I was recently in a room with a few colleagues with whom I also have a personal relationship. I was relaying my anxiety surrounding an upcoming presentation and stated, “Well, I have been diagnosed with ADHD and depression. Anxiety is fairly commonly comorbid with both.”
One of my colleagues responded “Oh! You don’t seem depressed at all! I would never have thought you were a depressed person.” Granted, a large portion of some of my worst days is dedicated to finding a way to “fit in.” But, it raised the question, “What does a depressed person look like?” And, “What do people think a depressed person looks like?”
Searching for the Archetype
The stigma surrounding depression is fading. Now, it has become a fairly common thing to have depression. Most people have no problem discussing what medications they’re taking, or giving you the name of their therapist. The problem for the depressed person, then, lies not in our desire to be accepted as a depressed person, but remembering to not allow depression to define us. Many of us who struggle with depression have a moment when we realize that we are not just experiencing an acute sadness, but rather a chronic feeling of slowness, guilt, grief, pain, or any of the other feelings synonymous with depression. Yes, that moment is important to our growth. The problem is when we stop at that realization.
If you have it, depression is inevitably part of who you are as a person—the same as your hair color, your food preferences, and whether you’ve ever had a cavity. But, just like your cavity doesn’t control every aspect of your life (except maybe that you brush your teeth more when you think about it) depression shouldn’t be allowed to control you. And it doesn’t have to.
Mindfulness in General
The most important factor in this equation is just living in a mindful way—that is, being aware of your actions, words, thoughts, and feelings. This is most important not because we need to live inauthentically or mask our true emotions, but because we have to be informed regarding the genesis of those feelings and actions.
For example, if Joshua is on the lower end of his scale, he might be more apt to attempt to push people away through his actions and words even though he would not do so if he were on a higher level. By living in a mindful way, Joshua may be able to preempt those reactionary behaviors, thereby saving himself further detriment by keeping his loved ones near and possibly helping him reverse his low faster.
The Archetype, Mindfulness, and Patriarchy
For women especially, we have a fear of reframing our emotions, scared we will get caught up in forming the non-genuine version of ourselves typically requested by patriarchal society. Within the present social construct, our feelings and emotions are wrong, just for the sake of having them. The men in our lives often pass off our emotions as us being “crazy.” Our concerns aren’t considered legitimate because we’re “just overreacting.” In our professional lives, we’re encouraged to “not be so emotional.”
The language of reducing women’s contributions has existed for decades. These are, again, the constructs of a male-dominated society, and they are to be understood as such. However, as women we have received this messaging consistently over our lifetimes, and have either learned to be spurious regarding our true feelings or have become wary of denying ourselves emotional freedom. I am not suggesting we take this patriarchal value to heart. I am merely saying we may benefit from knowing where we are internally before acting.
The ability to say to oneself “I am presently in a very low point, it would be wise to censor myself” may help us minimalize casualties in our relationships. This mindful living seems to be a fairly easy task on paper, until you consider where the depressed mind goes. It’s not just something easily controllable. It takes practice and self-understanding to understand your personal trigger and reaction cycle.