I use depression as an excuse to bow out of life. After five years of my promises to improve, my wife left. I admit to wanting people to see I’m not worth loving. Years of therapy did not help me recover from childhood abuse. But I’m working on getting out of my head and becoming a Big Brother, learning krav maga self-defense, and making friends. My wife agreed to a couple’s therapy session yesterday, but won’t commit to returning. She says people manipulate truth to fit how they want therapy to go. She is dating, which broke my heart. I’m working on me so that I can be better for us, but she’s out getting attention she didn’t get from me. How can I show her that not giving up on me will give me the chance I need?
The power to transform your life is not reliant on the people in your life. By requiring your wife to behave according to your script, you’re setting her up for blame if you do not change as expected. It’s unkind. Change happens when an individual commits to shedding the past and evolving into a more authentic self. It’s an internal choice, one that requires reaffirming regularly so change takes root.
You have likely conditioned yourself to change only when a crisis looms. That’s why it was easy to dismiss five years of your wife’s pleading, and why, now that she’s left, you’re filling your days with self-defense classes, new friends and mentoring. But a busy schedule is only a distraction from the needed healing. Exercise is essential, yes, but take care not to place new friends or a child you’re mentoring in the position of being responsible for, “not giving up on you,” as you have done with your wife. It’s your life’s work not to give up on you. Yes, yours.
Let’s have an honest conversation about depression. It’s normal to grieve if you have given up on yourself. Any adolescent habit of nurturing sadness rather than acknowledging, investigating and releasing it, can morph into episodic depression in adulthood. A child who has been abused may become an adult who struggles with depression, unless a significant investment has been made during adulthood of seeking and committing to healing. These scenarios are not the same as someone who struggles with clinical depression and requires medication, although some people on depression medication do not have clinical depression. In other words, it’s complicated.
Depression, like the word “love,” is used casually to describe emotional states that have nothing to do with it. There is also a movement to call depression a gift. While there is value in all emotional states, clinging to the idea that depression is a gift usually results in depression arising more often. This leads some depressed individuals to feel entitled to special treatment from family and friends, and to flip into anger when it isn’t delivered. So what lives beneath your depression? Try therapy again to find out. You may have worked with the wrong therapist previously. Or you were not ready to grow. Give yourself another chance.