I heard a powerful message in a church class once that has stuck with me to this day. It was the idea that there are two great lies in the world that can lead to unhappiness: To believe that you are “all” or to believe that you are “nothing.”
There’s a pervasive sense of selfishness in the world today; a “selfie” culture centered on one’s own happiness and desires. It leaves little room for service to others and empathy. But there is another great lie that plagues many and may take the form of depression. It involves a deep sense of hopelessness, a feeling that one is worthless; nothing.
I was diagnosed with depression a year ago and visited with a therapist for the first time. I mentioned to him my hope of combatting the negative thoughts that had invaded my mind, and he brought to my attention the importance of labeling these thoughts immediately as lies. Since that day, I have identified several of these “lies” that my depression often instills in my consciousness, and I lay them bare here in the hopes it may help others combat theirs.
1. My loved ones would be better off without me.
This was one of the questions I encountered when I took my first depression screening test. “Do you feel that your family would be better off without you?” I was asked. It struck a nerve with me and almost brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t been struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, but I had fought an almost daily barrage of guilt and a feeling that I would forever be incapable of being the mother and wife that my family deserved. I would allow for their imperfections and mistakes while berating myself for mine. Depression may also encourage you to “punish yourself” in unhealthy ways. I am working on relabeling these lies and replacing them with assurances that I am a good mother and wife and am doing my best.
2. I will feel this way forever.
Hopelessness is a powerful force within depression. Depression tells you that all is lost, that you are forever damaged, and that this will never change. I have been surprised at the depth of the hopelessness I may feel one day, only to find I feel contented and at peace the next. In the moment, I feel that I will never be myself and feel normal again, but this is, once again, a lie. With treatment, I am working on replacing these negative thoughts with healthy ones.
3. I am unworthy of asking for help.
There is a lot that can be involved with this particular lie. That you are not really depressed, just having a bad few days (weeks, months, even years). That you are too busy to take time for treatment for yourself. That you don’t deserve to bother others with your needs. Depression isolates, and will convince to you be alone in your suffering. For me, I believed I would automatically feel better once my baby grew. Denial, fear of facing the stigma of having depression, and stress over inconveniencing others may all factor into this lie.
Once I admitted to myself that I was struggling, sought out help from others, and was open about how I was really feeling, I was able to better combat it.
4. I will never amount to anything.
I began writing regularly to help treat my depression, and it’s been a positive outlet for me and a way to occupy my mind, which sometimes feels deadened by my daily tasks as a stay-at-home mom. One problem I ran into, however, was that once I pushed myself to share my writing and began sending submissions, I inevitably came across a lot of rejection. Rejection that would trigger my feelings of worthlessness and send me spiraling into the abyss of depression. It would tell me that I would never have anything published, that I was “just a mom” and not a very good one at that. I have worked to replace those thoughts with what I know to be true: There is no such thing as “just a mom,” because being a mother is the hardest and most rewarding job I have; and that I can also still work on putting my writing out there because it is important to me and helpful for my treatment.
5. I feel great now, I don’t need to take my medication or continue treatment.
Of all the treatment options for combatting my depression, medication is definitely the one I fought the most. I strongly disliked the side effects, and was not patient with the process of finding the right one for me. To be honest, I’m still struggling to find my balance; still trying to incorporate several treatment options and determine whether or not medication is beneficial and if so, which one. Depression can mistakenly make you believe you are all better when you have a good day, that you don’t need to practice self-care or continue with treatment anymore. Having a good day is a sign that treatment is working, not a reason to discontinue it.
Labeling these negative messages as lies is creating an armor of protection for me, and for that I am grateful. The one truth I am coming to know is that my happiness is worth fighting for. It is what will allow me to be the wife, mother, writer, and human being that I aspire to be. And I won’t give in to the lies any longer.