There is a zone in a depressed person’s life where nothing seems to happen — except the pain of the absence of everything.
Kay Redfield Jamison, M.D., in her book, Night Falls Fast, writes:
I wish I could explain it so someone could understand it. I’m afraid it’s something I can’t put into words. There’s just this heavy, overwhelming despair – dreading everything. Dreading life. Empty inside, to the point of numbness. It’s like there’s something already dead inside.
Such anguish is so overwhelming that every other concern is squashed in its wake. Our capacity for willful actions seems to be gone; we can’t “figure it out.” We are stuck.
I have learned a lot about the zone over the years and how to handle it. It’s really like surfing a giant wave. To handle these waves, you study them and prepare yourself for when the next big one rolls in.
When I feel I’m entering a Dead Zone, I start a deliberate and kind conversation with myself that is practiced and rehearsed. I don’t let the toxic voice of depression drown me out. It’s important to empower ourselves in whatever ways we can during these times because depression will lead you to falsely conclude that you’re helpless to lift your dark mood. This conclusion is one of the central tenets of depression; one of its main “themes”. We need to create – and we can – different and healthier themes for our lives.
Start with a three-by-five index card. Use it to create your own deliberate and kind script of themes for yourself that day. Here’s is an example of what I had written on one of my cards:
— This depression isn’t forever. It will pass.
— I have handled it in the past. I will handle it now.
— Get out of my head – don’t sit around and ruminate.
I usually write a new card out every morning. When depression is absent (and there are long periods of time when it is), the theme of the card might be more celebratory or grateful:
— I appreciate all of the goodness in my life.
— Thank you God for all of the wonderful people you’ve put in my life.
— I am happy that I am not experiencing depression today.
According to psychologist, Deb Serani, Psy.D, there are both emotional and psychological reasons why this is so:
So, why do these gratitude experiences boost happiness and alleviate depression? Scientists say that these techniques shift our thinking from negative outcomes to positive ones, elicit a surge of feel good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and build enduring personal connections.
The insight and reflection of counting these moments is what makes the practice of gratitude so powerful. But the key to combating depression is making these positive experiences part of the fabric of your life.
Try this for a while and see if it helps you. Don’t wait until you are in the zone of depression to construct the cards because your thinking during such times will be distorted.
Doing this is a healthy and self-empowering step that you can take today.
By Daniel T. Lukasik, Esq.