My ex partner who was narcissistic was a fan of the Pink Floyd song “I have become comfortably numb.” That should have been a red flag for some of the emotional invalidation abuse that went down in the course of our relationship where I was a demon for actually feeling my feelings. He seemed to think that emotions were a major inconvenience to just ‘getting on with life’. I have been thinking about this since my beautiful friend Summer wrote a blog in response to helping a friend who is feeling extremely suicidal. The post is entitled “if depression were a choice” and was written in response to someone saying that she or he should just choose not to be depressed and get over it.
Summer called for other bloggers to share their own take on why they know through harsh experience that depression is most definitely not a choice : none of us choose to feel bad. Those of us who suffer depression have been through things those who say such things as “just get over” it after we have watched loved ones die from terrible diseases or commit or try to commit suicide, get dumped, betrayed or abused by someone we gave entire heart and soul to will never in a million years understand.
Thinking about it overnight this thought came to me : If depression were a choice then emotions and emotional realities are not real. We should have no reaction to loss such as sadness, anger, disappointment and pain at all. We should just be able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get on with it after incredibly painful and distressing thing have happened to us.
Those of us recovering or trying to recover from depression know it contains within it a whole host of other feelings all jumbled together in a painful mix such as sadness, anger, disappointment, grief, despair, helplessness and fear just to name a few. We also know it is a very real and valid reaction to abuse, loss, betrayal, abandonment, violation and pain. Saying we should just get over it invalidates these feelings and truths and at the same time gives truth to the lie that we are also deficient in some way to those of you out there who are able to be happy because you have gone through less in the way of loss, burdens, trials or abuse.
To say we should “just get over it” is actually emotional abuse people. When you say that to us you invalidate our reality and you imply our emotions and emotional reality or truth and way of being is in some way is inferior or distorted or wrong. For many of us this is exactly what we have been told growing up and still get told while struggling with very real emotions and feelings we need support with and validation of.
I personally feel very angry just writing that last sentence. I personally also know I would have recovered from my own depression more easily if others could have provided support for me and validated my feelings of loss and pain. I witnessed my own sister try to take her life when I was 20, that came after two years of loss that involved a major motor vehicle accident which nearly shredded my body to pieces, my sister’s cerebral bleed and then her own betrayal and abandonment. I then watched my father die of cancer and was left with no emotional support as my partner told me he no longer loved me. Later in life I have gone through abandonments and emotional abuse and in the end depression was very real reaction to all of that pain.
Many of us with depression are brave. We do choose to get up and get on on some of the days which are really hard, but we also need to take care of ourselves and rest on the really tough days. We get beaten up enough inside our heads by those voices telling us there is something wrong with us for feeling and responding as we do. Its the very last thing we need to hear from anyone outside. In the end the “just get over it” comments come from ignorance. And from the lie which mankind is still in its numbness choosing to sanctify.
If depression were a choice then we would have no soul that suffers, no soul that through depression and the dark night of the soul becomes educated to far deeper darker realities than those of you in your sanctimonious prison houses of numbness and superiority and emotional blindness inhabit.
But there is one choice we do have and that is how we choose to treat ourselves in the midst of depression, we can show either mercy or judgement. Only one of those choices comes from love. So which will we and you choose?