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How To Be Depressed

“Depression was, indeed, the hand of a friend trying to press me down to the ground on which it was safe to stand – the ground of my own truth, my own nature with its complex mix of limits and gifts, liabilities and assets, darkness and light.”
- Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

I don’t think I’ve ever been “clinically” depressed. Well, maybe I have, but it certainly didn’t feel clinical. It felt morbid, cosmic, and unavoidably essential. When I was thirteen, my parents split for the umpteenth and final time and a few months later, my dad brought it to my attention that I’d been wearing the same hockey jersey for weeks and that I needed to start doing the dishes again. I was definitely depressed.

And there was the dark night after Magic Man flew back to London and the apartment felt like a keyless heartbreak hotel with barred windows. But my last extended dark night was about ten years ago. It was a new depth of crushing aloneness. Another break up, this time with Hot-but-Needy Actor Man in LA (I was equally needy, duh), which triggered an exorcism of self doubt and psychic bile that, being thirty-something and ambitious, I just needed to get out of my system. {Note: it’s often not the actual loss that causes the depression – it’s all the crap that’s tied up in it that you needed to deal with anyway.}

In that spell of depression I wore the same pair of butt-ripped Levi’s for weeks. I’d lie in my backyard at two in the morning in nowhere New Mexico smoking Marlboro’s, looking up at the stars, wondering about the fatality of scorpion bites and praying for aliens to abduct me {Not joking in any way}. I cried every single day, sometimes twice a day, for weeks. I felt profoundly unheard… empty. As I’d fall asleep I felt as though chunks of my being were decomposing into the bed. It was a brutal ordeal of the psyche, but I knew I was being reborn. I did have faith that whatever new face was emerging, she would eventually smile back at me.

I learned a thousand subtle and mighty things about Life from those existential passages, but what I learned about depression itself is that, the more you resist it, the longer it lasts. When depressed, I find it’s best to just be… depressed. Happiness returns more quickly when you give yourself permission to be blue… or any shade of black you need to be.

I understand that for some people, depression can be so severe as to be life threatening. It can grip a soul for decades. The kind of depression I’m addressing here falls somewhere within the category of disparaging life passages to profound melancholy… which is to say, likely manageable without drugs and positively surmountable. But I will go on record to say that, while I think meds for depression can be a viable option to break a cycle and regain one’s footing, I think we’re a culture overly prone to numbing out. And in doing so, we not only deny our own power, we carry our demons with us far longer than we have to.

HOW TO BE DEPRESSED SO THAT HAPPINESS HAS A BETTER CHANCE OF RETURNING — SOONER RATHER THAN LATER:

1. Give yourself full permission to be pathetic for a short period of time. In fact, relish in the pathetic-ness. Enthusiastically wallow in self-pity. If people let themselves have downer days more often, there might be fewer heart attacks and road rage. Being a total loser for a morning or a weekend isn’t the slippery slope to despair. It’s a direct route to what your emotions are trying to tell you…feel, heal, know thyself. And move on, more empowered than before.

2. Watch or read something depressing. Rent a some heart wrenching documentaries like, God Grew Tired of Us or War Dance and bawl your eyes out. Chances are that your life will be looking pretty damn good in comparison.

3. Be incredibly, sublimely gentle with yourself, like you might be with a child or dear friend whom you deeply adore.

4. If someone who loves you asks how you are, admit to being blue. When a girlfriend calls, let her know that it’s a dog day afternoon and that you’re happily in despair.

5. When the novelty of being depressed is starting to wear off, shake your arms above your head like you’re being saved by the Almighty Holy Spirit itself, turn on some loud Opera music, and shout, “I’m depressed! I’m sooo depressed!” Guaranteed: you will start laughing smirky giggles to deep belly laughs and you will decide to listen to the rhythm of your blues and keep on walking… more empowered than before.

6. Break your happiness fast with a treat. Write a kind note to yourself about how brave you are for being still in the dark, for standing down a monster or two. Dress up even if you work from home. Bring a plant to work and water it. Freshen up. And give yourself full permission to just be… deeply happy.

Love,

Danielle

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Danielle LaPorte is the outspoken creator of The Desire Map, author of The Fire Starter Sessions (Random House/Crown), co-creator of Your Big Beautiful Book Plan and soon-to-be publisher of DANIELLE Magazine, launching in early 2014. An inspirational speaker, former think tank exec and business strategist, she writes weekly at DanielleLaPorte.com, where over a million visitors have gone for her straight-up advice — a site that’s been deemed “the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality,” and was named one of the “Top 100 Websites for Women” by Forbes.

