Why is depression so seductive?

get_out_of_jail_freeI came to a very difficult realization the other day while looking at resources that I wanted to share via my new blog. I had felt really excited about the prospect of starting this blog as it is a way for me to get proactive about my life. For a long time now, I have been feeling extremely depressed and I haven’t been able to shake myself out of it. I knew that the depressive state wasn’t going to go away on its own, so I decided to methodically make an effort to improve my well-being, and to detail my journey with a blog. This would have a number of positive effects. I would have the chance to express myself in writing, which would both develop my creativity and also allow me to better understand my own thoughts. In addition, the blog would hold me accountable. I don’t know how many times I’ve attempted new routines, set goals or made resolutions that have fizzled out at the first sign of difficulty. In fact, I’ve made a lot of plans that have ended up just sitting on my desk as I forgot about them the very next day. Yes, I know I suffer from very low willpower and stick–to–itiveness. That’s why this sudden new realization shook me. I was scanning the notes I had made from watching Youtube videos and reading self-help books and I realized the following: If you want to change your life, you have to actually change. Oh crap. I have to change?

This seemed like such a contradiction to me. Here I am, setting out on this endeavour to ‘take back my life’ and ‘enjoy every day’ and I was afraid to change. I want to change my life. I want to wake up in the morning and feel motivated, not lie in bed for hours. I want to make plans and stick to them, not cancel at the last minute. I want to actually smile again, and enjoy my day, but change? Oh god no. I don’t want to do that. That means I might have to do some things that are uncomfortable, or even scary. What have I gotten myself into? The problem for many of us who have been living in a state of depression for months or even years, is that we keep ourselves there. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody but myself. I keep myself there. Why? Because it’s easier. It isn’t fun. It isn’t happy. It isn’t what I actually want and it isn’t what I would select if I could choose it from a lifestyle menu but it is easier.

Feeling depressed is like a Get Out of Jail Free Card. It is both my excuse and my explanation for everything. If I’m having a bad day I don’t have to do anything. I am allowed to cancel those plans to meet my friends for coffee because I feel depressed. I don’t have to go to the gym today because I feel depressed. I wanted to wake up early, but I didn’t because (so) I feel depressed. Sometimes I don’t even know if the depressive feeling I have is the cause of or the result of my decisions, maybe both. It’s like taking a step down a staircase and realizing you’re on an escalator and are being pulled further down than you had hoped to go, and you can’t turn around and go back up. You just wanted to take a little break to let yourself relax, but now you feel like the sky is falling. The question is – if it’s such a horrible state to be in, why am I so adverse to change? I’m afraid to change because change requires effort, whereas depression allows me to give up. Effort leaves me susceptible to failure. You can’t fail if you don’t even try.

The realization that I will have to change shook me because I had never considered what it actually meant. Change? Of course, I wanted to change. Are you crazy? I had been feeling depressed for months. Change is exactly what I had always hoped for. However, I see now that I was expecting the change to come to me. I was waiting for the day that I just suddenly felt better. I was waiting for an event in my life to pull me out of my rut. I had hoped that when I changed my job it would get better. I had thought that maybe all I needed was a vacation. Sadly, these external events never altered how I looked at the world, or how I saw myself. The vacation did help, but when I got home the sadness just came back. Waiting for change to come to you is like expecting a package to arrive from Amazon when you hadn’t ordered anything.

So here I am, once again attempting to make a plan to change my life, having realized that in order to do so I will have do something different from all of my previous attempts. I can’t simply make up a new plan for the week like I used to, full of positive activities like exercise and meeting friends, and hope that when I wake up tomorrow morning I’ll follow it. In the past that never worked. I have to accept that I can’t change my entire life in just one day and I can’t expect to suddenly start doing everything right. What I can do is not get discouraged and not give up. If I find myself on that escalator, being dragged down, I need to remember that it is possible to get back up to the top, it just requires making the decision to turn around and run up. Will it be easy? Of course not, but it will be worth it.

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