Dear Ones -I wonder if any of you have heard of the work of Karla McLaren? She’s the author of many wonderful books on emotional health and wellbeing, including THE ART OF EMPATHY.I was recently listening to an interview with her, in which she spoke about depression in a way that felt so fresh and compelling to me. She spoke of the “gift of sadness”, explaining that Situational Depression can be a wonderful tool of expression in our lives — a way that our psyche alerts us to the fact that something in our life is not working, and must be stopped.Situational Depression (which is different from the ongoing mental illness of chronic depression, hormonal depression, or bipolarity — all of which are serious medical conditions) is a deep sadness that comes upon all of us at some point in our lives. Situational depression is natural. It’s universal. It’s human. We all have face it at some point in our lives. We hate it. We reject it. We fight against it. We don’t want it. It’s deeply uncomfortable.
But Situational Depression has an offering for us — it’s desperately trying to tell us something.
Karla McLaren argues that what your Situational Depression is trying to tell you is: STOP.
Depression is characterized, after all, by a complete depletion of energy, by a sense that you simply cannot cope anymore, that you simply cannot go on. And in many cases, McLaren argues, this because you SHOULDN’T go on. This because something in your life is working against you. Something needs to be changed. Somebody needs to go. Something needs to be grieved. Something needs to be admitted. Something needs to be given up. Something needs to be brought in. Something needs to be discussed. Something needs to be healed.
And your Depression is just a friend who just stands there in the middle of the path and says, “I will not let you take another step until you cope with this problem.”
Many times, this complete shut-down of energy is necessary, to alert you to a problem that you haven’t even consciously admitted that you HAVE.
Case in point: Twelve years ago, in my own life, Depression knew that my marriage was over — and knew it before I did. Depression was just trying to tell me. Depression also knew that I needed God in my life before I knew it. Depression knew that I needed some rigorous honesty about my own self-destructive patterns. Depression knew that I needed to find a professional to talk to about my deepest sorrows and fears. Depression knew that I couldn’t live in that big house anymore, and Depression knew that I was not destined to be a mother — and that therefore I needed to create another path for myself.
I didn’t know any of that stuff.
All I knew was that suddenly I couldn’t function anymore.
Because Depression had just violently drained all my energy out of me, and forbidden me to continue. Depression had basically jumped in front of me with a stop sign, saying: “That’s ENOUGH, young lady. That’s enough of all this. You need to change everything, and I will stand here protectively blocking your path until you do change.”
It wasn’t until I worked everything out (which took time and tears and effort) and completely changed my life that Depression stepped out of the way and let me go on with my journey.
I should be grateful to it, then, for the information.
All of which is to say — Depression just wanted me to stop, to listen, to pay attention…and to respond.
Karla McClaren has created a wonderful template for how to listen to Depression’s helpful messages right here:
Her entire website is filled with a lot of wisdom and help. If you are struggling with depression in your life right now, and cannot figure out why, I think you may find a great deal of solace and information there.
Blessings, and please do take care of your lovely selves…
ONWARD (or, if necessary: JUST STOP)