Depression is the ultimate identity thief. Not only does it limit how we feel and what we do but it also steals who we are.
At 180 Sanctuary our premier depression treatment programme is designed and personalized according to an individual’s specific needs. More importantly are programme incorporates the most advanced evidence-based practices to effectively address symptoms and underlying triggers.
Globally there are millions of people that suffer from depression. Unfortunately the term “depression” can be used much too loosely at times. People talk about feeling depressed the same way they talk about feeling sad. A lot of people think of depression as something that makes us feel temporarily unhappy and then it can go away – similar to that of a “common cold”.
Depression is not simply transient sadness. It is a devastating mental illness which can leave individuals with no energy, zero concentration and trouble sleeping and eating. Ultimately depressed individuals suffer greatly and often cannot experience pleasure. Depression can be both chronic and recurrent. It can last for years and depressed individuals can suffer multiple episodes throughout their lifetime. The World Health Organization considers depression to be a leading factor of disability around the world. Severe depression can unfortunately eventually lead to suicide.
On a positive note depressed individuals can recover from an episode of depression. With the right treatment and recovery plan people who struggle with depression can lead long and fulfilling lives. However, depression can do more than impact our lives. It can change our perception of how we fundamentally see ourselves as people. It can undermine our identity.
I remember a few months ago I was listening to a great podcast by Dr. Michael Bishop. In this podcast he spoke about the way in which music becomes part of a narrative of how we view ourselves and connect with our lives. For example he connected with the music genre “punk rock” and its confrontational nature became a part of his identity. In the podcast he described a process that just by hearing about the Sex Pistols, seeing images of them or listening to their music, he naturally felt a connection. This connection became a dynamic, interactive process that not only provided him with a way in which he could express the ways he wanted to challenge societal norms, but also it was an opportunity for him to become more open-minded and accepting of other people. What really caught my attention in this podcast was the experience that Bishop had and how it relied so heavily on the visceral connection one has to music or anything else that is meaningful in their lives.
In listening to him talk it made me realize how difficult it is for depressed individuals to feel the same connection when they are depressed. When someone is not sleeping, or has no energy or cannot concentrate, how connected can they be? Since depression is such a common disorder this means that depressed people may have many points in their lives when they actually miss opportunities to feel the connections that may help develop their identity and self-concept.
When an individual suffers a depressive episode the frustration of not being able to experience things the way they would prefer is higher than ever. The helplessness to carry out basic functional behaviors like work and self-care is also soaring. This ultimately results in a hopelessness that they will never be able to feel themselves for who they are. In fact, research has proved that depressed individuals carry cognitive vulnerabilities to negative thinking that can persist after recovery.
Sadly, our private fears are more often than not echoed by others. Depression can often go undiagnosed to the point that people involved in our lives only see the symptoms. It can create significant problems in our close relationship, especially in marriage when our partners see us most of the time and they depend on our happiness. The stigma of mental illness is another factor why people often blame depressed individuals for their suffering.
This may leave you thinking how this manifest over time in terms of our identity. Depression not only makes a mess in our lives it can even change how people perceive someone suffering from depression. Eventually the individual loses faith in in who they and their identity becomes connected to their depression. I have heard quite a few clients at 180 Sanctuary think of themselves as a “depressed person” rather than someone who suffers from depression.
There is a solution to overcoming depression and building and holding on to our identity in the face of depression. The first thing is to seek treatment. Effective treatment reduces the amount of time that someone spends suffering. Secondly it is important to remember that even though you may be suffering from depression there is still ways in which identities can be retained. This can be done by staying connected to our lives in some way.
Let’s see if we can work together to put an end to identity theft that depression can leave us with.