Overcoming Guilt: Allowing Yourself to Seek Treatment for Depression
My parents would always tell me “You’re beautiful, you have a great life; what do you even have to cry about? Billions of people would kill to have what you have.” This was meant to make me feel better, but all it did was reinforce the notion that I was a spoiled girl spending the ‘best years of her life’ feeling sorry for herself.
One of depression’s most malicious behaviors is coercing you to feel devalued. Its menace is complex in that it makes you unhappy, lowers your self-worth, and states life won’t get better, all while suggesting that your sadness is unwarranted. You feel guilty for being depressed when there are people around the world who have less and suffer more. You haven’t experienced a loss, you’ve secured a stable job, you have loving friends and family, but you still can’t escape your sadness. You might be afraid to talk to someone, for fear of them telling you that you have nothing to be upset about. But the truth is that you don’t need to have suffered a recent tragedy to experience depression. Not knowing why you feel the way you do should not stop you from seeking relief. Many things other than trauma can cause depression. It can be helpful to understand how genetics, past experiences, and major life transitions may be affecting your mental health, but you don’t need to know the cause to know that treatment can help.
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Watching a loved one suffer can be unbearable, and those with parents or siblings who experienced depression are more likely than the general population to develop the disorder. A number of genetic and biological factors determine one’s susceptibility to chronic depression, from size of the hippocampus to the brain’s chemical balance. Just like you didn’t choose your height or the color of your skin, you didn’t choose how your neurotransmitters work–so you shouldn’t have to feel shame about something whose origin you had no control over. The same goes for a situation where a past trauma influences or causes your depression.
Experiencing traumas, especially during childhood, can limit personal growth and your sense of self-worth. Over time, the stress hormones released in our brains during tragic episodes can affect our immune system, our ability to form relationships, our focus and concentration, and our capacity for self-restraint. Past events can maintain their tight grip on our development and leave us unable to cope, and under the thumb of depression. But so can major life events.
Wedding, promotions, giving birth–transitions are an inherent part of life. Significant life moments, both the peaks and valleys, can take a toll on our mental well-being. Sometimes these moments can appear on the surface as our most fulfilling transitions, but they’re often saddled with challenges we don’t always talk about. With each stride we take towards something new, we’re taking a step away from something we’ve grown accustomed to. A departure from our comfort zone and disruptions in old patterns can leave us feeling lost and out of control, spiraling into depression. And shame about our situation only contributes more.
Dangers of Shame
One of the many perils of guilt is that it kicks us while we’re down, while implying that we’re not worthy of treatment. People who feel ashamed and stigmatized are less likely to seek the professional help they need. We become so accustomed to shame and self-reproach that it seeps into our relationships and mental scripts. It may cause us to retract from social situations and inhibit us from trying new activities. We lose the ability to recognize our strengths, and over time this negative thinking can establish a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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Letting Go of Guilt
The only way to truly release feelings of guilt and shame is by reaching out. Therapists can assist in shifting our thoughts and self-doubt into a perspective that encourages us to break the cycle of self-defeat. Medical intervention is a must if your depression affects your day-to-day functions, even if you live a life others “would kill to have.” The healing process begins when you uncover your negative thoughts and shine light on your depression. Professionals at Bridges to Recovery can address your disorder from all angles, with comprehensive approaches including psychotherapy, group therapy, and yoga and meditation. Make depression release its grip on your life, and regain your sense of self.
It stung hearing my parents discredit my depression. I thought that if my closest loved ones felt that way, then speaking to a stranger would be even more humiliating. But I wasn’t getting better on my own, and I didn’t want to brood over my negative feelings any longer. I realized after entering a treatment facility that I don’t have to feel bad about my disorder–it’s not my fault, and I can overcome it.