Pain of the Emotions

brain painIt’s been awhile since my last blog post. The truth is that I have been living in almost constant pain for the last few months and I’ve not been my usual happy-go-lucky self. Thankfully, I haven’t been in a place of dark submission, but one of my clients made a comment that sparked me to return to writing.

I was outlining to her how it feels to be in constant pain. It’s like you are afraid to breathe, because you aren’t sure if it will hurt or not and you’d rather not chance the pain. And that is fear, not in the sense of panic, but debilitating enough to stop you from being. You become so inwardly focused that the rest of the world is simply an abstract that wants to be a distraction.

The worst thing is that you want to be a part of the abstraction, but you have no way of committing to it. And the worst thing is that people simply don’t understand how you feel. People understand pain, but not many people have had to endure prolonged pain. To be honest, I’m really glad that most people don’t understand it. But it isn’t simply about the pain, it’s the emotional exhaustion that is hard to live with.

My client said that’s how she feels about depression. What I described was how she felt about living with depression, the fear of feeling anything in case it hurts too much. It was the most open discussion we’ve had, because suddenly we had a common reference that we could talk about. We even talked about how odd it was that we manage pain and depression by using medication to suppress it.

It suddenly dawned on me that depression is pain of the emotions. Pain is a physical response to damage to the body, so is it possible that depression is a mental response to damage to the emotions? If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be more focused on the healing process than trying to dampen depression with drugs?

I often hear parodies about treating depression like an illness, but I’m now not so sure. Perhaps if we treat depression more like an open wound (of the soul if you are feeling particularly spiritual. Ed) we would be more interested in treating the wound and not just the symptoms. I don’t want someone to give me painkillers for a deep cut without stitching me up as well. I don’t want a paracetamol for a broken leg without a cast to help the bone heal properly.

The next time someone tells you they are depressed, don’t tell them to get over it or tell them it will get better or get annoyed because you’re fed up with their moodiness. Think about it as being in constant emotional pain.

Just remember, that how someone feels, even if you don’t agree with it, is exactly how they should be feeling. Emotions, like pain, are automatic and cannot not be simply switched on and off. Someone who is depressed doesn’t want sympathy, they just need some empathy. They need someone who will listen and not judge or ignore them.

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