Depression Vs. Grief

There are a few buzz words in the mental health world and I think “depression” is one of them. I hear it from my teens, adults, the parents I work with, and passed along from the mental health workers in the schools. Everyone is depressed it seems. But I have to ask my clients, “Are you depressed, or are you sad?” Unfortunately, I don’t remember where the quote came from, but I once heard someone explain the difference between depression and grief this way: Depression is when everything seems meaningless; grief is when it means everything.

Sometimes we get stuck in our sadness for so long that it’s like we flip a switch. The grief becomes too much to hold, so instead of feeling the weight of how much it matters, we go numb, empty, hopeless—it doesn’t matter. Depression is a terrible place to be. I call it the pain of absence. Sometimes we don’t have words for it. Sometimes we’re not even sure why we feel that way, but we’re sure it hurts. It isn’t a wound. It’s a void. And sometimes it seems like nothing hurts more than something. With something—at least you have a starting point. With nothing—how do you even start when you don’t know where the starting line is?

Here are some ideas to help you find the starting line:

  • If you can identify the trigger for the depression, I’d start there with talk therapy, and most likely some EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing…a really long name that means it helps your brain process memories).
  • If you don’t know where your depression is coming from, start here:
    • Get some blood work done. Americans are notoriously low in Vitamin D, so if you have low levels, it’s most likely contributing. Similarly, an iron deficiency can sometimes feel like a mood issue. You’re lethargic, tired, and easily fatigued. Your hormones could also be affecting your mood. Talk to your doctor about some possible physical reasons for your mood.
    • Work on improving your gut health. Your gut is your “second brain”. 70-90% (I’ve seen both stats) of your serotonin is produced in your gut. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter in your brain that is linked to mood. It helps you feel good. Happy Gut and Grain Brain may be helpful books to start with. For recipes, I personally really like Lexi’s Clean Kitchen.
    • Change your body posture. How are you sitting? Would you say your chest is open or closed? Slumped or upright? Looking at your feet or at the horizon? Our bodies are POWERFUL. If you change your body position, you can change your brain, which will change your mood. It’s all about the polyvagal nerve. So smile and let it touch your eyes, sit upright, with an open chest, and take a deep calming breath.
    • Work on a routine. Sleep, eat meals and snacks, take a shower, do your make-up and your hair, EXERCISE, put on that outfit that makes you feel put together. I am not opposed to the fake-it-till-you-make-it method. It’s by no means fool proof, BUT we what we’re trying to teach your brain a new pattern. If you stay in your same routine of sleeping too much, eating junk that makes you feel better in the moment, and watching copious amount of Netflix, you’re not likely going to feel much different. So switch it up. It’ll be difficult.  And you can do it.
    • Pay attention to your thinking patterns? How do you talk to yourself? Is it all or nothing? Do you generalize your experiences and forget about all the exceptions? How are you at living in the gray rather than the black and white? How’s your gratitude?
    • Last, and certainly not least: we are healthy in community, and we are sick in isolation.

If you give these things a try and you still feel stuck, find a counselor who can walk through this process with you, who can be an encouragement as you’re working to heal. Maybe it’s a brain-based issue and neurofeedback may be the next intervention. Maybe you need help identifying the thinking patterns keeping you stuck. Either way, talk to someone who can help you find your starting line.

*The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).

Leave a Reply