Gaining insights into depression
Many people said that they had not always understood how their own thinking and circumstances contributed to their depression. It was usually only after many years that people gained insight into their depression in the ways that they describe below. What is clear is that gaining insight took much time and consideration. Counselling and therapy in particular often helped people become more aware.
Some people we talked to felt that, as they recovered, they moved from 'not knowing' to becoming more aware of themselves and their place in the world. This has been called 'cluing in' (Schreiber 1996). People became 'clued in' in all manner of ways, and this 'cluing in' actually helped them to be more positive about themselves.
As part of this process, people often realised that the messages they picked up as children could be contributing to their suffering, and such messages needed to be challenged. For instance, to start recovering, one older man had to undo the message he received from his parents that joyfulness was somehow wrong. Some became more aware that their families were limited or even quite wrong. For instance, one woman came to see how her family had failed her, rather than she herself being a failure in the family.
He was taught as a child that pleasure was wrong, but later found out that life is about pleasure...
Because of all the unpleasant experiences I've had psychologically, I've realised that that is a travesty of the truth, that what a person should be doing in life is what gives them the most pleasure, and if they don't, they're actually denying their life's purpose, and it's not surprising they start showing some symptoms of mental imbalance.
My father was a very melancholy character, and he had a very strong influence on me because I... I was aware very early on that if I was cheerful around him he didn't like it, in fact he really couldn't bear it. And so I got into the... into the way of sort of feeling sort of slightly sad when I was in his company so I wouldn't show any signs of exuberance, because I knew that then the atmosphere would get so painful.
Therapy helped her to better understand that her family had failed her, rather than being a...
One man in his early 30s learned that he was not so weird and different from everyone in the world as he had thought in his teens. Among other things, as part of his recovery, another man came to the conclusion that the world was not going to tell him what was important in life, so he had to work it out himself. A woman described her depression as a necessary part of breaking down the rigid way that she had approached life.
For him overcoming depression involved the realisation he was not as different as he thought, and...
I've discovered that I'm not that weird, not that different and things that I thought were denied to me, you know if you'd said to me in my mid twenties, even in my happiest time I would've said to you, "Yeah, I'm a happy guy, I'll probably never manage a relationship, a long term relationship or get married to anyone but that's absolutely fine."
About two weeks before I met my wife I remember going to a wedding and looking at these people and thinking, "How does anyone do that, how does anyone think they're that secure with anyone?" And just thinking, "Well, that's denied to me, and that's okay. That's fine, I can live with that. You know some people never, I don't know visit you know visit Africa or something, I just won't be doing that." And then sure enough, I discovered that I could do it, and it worked, and it was a shock to me and a wonderful surprise.
Realised that he would need to have his own values, since the world was fallible. (Played by an...
It's important to be good to each other, and be compassionate to each other, and it's important to let yourself have a good time and look after yourself.
Understands depression as a 'breakthrough' because it helped her to become less rigid in her...
So what was the breakthrough..... the rigidity was breaking down?
The rigidity had to be broken down. I mean, after the first depression, my the religious binding, as it were, and I think religious, religion means that which is bound, but that had to be completely.... that was completely knocked out of me. Whether I liked it or not, and of course I felt, that, during that first depression, I was going about saying, "But what happens if there's no life after death?" All the doubts that I'd squashed in my teens were of course coming out now and I had to deal with them. They just hit me in the face. And I thought the end of the world had come. If this wasn't true, supposing it weren't true, life after death, you know.
The other insight people were gaining was about recovery - that they could not only move beyond the limits of depression (e.g. negative thinking, low confidence), but they could start seeing life differently (e.g. enjoying life, developing better relationships). With long-term therapy, one woman (who had had dysthymia and bouts of severe depression all her life) feels she is now stepping out of the 'prison of depression' into the unknown. Although the prospect is scary, she wants to get more out of life beyond her familiar depression.
Therapy can lead to stepping out of the 'prison of depression' into the unknown, which can be...
You know, you're getting through life but you don't necessarily get any pleasure from it. There may be the odd day here and there that are great, but you're surviving, and you don't really have any sense of why you are doing that. But if I choose to live differently, if I choose to, and can, set aside the depression, and think, right, I'm going to live life as other people seem to live it, that's really scary because that's been so much part of my life. And to actually live life without worrying every minute about what's going to happen next, about what people think of me, about what, am I doing a good enough job, you know to actually take life as it is, and to take knocks on the chin, and you know, dust myself off, and not worry about it, it's just a completely different way of living. And it's scary because I've never done that before, and I clearly need a lot of help to get to that point. But I do know that I want to live life and be more happy, and be more settled, and have a point to my life, you know, have a purpose, other than just getting through it.
People also often talked about how important it has been for them to take responsibility for sorting themselves out. Medication and other people could only be helpful tools. Taking responsibility was related to the notion of being your own expert, as discussed elsewhere on this website (see 'Help with depression: General Practice' and see Expert Patient Programme).
Says that while medication helps you to function, people still need to work on themselves and...
Last reveiwed September 2017.
Last updated October 2010.