Weathering the Dead Zone of Depression

There is a dead zone in a depressed person’s life where nothing seems to happen.

Except for the pain of the absence of everything.

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.  And it sucks.

I have learned a lot about this “zone” over the years, its patterns, and how to handle it.  It’s really like learning to surf a giant, dark wave.  To handle these waves, you need to prepare yourself before the next big ones roll in.

When I’m entering a dead zone, I use positive affirmations I’ve created to “talk back” to my depression. I don’t let the toxic voice of depression drown me out.  It’s important to empower yourself in whatever ways you can during these times because depression will lead you to falsely conclude that you’re helpless to lift your dark mood.  Helplessness and hopelessness are central themes of depression.

Affirmation Cards

Sometimes, little things can turn us in the right direction.

Try this:

Start with a three by five-inch index cards.  Use them to create your own positive self-affirmations.  When I am in the dank cellar of depression, here are some examples of cards I have written to read to myself:

  • 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.

My favorite one I’ve come up with is this:

  • What can I constructively do today going forward?

I like it because it focuses me in the present (and not the past), it challenges me to take action or “do” something (not only think about it), it encourages me to be “constructive,” and, perhaps most importantly, to keep going “forward.” Winston Churchill, who struggled with depression most of his life (what he called “the black dog”), seems to be in agreement.   His advice was, “If you’re walking through hell, keep going.”

Sometimes, that’s all we can do: keep moving forward until the depression passes; to weather the storm.  But we can prepare for storms.  We can purchase an umbrella.  We can buy a rain jacket. In the same way, we can think through and create encouraging affirmations for ourselves to use as tools when depression hits.

Gratefulness

When depression is absent (and there are long periods of time when it is), the cards 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.

I try to emphasize gratefulness because there is such a strong connection between being grateful and being happy. I see practicing gratefulness as a good way to develop resilience and keep depression at bay.

Sometimes, however, we mix up how the two are connected says monk David Steindl-Rast.  We believe we are happy first and only then become grateful for being such.  But, he maintains, it is really the other way around; being grateful makes us happy.  There are plenty of people in this world with little, yet they are very happy because they are grateful.  And there are many in this world with much, but who are miserable.

Watch David explain this in his wonderful TED talk:

 

Try Brother David’s grateful exercise and see if it helps.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Try making your own index cards. Don’t wait until you are depressed because you won’t have the energy to do it.

Please share with others in the comment section your suggestions for affirmations.

 

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