I was humbled when The Dork Knight Writes aka Momina, offered to do a collab, on Gratitude and Depression. Of course, I jumped at the chance, working alongside a soulful, articulate, yet straight talking, conscious writer. Jump over to Momina’s blog post ‘The Unspoken Gratitude and Depression After Success’to see where this collab idea started!
Initially I was excited, because I know how gratitude can uplift, and enlighten one’s perspective. However, it quickly dawned on me, that we already know the benefits of gratitude.
The internet is full of quotes, studies, articles on the benefits, and importance of grateful outlook . It can change a persons mindset, to always seek the good. What if you are already practicing gratitude, but still can’t tap into it’s coping mechanism?
Is gratitude the opposite of depression?
Thinking of depression, alone, sends shivers down my spine, and so it took me so long to write this post.
For that I am sorry Momina, I had you on hold for many weeks. I know how dark and lonely it can be, just thinking of it, I feel like I’m falling into a deep slumber. Why? Because just as gratitude lifts, depression weighs you down. No wonder, nobody wants to talk about it. It’s such a mood kill.
Depression is a force that cannot be controlled, and that is in part, the point of my post. People assume wrongly that depression is a choice, that you can switch it off, you’re just not trying hard enough.
People think suffering from depression, you’ve just lost your way, you don’t have enough will power, you’re weak, and you’re not grateful enough. All you have to do is practice gratitude, and depression will disappear. Easier said than done.
Always look on the bright side of life. Every cloud has a silver lining. Look for good in everything. There’s a million and one cliche sayings on gratitude.
Appreciate what you got. You are blessed, blah blah blah. Remain positive, no matter what, right? Because what’s the alternative, anxiety, hopelessness and despair, no one wants to go there.
I’m here to tell you, the opposite of gratitude is not depression. They are not, on opposite ends of the spectrum.
You can easily draw the conclusion, that not practicing gratitude, can lead to depression, and a pessimistic view, on life. However, gratitude and depression is not mutually exclusive. They can coexist together.
You’re grateful and depressed? Is that even possible, simultaneously?
Er yes. Nobody wants to be depressed, it’s not a choice, that anyone makes. Sure it may feel like that. You could say, look at all the blessings you have surrounding you. However, when someone is going through depression, and they are reminded of their blessings, they can actually feel guilty. They may know how lucky they are, yet still can’t shake of the cloud of depression, that lingers over them.
Instances when depression can strike
- Loss of a loved one
- Health diminishes
- When you have been betrayed
- After getting married/divorced
- When you have undergone drastic life changes such as moving home, school, cities, countries
- Sudden money, fame or success
- Family disputes
- Whilst being pregnant, both mother or father
- After having a baby, both mother or father
- Witnessing injustices, war, destruction, poverty
Hint of what depression feels like
- Feeling disconnected.
- Feeling like everyone else is having fun.
- Putting on a fake smile even though you don’t feel like it.
- You know you are blessed but you cannot enjoy the fruits of your blessings.
- The mental torture is overwhelming
- You feel like you are a shadow and everything is surreal
- Life has lost its taste.
- You have no appetite for anything
- You feel like you’re at rock bottom
- You’re in pit and you don’t know how to get yourself out
- The feeling that you are insignificant
- Feeling lost and abandoned
- The feeling of all is lost, and you are being punished
- Feeling like you are not good enough
- Feeling like you have a weakness of faith
- Feeling ashamed and unworthy
- What you are doing and where you are in your life, is not amounting to anything.
As a believer, I am taught that there is a purpose to everything. Nothing is by accident. At times of difficulties and in ease, we are tested.
Just like the Prophets before us, who, if you’ve ever read the Bible, Torah or Quran, you will be familiar with, the trials they faced.
Their lives are full of depressing events, being swallowed by a whale? (Ref: Jonah/Yunus A.S) Doesn’t seem like it would be fun. Being wrongfully jailed for many years? (Joseph/ Yusuf A.S) Going temporarily blind from the loss of his child, as a result of the jealousy from his other children? (Jacob/Yaqub A.S) Bearing the burden of being orphaned, loss of guardians, wife, and several children (Muhammad PBUH)
The stories of the Prophets are not meant to make us feel, that they are unreachable goals. That didn’t live in a parallel universe, with extraordinary powers. It’s meant to show us, that they also lived through distress and despair, and it was not a sign of weak faith.
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” 2:286
This is a promise, in the Quran and it gives me hope. This is not to say that you have to carry the burden in silence and alone.
The internet tells me, depression is like rain, you get wet, but you don’t stay put and drown.
Things you could/should do
- Talk to someone you trust, this could be a family /friend /counselor/ doctor
- Take each day at a time. Don’t look at how I will get on with my life, just focus on getting through the day.
- Allow yourself time to heal, the wounds of your mind take time, just as they do with any injury of your body.
- Don’t try instant fixes, such as substances abuse for obvious reasons. This doesn’t deal with the problem, just defers it.
- Help someone else, when you tap into the brain that helps others, that may spark a joy inside of you.
- Shifting your attention from yourself, to others can help you from feeling helpless, to actually feeling very useful and essential.
- Putting a focus on your energy, makes you feel purposeful.
- When you witness that the good that you do, is meaningful, and it matters, you will know that your inner demons are not giving you a full picture. It’s magnifying your problems, till it’s unbearable, making it more bigger, than all the goodness you have to offer.
- Feeling sad and pain is not wrong, it’s a reminder you are alive, and it’s what makes us human.
Lastly and most importantly, with all matters of health and mind, I urge you to seek help from a trained professional.
Not so they can tell you, that you are depressed, but at least you will know, if you are, or you are not, and then take needful action. When your life is being sucked out of you, because of the feeling inside, which you can not share with anyone, that’s your cue, to seek help.