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  • Writer's pictureAbi Graves

When we dismiss our own experience...


I’ve had many conversations over the years where people effectively dismiss their own experience. They diminish themselves because they believe their problems or difficulties aren’t big enough or bad enough. I feel sad when I hear this. I used to think this myself. When I was in my early twenties I was suffering. Life was tough. I was overwhelmed by anxiety and normal day to day things were hard because of this. But when the question popped into my head, ‘Am I depressed?’, ‘Am I anxious?’ two things tended to happen. One; I got scared just by asking myself that question and would have thoughts like, ‘what would that mean for me?’, ‘would other people believe me?’, ‘is this who I am?’, ‘am I stuck like this forever?’. Two; often my wonderings would lead me to that place we all go - Google! Just bringing up the NHS website page on depression brings up an arbitrary list of symptoms. When faced with these symptoms it’s easy to think, ‘oh they don’t apply to me so I can’t be that bad’. There might be relief in that, or further pain, ‘so why do I feel this bad?’.


My own therapist helped me to understand the difference between clinical depression and the type of depression that results from a weariness of life, a slow build up of trauma over the years, the inter-generational passing down of pain. Both are valid. Both are worthy of the individual seeking help.


I believe this is just one of the ways in which the medical model approach to mental health is too limited. Summing up our human experience in a list of behaviours or a set of symptoms, completely misses the complexity and uniqueness of our lives. Everyone experiences depression and anxiety differently because everyone is different.


I find the term ‘high functioning depression’ interesting. On the one hand, I get it. It seeks to promote the fact that not every depressed person is lying in bed all day (although nothing wrong with that!). There are depressed people managing companies, working at the supermarket checkout and doing stand up comedy. I would argue that all coping strategies made in the face of depression are ‘high functioning’. They are strategies that individuals employ, conscious or not, to keep going in the face of a baseline of despair.


If you’re asking, ‘am I depressed?’, that is enough. It might be your gut telling you something. Listen to it. Choosing to focus on that underlying pain, rather than employing your usual strategies to push it down, can be scary. But those strategies are just a sticking plaster, they’re never going to address the issue at the root and bring healing from the bottom up. Yes, taking that first step can be scary. But let me tell you, it is worth it. Reach out, talk to a friend, contact a therapist. You don’t have to be alone in this.

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