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Depression is healthy

What if I told you, depression is healthy?

What if I said depression isn’t illness, but a healthy response to the burden you’ve been carrying?

I went to a lecture on Saturday night where my tutor said just this.

His position, and one I wholeheartedly agree with and will embrace in my therapeutic work, is that depression is a healthy response to difficulties we face in life.

When we are depressed, it means we have moved from denial into a place where we are acknowledging we have some difficult things to work through.

So being depressed is healthy, because it means we are facing our difficulties.

It doesn’t diminish how hideous depression is, or what a huge killer depression is, merely says ‘you’re doing this right, have no shame’.

It doesn’t expect you to heal quickly or even at all, but says ‘your pain is valid, and your fight is real’.

We constantly hear the media rhetoric of depression being a mental illness. Attaching the word illness implies there’s something wrong. Perhaps that’s why I see so many people struggling to use the word depressed when describing their emotional state.

We live in a society that medicalises mental health, and whilst there is nothing wrong at all with taking medication, the depression is trying to tell you something, that you have things to process. That medication can give you some breathing space and clarity to start working things through with a therapist so it’s not a bad thing, but relying on it alone to cure depression is likely not to work.

The same can be said for anxiety. When I reframe anxiety as something helpful for a client it becomes a completely different experience for them. That horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach is telling you you’re not okay and you need to stop and self care.

Find the space you need, take time, be kind to yourself, sit with the feeling and try and identify what’s triggered it. Make friends with it, say hello, welcome anxiety in, sit down and ask what it wants. What is it trying to protect you from, and is the threat real or perceived?

When we look at something head on, we can see it more clearly. That’s why this approach seems so much more natural to me as a therapist.

Let’s change how we look at depression and anxiety, and see them as helpful warning signs that we haven’t processed something. No matter how big or small you think it is compared to someone else, all that matters is how it makes YOU feel.

What do you think? Can depression and anxiety be seen as healthy and helpful, even though they make you feel like you’re swimming in tar?

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