What Depression Can Tell Us About Being Abused as a Child

Have you ever wondered why life seems so hard? Perhaps you have experienced symptoms of depression such as lack of motivation, no energy, loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy, empty or teary. If so, you may have felt stuck or trapped in the depression and not known what to do to feel better. Depression is a difficult and painful experience to endure but what we often do not realize is that the depression is often there for a reason.

As hard as it is, working through the issues that lead to depression can often teach us more about ourselves and hold valuable information that helps us to release the past and open to happiness. I work with a wide range of people who feel stuck in their depression and yet with appropriate guidance and inner courage to look a little deeper into themselves, they discover personal meaning and purpose that results in “perceived success” rather than “perceived failure”. Often the “stuckness” experienced in depression results from trying to change circumstances or events that are causing us to suffer but either our perceptions of the events or the methods we use to try to change them, are not working. Being human, most of us try to change things through a habitual way approaching problems which means we keep reacting to situations by doing the same thing over and over again. The only problem is that the ways you are try to make things change may be what is sabotaging your emotional wellbeing.

I understand depression to be learnt helplessness. It’s the end result of “perceived failure”. It feels like no matter what you do you are doomed to suffer. However, on further exploration and perhaps with some new skills and perception, this may not be true. We often perceive ourselves to be powerless however, this is rarely the case. There are things that are truly out of our control, such as other people’s actions, natural events including natural disasters, people or pets dying, and the like. However, what is in our control is our reaction to these events. Recognising this does not mean that there are not times when we experience painful emotions or grief, however it does mean that we can choose to not add to our distress with the ways we are thinking or reacting to these situations. Here is an example of how we can find our inner power to respond to difficult situations rather than react to them in ways that increases the likelihood of depression.

What Trudy Learnt from her Depression

Trudy came to see me about feeling flat and having little motivation. She was married, working and looking after two children. However, she had been feeling increasingly teary and was not sleeping. We explored when she felt more depressed and when she felt less depressed and it emerged that she felt more depressed after talking to her mother. So we started to explore her childhood where she disclosed she had been neglected and abused as a child by her father who she now had no contact with. She felt she had grieved and resolved the issues around her father but her talking to her mother made her feel deeply empty and angry. As we explored those conversation it became apparent that her mother denied most of the abuse and had stated that that she deserved the abuse as she as a naughty child. Trudy felt torn between believing what her mother told her and at the same furious because it felt wrong. It was here that we began to hear what the depression was saying. Trudy felt stuck between her love and loyalty towards her mum and her truth that the child abuse was unjust and deeply harmful to her being. As we explored this issue, Trudy found more understanding that her mother denied the abuse because of her own issues in her own childhood and guilt as a mother. Bit by bit, she was able to acknowledge within herself and counselling that the abuse was indeed wrong, while releasing the need for her mother to acknowledge it. She also learnt new skills in establishing boundaries with her mum so she did not have to listen to her mum’s perception of the abuse which only triggered enormous pain. In this process Trudy found her power in this painful situation. She could not change the past or her mother’s perception, but she could make choices about what she believed and what she agreed to participate in when it comes to conversations with her mother. Slowly the depression lifted. The more she surrounded herself with people who could understand and support her, the more she practiced healthy boundaries, and the more she focussed on the things in her life which made her feel happy and confident in herself, the better she felt. Trudy learnt how to believe in herself and her truth about situations and the depression dissolved. These skills came in handy in lots of aspects of life and she further improved. Without the depression she would not have learnt how to stand up for herself in a healthy way that promoted wellbeing and self love.

This example highlights the importance of working through depression rather than thinking it will just go away by itself. Depression may increase and decrease over time but it does not actually go away until to learn the truth about ourselves, forgive the past, adopt new adaptive skills that support our growth and safety, and learn to love ourselves. Self awareness is the key that sets us free from depression.

Note. While characters in these blogs are inspired by my work with clients, any client information is not referenced to a particular person who has accessed this service.

For further information or counselling please call Vanessa at Conscious Solutions on 024 507 101.

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