s always there. Always ready to strike again. It is patiently waiting in the background, waiting to make it’s move and unload a hell storm of furry when you least expect it.
I feel like a large portion of the headache I get from depression is simply the fact that I resist it so much. I wake up feeling irritable, sad and hopeless and I think: You know what I am going to be happy today, I am going to go out and have a great day. You know what happens when I do that? Depression bitch slaps me across the face and says set your ass down, I’m in charge. And then not only do I feel exhausted from trying to be happy the whole day, but I also defeated (and feel more helpless) because I got my ass handed to me and couldn’t escape these negative feelings.
The best thing I’ve found with depression, is to simply accept it.
For me, I found that the sooner I start accepting what I am going through, the sooner I can move on with my life. It seems paradoxical, but I’ve found that the more you resist depression, the more of a hold it has over your life. Inversely, the more you accept it, the less power it has over you and the sooner you can move on and get through the day.
Why does practicing acceptance help with depression?
1)When you accept depression, you start to take power away from it. You’re no longer fighting the resistance of being depressed, or fighting the ailment of the depression. You’re accepting it as being apart of your life. You’re accepting it as being apart of you. The only thing you have to focus on is getting through the day. You’re no longer worried about being happy, and stopping depression, and getting through your day, and pretending to be something your not. You’re instead only focused on getting through the next minute, or the next hour. That’s the only thing you have to worry about. It makes depression feel a lot more manageable.
2) When you accept depression, you’re recognizing it’s presence in your life. You’re no longer fighting yourself. You’re internal dialog changes from “Gee Chris, just be fucking happy already, it’s not that fucking hard” to “Chris, it’s okay, you’re depressed. You’re going to sad today, and be irritable, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s who you are and it doesn’t make you any less of a human being”. This shift of internal dialog helps a lot with the negative thought spirals we find ourselves in when we experience a depressed episode. Rather than beating yourself up, you’re giving yourself the love and support you desperately need. You’re allowing yourself to heal and move past the depressed episode.
3) When you accept depression, you realize it is just thought and feeling. Depression isn’t anything else. You feel a certain way, (usually it’s sad, sometimes its super sad), and for me, I’m always fucking irritable. You also think a certain way like “Chris, you’re life is hopeless, why do you even try or Fuck it. You’re not going to get anything done anyways. Stay at home the whole day”. But these are all thoughts and emotions. Realizing that what you experience with depression is simply a thought and or a feeling is surprisingly therapeutic. It takes away power from depression. Rather than it being this unstoppable force, you realize it’s just thoughts and feelings. Nothing more and nothing less. It helps you take step back and begin seeing things from a rational perspective.
4) When you accept depression, you develop an in depth understanding on your illness. When I get depressed, I know exactly what I am going to experience. I am going to be irritable, and get pissy with the super small things. I am going to feel sad, and empty no apparent reason. I am going to look at my life accomplishments and think they equate to nothing, and that I am failure as a human being. When I get really bad I am going to be delusional. I am going to create false memories about my closest friends and think that the friendships are falling apart. I am going to have this sense of isolation from the rest of the world, and I am going to be able to remember nothing but the worst memories of my life and forget about the times. When things are there worst I am going to go on paranoid thought loops that my closest friends and family are only going to hurt me, and that I need to shut off all contact with them immediately. I will think of all the ways these people could hurt me and I will justify it as currently happening.
By practicing acceptance, I am cognizant of what I will experience. I know that the thoughts and emotions are not real, and a by product of my illness. I know better than to act on impulse and can pull myself out of the storm temporary and make rational decisions. I can stop doing the things that make my illness worse and instead consciously act to improve my situation. This is only possible by being self-aware of what I am experiencing. Otherwise I’ll set fire to the boats and make my situation 10x worse and have a giant mess to clean up once I pull myself out of the fog. As you become self-aware of your own depression, you begin to pull yourself out of the episodes much quicker. You realize that predictable like the common cold or flu, and the sooner you start treatment, the sooner you can recover.
5) When you accept depression, you’re no long ashamed of what you’re experiencing. You no longer see it as something you have hide from, or keep from your friends. You get to remove the biggest obstacle of them all; the stigma of being depressed. You can speak openly about what your depression. You can have hard conversations with yourself and ultimately learn to live a functional and worthwhile life.
For me that means recognizing that it is apart of me for better or for worse. It is a life joy I will probably get to experience for the rest of my life. That’s okay. I am ready for it. The good times and the bad. Because on the flip side of the situation, at least I have equally large “highs” that counter the “lows”. Most people would probably be drove crazy by the constant flux of high and lows, but for me, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
How to practice acceptance
- When you feel a depressed episode coming on, the first thing to-do is to become aware of what you’re experiencing. Write down your thoughts and emotions somewhere or just note what you are thinking. Write out the raw thought and don’t filter. Sometimes filtering can secretly be a way of resisting the depressive episode and the last thing we want to create more resist.
- As you write out what your thinking and feeling, start noting what you’re experiencing as either “feeling” or “thought”. This will be the first step in taking step back from the depressive episode. Rather than being trapt in these negative spirals that feel unending, you can label it as simply a “thought” and let it pass you by. (And if it comes back, don’t worry, some thought tangents want to linger, but eventually they all leave).
- When you begin to go through this process, try to change the internal dialog from being combative to compassionate. A good example of this is when I get depressed, I wail on myself and think “Chris, you’re such a fuck up, you’re never going to be happy, you’re never going to get out of this”. When I recognize these types of thoughts, I always try to step back and think, “No Chris, it’s okay. You’re experiencing a depressed episode. It’s okay to feel this way. You’re allowed to be sad, and feel like a miserable human being”. This is much easier said than done, because often your depression will try to rebuttal the positive support and then you have to go through the process over and over again. That too is okay. You just have to stick with it, and persevere. (That’s often why it’s notoriously difficult to give helpful support to someone with depression, because that persons depression can counter argue any support they are given from the outside world).
- Allow yourself to feel the negative emotions. Give yourself permission to feel sad, and cranky and feel all these negatives emotions we typically resist. Stop resisting what you are experiencing and truly allow yourself to go down the rabbit hole. Typically it’s the resistance that makes things worse, not the actual feelings. Instead of trying to fight depression, allow it to be apart of your life in what ever stage it’s in, and focus on getting through the next hour. Take it one moment at a time.
- As you practice the above, try to become cognizant of what you’re experiencing and see if any patterns occur long term. If you can recognize the patterns of depression and start practicing acceptance right when an episode appears, you can pull yourself out of it much quicker than if you’re at your worst. We all heal differently though and for some of us our depression unpredictable. The sooner we catch ourselves in these negative loops and start practicing acceptance, the sooner we can heal.
I felt compelled to write this after I had a night-mare that all my friends found out that I periodically deal with depression. I think at some level I still hold stigma against myself for having this illness. Writing this piece was a way for me to practice acceptance further understand what I deal with every so often. It allowed me to remove the power of my depression and make myself vulnerable in a way I never thought possible.
Hopefully this piece helps you too. Hopefully you gain insight into what you’re experiencing and can better manage your depression (if you have it). At the very least, I hope you found a new technique to managing negative inner dialog that we all suffer from. If you know of anyone who might find value in this post, please pass it along.
Also feel free to contact me if you need clarification on anything I’ve written in the above.