Monday, April 30, 2007

honoring depression

Last night I led a growth group session. We had a good time talking together, as we always do. Several of us shared deeply personal stories. I shared. I mentioned that depression began for me many years ago when I was in therapy for child abuse.

There are a couple of therapists in the growth group as well as others who are wise. Several responded to my mention of depression, telling me to honor the depression. They said depression is a time for grieving, in my case, grieving the abuse I experienced as a child and grieving the fact that I never had a father with whom I could feel safe. With him there was always the risk of being beaten or ridiculed or both.

I had never before heard that depression was something to honor. I had been told and had read that depression is "anger turned inward." I recognize that anger is an appropriate emotion to have toward at my father for abusing me (as well as my mother). (Of course, that anger has to be handled carefully, not destructively, and not transferred to others who had nothing to do with my father's abuse.) I assumed that my depression over the years was anger turned inward since this is what the experts had said about depression.

But I appreciate the new insight my growth group friends gave me last night, that depression is something to honor. I know it is appropriate to continue to grieve that I did not have the kind of father every child deserves. Having been through child abuse, then therapy for it, I am better equipped to be that kind of a father and grandfather.


Blogger Enola said...

Wow. What a thought-provoking post. Thank you for sharing. I am still in the midst of battling depression so I'm not sure I have the distance to gain much perspective. But what you've said makes sense.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

I don't know if aI can agree with that...because I have been experiencing the effects of depression from being sexually molested by a man who was not my father for 2 years starting when I was 8 for well over 20 years long can one honor depression for it to go away?

8:21 PM  
Blogger Al Johnson said...

how long can one honor depression for it to go away

Susan, I'm not a professional. But I don't think that all depression is grieving. I think what my friends were telling me last night is that some kinds of depression include grieving. My depression is so bad that I require medication. Other depressions are caused by chemical imbalances of various kinds, including some which occur after some surgeries. I *suspect* that for those of us who experienced several abuse over a long period of time that our body chemistry was upset so that depression occurs. I don't think we can make depression go away simply by recognizing that we have it or honoring it. For depression after the death of a loved one journaling our grief may help the depression. Medication may also be needed. For longtime depression resulting from longterm abuse probably a variety of approaches are required. And it may be that some depression will be with us for a lifetime. Mine may be. I'm prepared to take my medication the rest of my life, if need be. I don't want to feel suicidal again. My meds help keep those feelings away.

I am so sorry what what happened to you. I hope that you and those who you have asked for help can find some ways of alleviating some of the pain of depression.

Again, I'm not a professional. I'm just speaking from my own experience and passing on what I've heard or read from others. I doubt that there are many simple answers for longterm depression.

8:38 PM  

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