Occasionally, I am really surprised.
My motto is “I love getting up in the morning, because I learn something new every day.”
Often, it is something small that I learn. A shortcut to the store. A new way to fold shirts, a new band that I had not heard before.
But sometimes, what I learn is life changing.
I have had a tab open on my laptop for weeks. It is an article by Dr. Roger K. Allan about depression. I started reading it and never finished. This morning, I was cleaning up some of the tabs and closing them. Before I closed this tab, I started reading the entire article.
First, is negative and distorted thinking. Depression is not so much a disorder of mood but of perception. People who are depressed view the world through a negative filter that influences everything they see, feel and do. This filter originates in the limbic system of the brain, which evolved to protect us from the threats and dangers of life but also robs us of hope, optimism and confidence. Negative thinking colors everything and makes it difficult to enjoy life. Challenging this distorted thinking is perhaps the most important and effective treatment of depression.
Second, the emotions of depression are addictive. Our bodies literally memorize such hormonal or feeling states as sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, and self-distain. Although we hate these feelings, they become so powerful that it is difficult for the conscious mind to override them. They become default emotional states which crowd out more pleasant emotions. Overcoming depression has much to do with putting ourselves in new feeling states, incompatible with the feelings of depression.
Third, people who are depressed are trapped in a catch 22. They need to take action to overcome their state and yet they lack motivation. They feel fatigued, low energy and a loss of interest in life and so have a difficult time mustering up the motivation to do what they need to do to feel better. And yet, doing something different is exactly what the doctor ordered. They must act in new ways to feel better.
That’s when I saw it.
“The emotions of depression are addictive.” What the hell? I have depression, not an addiction. Or that’s what I thought. How could I be addicted to something like depression? There must be a mistake.
So, I Googled the definition of depression and found the American Society of Addiction Medicine. They have both a short and along definition of addiction. Oh, my goodness. There is enough material that they couldn’t just have one definition of addiction.
Short Definition of Addiction:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
Why am I ok about having depression, but not ok about having an addiction?
Isn’t it “a rose by any other name?” It makes sense that depression would be an addictive behavior, but I missed the memo. No one has said that word, addiction, in the same sentence as in “You suffer from Major Depressive Disorder.”
What they were really saying is “you have an addiction.”
This realization is going to take time to process. But it is making me more determined than ever to be in control, to understand how addiction works in the context of my depression. In the end, it is really a question of being my own self advocate and finding ways to reprogram my thinking.
I have been working on that for months now. And I have made a lot of progress. So, adding another description to what I am dealing with should not deter me or dampen my enthusiasm for depression not being my boss.
But I am not happy about having an addiction. I am hopping mad.
OK, so I suffer from depression. But an addiction…? Alright, I’ll stop for now. I am going to need to slow down and wrap my head around this discovery. I don’t like what I have learned today, but you can be confident I will get over it. Just give me today to wallow in self pity and my own “crapulence.” Tomorrow I will be back on track.