You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter @daniellelaporte.

  • Nell

    Danielle, the words you use are always so powerful. What a gift you have been given as a writer:-) Thanks for the inspiring thoughts, as per usual! My “I’m depressed and need to bawl movie” is ‘The Way We Were’. Gets me every time, in a great way:-)

    • The Daily Love

      Thank you so much for sharing, Nell :) Danielle really is an incredible writer. -Team TDL

  • http://www.HolisticVoyage.com/ Torrie Pattillo

    Thanks Danielle for this. I’ve been here a time or two, and it’s awesome to hear validation that it’s ok :-) I always love your work and messages.

    • The Daily Love

      We completely agree, Torrie. Thank you for sharing! -Team TDL

      • http://www.HolisticVoyage.com/ Torrie Pattillo

        Thank you TDL :-)

  • Jill_Hallgren

    Danielle,

    I adore your writing style and your fearless honesty.

    It’s always a pleasure to read your posts!

    • The Daily Love

      Us too, Jill! :) -Team TDL

  • http://thejourneytolearnacceptance.blogspot.com/ Nina

    I LOVE this! This is a lesson I’ve been learning lately, as well. I have some issues with guilt (“I don’t deserve to have these feelings”), feeling misunderstood and feeling like no one cares, but now, about a year into my own spiritual journey, at age 26, I’ve started loving myself enough to get through the types of misery you speak of. I feel like no one cares because I’m looking to someone, anyone, to validate that I’m allowed to feel blue and that my feelings matter. Well, guess what? They do matter, but I’m the only one who needs to believe that. I am allowed to have my feelings. They are not “wrong”, no matter what anyone else tells me.

    And you are SO right – when I decide to just FEEL those feelings, accept that I feel this way without judging myself or searching for external support or validation, without telling myself to “man-up” (because I already KNOW I will get through it and handle it brilliantly, if anything needs to be handled) – if I give myself PERMISSION to feel my feelings, those feelings do their thing and then leave. They just leave. And all I have to do is stop trying to prove that I am tough or that I am grateful or ANYTHING. I don’t have to prove it to MYSELF. I already know. All I have to do is just feel it out and love myself.

    For me, it used to me a domino effect of triggers… something would upset me, and then on top of it I’d feel guilty because I “have it so good”, and then on top of it I’d feel like no one cared, and if they did they didn’t understand, etc etc until I’m a big mess of despair and loneliness. Merely give yourself permission to have and to feel your feelings, because you are strong and mature and you will come out the other side. There is no shame in being sad sometimes, and you are allowed to love yourself.

    Brilliant post!!!!

    Much love,
    Nina
    http://thejourneytolearnacceptance.blogspot.com

    • The Daily Love

      We absolutely loved reading this, Nina. Thank you so much for your honesty. You really inspired us today. You are such a strong, intelligent woman, and we wish you nothing but the best. -Team TDL

    • http://www.HolisticVoyage.com/ Torrie Pattillo

      This was an INCREDIBLE share Nina! Thank you. Everything you said is very true. Very inspiring :-)

  • Linda

    Excellent post, Danielle. Years ago I made a decision which i thought was for the best that made my kids happy but me, miserable and I lost the love of my life. Instead of dealing with it, I turned to anti-depressants and numbed myself for 17 long years, feeling nothing, dealing with nothing emotional. After 4 years off the medication I met a wonderful man who somehow opened the floodgates of my stopped up heart. I called (and still do) him a gift into my life.
    As it turned out that wonderful man is now physically out of my life and I thank God every day for him still. However, when we went our separate ways I starting slipping back to depression and made the decision that this time I wouldn’t ‘numb out’. It’s been painful, some days hurt like hell, some days I just feel lucky.
    What I have learned is how to ‘nurture myself’, how to take care of myself and what I have learned from well-meaning friends is what not to say to them should they ever find themselves in the same situation….don’t say ‘are you still thinking about him?” “Aren’t you over HIM yet?” “You have to move on. You’ll find somebody else…..join POF, go dancing”…..It will be over when it’s over and I am through trying to keep to someone else s schedule of how long this should take.

    He was more than worth having. He is more than worth grieving.
    The only way through pain is THROUGH. I’m looking at the light on the horizon and walking slowly toward it. But I won’t stop loving, feeling, nurturing and being there for those in my life…..and I’m just one more of those people in my life.

    • The Daily Love

      We really appreciate your honesty, Linda. We are so proud of you for hanging in there. You have such an incredible attitude towards life, and we’re wishing you only the best :) -Team TDL