Episodes of Low Mood
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
I tend to steer away from the word Depression to capture a person’s whole presentation. To me, it’s a loaded label and carries ideas of a person being defeated, their personality compressed and unable to rise from a crushing weight. In reality, clients I’ve worked with who have this formal diagnosis are anything but defeated and they rise everyday in the battle to live their life and in some cases, stay alive. For some, it may be getting up against all their instincts and going to work, for others it’s getting up and taking a shower or taking medications that they find gives them unhelpful side effects. It depends where they are on their journey, but they’re anything but defeated. They fight every day against whatever is blocking their motivation and feeling of contentment with their life. Some days the mountain is higher to climb, other days not so much. I believe people are more than labels and a single word can’t describe the complexity of a person’s life and their ability to cope with it.
Life is hard, no doubt and I tell my clients that if they expect to feel ecstatically happy and buzzing with excitement every day, then please take me to the utopia they want to get to because it sounds great! I can be packed and ready in 5! Most of the time, if we took the emotional temperature of ourselves every day, we’d find that feeling “ok” is likely the norm. Sure, we have wonderful days and not so good days, days that are just routine and some days that are tragic. When the emotional thermometer reading comes back negative more days than not then it’s time to seek support.
Low mood is often triggered by stress and the person’s ability to manage the stress. Low mood tends to be friends with low motivation, worry, pessimistic thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Together they’re a toxic group that can easily take over a person’s life if they’re not rounded up and brought into check. Genetics may play a role for some people and for others ability to manage could be influenced by life experiences, such as upbringing. Often both.
· Were you taught helpful or unhelpful strategies to cope in times of need?
· Do you have support systems in place to help you manage?
· How do you view yourself and others in the world?
· Do you feel that you have to hold it all together for others? If yes, how do you care for yourself?
Stress in life, ebbs and flows and none of us will ever be stress free, but it’s how we manage the stress and learn to adapt to it that counts. Our problem-solving skills and ability to self-care in a storm meet at this juncture.
For my clients, I’ve visualised this concept by asking them to imagine themselves surfing. Some days the ocean is calm and they can stay on their boards without any issues and even have fun! Other days, the ocean might be more antagonistic and they get thrown from the board but manage to get up, maybe with a little bruise, but they’re ok. On the worst days the oceans in a full category 5 storm and they have to use all their resources to get back up on that board. When they find they can’t get back on, that’s where I come in. What’s stopping you? Can you control the storm, if yes, how? If no, how can you control your reactions to it and at least hold on to the board and not go under? What do you want to achieve by getting back on your board? Where do you want it to take you? Is there a massive wave coming that you want to ride, but you need help doing it? Can personal growth be found in the roughest waters? I’d say yes, and even if sometimes we can’t hold on to the board, we can at least find a way to sustain and make it back to shore to get a new one. The reality is, we’re all in unstable seas sometimes, but how we navigate it is key.