That deep dark hole of depression is scary yet familiar to so many of us. It feels like it is calling our name just waiting for something to happen. It takes that one rejection, that one failed project, that one broken relationship, that one mess up that pushes us over the edge.
For many people, it's not hard to fall into that hole because they live on the edge of depression. Those who have been suffering from depression for a long time sometimes feel like the deep hole I talk about is home. You know everything about the hole. You know what it looks like, you know how dark it can be, and it feels like home. You know you can retreat there when things get tough and you know how dark it can get.
In this depression hole, not much light gets in. Even when a speck of light makes it through, you put darkness over it. You may tell yourself “It’s just a matter of time until the shoe drops again.” It’s often easier to live in the hole than risk getting out and going right back to where you started.
However, what I often say is that there is a difference between realizing that there is a hole and living in the hole. It’s actually healthy for us to realize that the hole exists and that depression is a real phenomenon. It’s our way of acknowledging the existence of hardship. Too many of us are going around putting a happy face on when deep down, we’re hurting.
There’s a gray area that needs to be acknowledged. There’s a chasm between ignoring the fact that life is difficult in the present moment and thinking that life will always be difficult. Are you willing to acknowledge the depression rather than live in it? Can you adjust your expectation from you will always be happy to life is cyclical and although hardships come, they also go and this too shall pass?
You may be asking, what’s the difference between living in depression and acknowledging depression? Living in the depression hole means that you’re in deep. It means that you’re staying in bed all day. It means that the depression has consumed every area of your life. It means that you see life with a darker lens. You probably decide to stay home rather than going out with friends or family. At this point, you would probably rather stay in the hole than risk trying to get out because the outside is so unfamiliar at this point.
But if you just acknowledge the hole is there, you can feel sad, but you don’t need to act based on it. The hole is there, but it has no weight on your actions. You may feel sad for a bit, but you still get up to go to work You realize that the depression is a part of your life but not ALL of your life. You recognize that there is life beyond the depression. You may see that the lens you have on may be impacting the way you see things.
How do you move from living in the hole to acknowledging the hole? You start by acting. You start reengaging yourself into your life. You start doing those things that you would want to do if you weren’t depressed. And hopefully after a few fruitful efforts, your actions may change your feelings. That's the goal, right? If you can't get positive thoughts to change our negative thoughts, maybe you can get positive actions to change your negative thoughts. Maybe by taking action and doing what you really love to do, you can feel a change. At the end of the day, you have to start somewhere. You have to realize there is a space between living in the hole and acknowledging the hole is there. Because that space is your freedom. That space is where your power to choose lives.
Think about this space for yourself, what is the difference between living in the hurt and acknowledging that there is hurt? Think about if one feels different than the other. Does one provide more relief than the other? What are the advantages of living in the hurt? Go through some of these questions and realize the distinction for yourself.
Rubin Khoddam is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Southern California whose research and clinical work focuses on substance use issues and resilience. He founded a website, Psych Connection, with the goal of connecting ideas, people, research, and self-help to better connect you to yourself and those around you. You can follow Rubin on Twitter by clicking here!