I see many clients who describe themselves as being stressed, anxious or depressed. Sometimes all three.
I will often do a reality check with them to find out. What's been going on - not just in the last month but the last few years? For instance if someone close to you died recently and you still feel sad about it you might not be depressed, you might just still be grieving. Many people underestimate the impact of loss and change on their ability to function normally. This is especially true if they come from a family that encourages a stoic, stiff upper lip approach to emotional distress. Quite often when I sit down with people who feel stressed and depressed and help them go through what's been going on in their lives over the last few years, the cumulative impact of loss, illness, moving and other significant changes is only too apparent to me but, when I point it out, it comes as an illuminating shock to them.
On the other hand some people do experience feelings they variously describe as flat, joyless, exhausted, bleak. These feelings have been around for a long time and don't seem to be associated with any particular life events. Typically people have found ways to manage these feelings and get by well enough but they come to me because their usual coping strategies don't seem to be working anymore.
I think its important to appreciate that sadness, anger and other feelings people often experience as 'difficult' are not just abstract concepts. They are visceral, physical responses to the environment that involve charges of energy that seek release. That energy has to go somewhere and if it is not released organically, in tears or protest say, it will be internalised. When this happens over and over as it often will when as children, for whatever reason, it feels too risky to let the environment know what we're feeling, it becomes a habitual and so unconscious, response. As adults we're not aware of how we're repressing our feelings. And this can have substantial repercussions as the video on this page demonstrates.
Steve Lewis - Depression Counselling Lancaster
Scaling is a useful, practical way of looking at the difficulties of coping with depression. I first came across it whilst studying Solution-Focussed Brief Therapy. To begin I'll ask you to rate how you feel right now on a scale of 0-10, where 0 = as miserable as you've ever felt and 10 = as ecstatic as you've ever been.
Obviously this isn't in any way scientific. It's just a way of communicating how you're feeling. Let's say you answer "two". Then I'll ask you how you'd like things to be. Typically you might say something like "eight or nine". Whatever you say there's likely to be quite a gap between your two answers. A gap that can feel quite unbridgeable.
So I'll say to you: forget about 8 or 9 out of 10. Let's focus on how you get from 2 to 3. Can you imagine what 3 would feel or look like? What small, achievable thing would help you get there, so you could say "Yes I'm on 3". Or even 2.5?
Together we'll identify what that small thing is - maybe phoning a friend or going for a walk or having your hair cut. Whatever it is we'll look at how you can make it happen. We'll look at what might get in the way too and explore how you can find the support to to overcome potential obstacles.
This is one of the ways you'll begin to realise that change doesn't often happen in huge once-and-for-all leaps. You're more likely to experience it as a series of incremental, small scale awarenesses and adjustments. The journey of a thousand steps etc.........
Steve Lewis - Psychotherapist and Couples Counsellor Lancaster