The Work Isn’t Finished After Depression
Much of the focus of depression therapy is on alleviating the pain that dominates your life. During depression, pain takes over in a way that creates a sort of linear existence. Things that hurt less, you do; things that hurt more, you avoid. Because of this, emotional pain drives your consciousness when you are dealing with depression.
But, what do you do once this pain is gone? Being without pain doesn’t mean the work is over. The task, then, becomes figuring out how to live all the parts of life that took a backseat to your pain.
With Depression, Emotional Pain Becomes A Companion
When dealing with depression, emotional pain is a significant presence–one that forces you to adopt and accommodate it in every way at all times. You learn to live in pain and with the pain. You take the pain to work, to bed, to friendships and even, to dinner parties.
It’s important to note that depression and social isolation are co-morbid. Folks who are depressed tend to be lonely. If we are wounded in relationships, we, sensibly, avoid the pain of further wounds. In this way, the pain can become a steady companion.
Learning To Do All The Things You’re Used To Doing Without Depression
There’s a great anti-smoking commercial in which people do everyday things like starting a car or pouring a glass of water, but they’re doing them poorly. The announcer says something like, “It won’t be easy learning to do all the things you’re used to doing with a cigarette in your hand without one, but you’ll manage.”
I have no idea if it helped people stop smoking, but I love the image. Mostly because it’s not just funny, it’s literally part of what can keep people stuck. You don’t just smoke cigarettes; you do everything in your life as a smoker, often with a cigarette in your hand. So too with emotional pain.
After The Pain Of Depression Is Gone, Get Used To Change
Like quitting smoking, removing pain is disruptive. Solving one problem produces a whole new set of problems. This is, however, what I call a good problem.
So what do you do? Change everything. That’s essentially what the anti-smoking commercial is saying and it also relates to emotional changes. You can’t just change one piece–it’s like playing the board game Operation with your emotional life. Forget it. It doesn’t work that way.
There’s a huge bias toward seeing ourselves as constant throughout our lives. We see our personalities and our emotional selves as variable only within modest parameters. My concern isn’t just that this isn’t true (it isn’t), but that it is such a stifling way of relating to one’s life. Change is generative, if we want it to be.
Reconsidering Who You Are Sans Emotional Pain
Suddenly living without depression or emotional pain is an adjustment. It’s like living life the way you live with a new cellphone. You’re unsettled because things work differently–buttons are in different places, there are new features, etc. Your mind and body are adjusting to this new way of being.
This is also loaded with opportunity. Reconsidering who you are and how you live is, under any circumstance, always a good plan. After emotional pain, you have to embrace this change and think, “Wow! I miss my pain and things are different without it, but now what?” Who are you and who do you want to be?
Wanting New Things (And Relationships) After Depression
Without being completely overwhelmed by emotional pain, you may want new things. When you’re managing pain, that becomes the focus of your life and you may not have room to, for example, date or build a social life. When pain no longer keeps you company, you’ll likely find yourself wanting the company of others.
In the absence of pain, these things and relationships become more appealing, but you have to learn how to do that. Creating a life in which you thrive means building relationships with other people.