Guest post by Caroline Trellis. See About the Author below.
What Situational Depression Is
My teenage nephew told me that situational depression is when there’s a situation, and you’re depressed about it. That pretty much sums it up.
There’s a situation. Some examples:
- You are having problems in school.
- You’re being bullied or teased.
- You have a teacher who seems to be out to get you.
- Your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you.
- Or the only person you are interested in doesn’t even know you exist.
- Your parents are fighting a lot. Or they are breaking up.
- A close family member is dying.
- You are gay and you can’t tell anyone.
- You think you might be gay, and you don’t have anyone to talk to about it.
- You moved to a new place and don’t know anyone.
- You lost your job and can’t find another one.
And you’re depressed about it. Some things you might feel:
- Hopeless and helpless
- Like nothing is enjoyable
You might be anxious – a feeling of fear, worry, and uneasiness. The feelings may be generalized and unfocused. You may feel apprehension, or agony, dread, even terror. Also angry, filled with rage. You may be angry with others or with yourself.
You may have these or other physical feelings:
- Muscular tension
- Tense or jumpy
- Trouble sleeping
Your fatigue and restlessness may be mental. You may have trouble concentrating.
You may do these things, or act in these ways:
- You may avoid your family or friends.
- You may do destructive or self-destructive things, such as cutting.
- You may fight with others.
- You may ignore important tasks like work or homework, or skip school or work.
- You may start using drugs or alcohol or tobacco, or increase the amount.
- You may pace.
- You may ruminate, that is, go over the same things in your mind, over and over again.
Some things to know:
- Your feelings and behaviors are all normal for someone like you, in your situation. You are not strange or weird or sick.
- That doesn’t mean that it is okay to act in these ways, because they are harmful to you and possibly to others.
- It doesn’t mean that it is okay to feel this way. These feelings are unpleasant and uncomfortable, to say the least, and you don’t want to keep feeling them.
- You don’t have to add to your distress by believing negative things about yourself. You are a normal person in a difficult situation.
You Might Be a Highly Sensitive Person
Being a Highly Sensitive Person (or HSP) doesn’t mean that your feelings are easily hurt. It means that you are very sensitive to things in the environment like noise and lights. Being sensitive to noise can mean that the sounds of ordinary life drive you up the wall. Some people cope by making more noise to drown out the disturbing noises.
Highly sensitive people can have overly strong reactions to ordinary situations. That makes things more overwhelming and more difficult than they otherwise would be.
If that is you, then you are more likely to be depressed in situations that don’t bother other people.
What to do about Situational Depression
People sometimes treat us badly because we let them.
My sister is great at this. When a co-worker touched her inappropriately, she said loudly, “Get your hands off my boob!” He never touched her again. She was worried for a while that he might retaliate, but she said that she would still have spoken up because people like that count on their victims keeping quiet.
Bullies usually do. They don’t expect anyone to stand up to them. They get their power from the fear of others.
You could ask the person why they think it is okay to tease or badmouth another. Bullies will continue to pick on people as long as no one stands up to them. Standing up for someone else lets them know that it is not acceptable no matter who the victim is.
Sometimes they say that they don’t mean anything by it and that you’re just being sensitive. Own it. “If you don’t mean anything by it, then you don’t need to be saying it. I am sensitive about that. So you knock it off.”
Accept the apology but not the behavior
Too often when someone apologizes, the quick response is “That’s okay.” Do you realize that saying “that’s okay” is like giving permission for them to do it again? Don’t say something is okay when it is not. Say, “I accept your apology and please don’t do it again.”
Forgiveness doesn’t mean it’s okay.
A lot of people think that when you forgive someone, you have to say that what they did was okay.
Two elderly women I knew were struck by a hit and run driver. One had an arm broken. Both were bruised and in a lot of pain. One of the ladies asked “Do I have to forgive him? Do I have to say, it’s okay, little man, for you to run over me and break my arm?”
That is not what forgiveness means, and some behaviors are never okay. Not ever. And when you forgive the person, you do not give their behavior a pass.
Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. The thing that happened happened, and to “forget” doesn’t change the fact.
Forgiveness means letting go of your anger and resentment, in other words, you stop letting it bother you.
Change the situation or something about it
- Accept the situation for what it is: Accepting it doesn’t mean that you are okay with it. It means that you recognize that things are the way they are. Only then can you change it. You have to look at it clearly in order to understand what is really going on, so that you can see where to make changes.When you look at the situation, you may find that the what makes the situation depressing or unbearable can be remediated.
- Change your routine: For example, you could to bed earlier so you can get adequate rest. Everything is harder when you’re tired. Getting things ready the night before would make the morning easier.
- Say no to some things: Sometimes a situation is depressing because we want to do too many things. Or because we don’t want to accept the limitations that the situation imposes. When we do, life becomes easier.
- Change your self talk: One night I was at the store. It was seven degrees Fahrenheit and there was a man wearing shorts and flip flops. He said to the checker, “I shouldn’t have to change just to run out for some milk.” He was parked in the fire lane right out front. Maybe he thought that he shouldn’t have to walk all the way from the parking lot when it was so cold and he wasn’t dressed for it.Shouldn’t have to!Even if you don’t use those actual words, the statement that “I shouldn’t have to” or “It shouldn’t be that way” underlies a lot of complaints and makes it harder to accept situations.Some situations are bad, and saying that they shouldn’t be the way they are doesn’t change anything. It feeds resentment and anger. Continuing to think about how things shouldn’t be that way doesn’t change the situation, and can keep you from thinking about what you can do.
- Change what you can: A lot of intolerable situations are chaotic. It helps if you establish some stability in areas where you have some control: regular meals and bedtime, a tidy work area, these can be like an oasis in the chaos.
- Other points for change: There’s an old saying that “A change is as good as a rest.” A psychology book I read in high school said that you should do the opposite of what you have been doingIf you have been active, a rest is a good thing. If you have been inactive, getting in motion is healthy and helpful.If you have to be alone a lot, being with people helps. If you are with people all the time, solitude can be healing.A lot of us have most of our social interactions via our phones or computers. Some people work online, and thus never have to leave their houses or have any face-to-face contact with others. If that is your situation, having some real-life interactions may make a big improvement to your situation.
- Leave the situation: If you look at the situation closely and the reality is that you are in danger, physically, emotionally, or mentally, you may need to leave.Sometimes what you need to leave is the immediate situation, such as a party where people’s behavior is getting out of control. Sometimes you need to change your school or get a different job. Sometimes you need to leave a relationship.
The help you need may be counseling or therapy, or it may be practical help with moving or solving problems.
If you are in school, a trusted teacher or school counselor can help. If you are employed, your company’s Employee Assistance Program can help. Religious leaders can also help directly or can help you find someone who can help you. Women’s shelters help women leave abusive relationships.
Self-help groups can help you help yourself. For those who are dealing with addictions, consider Smart Recovery, http://www.smartrecovery.org/.
About the author:
Caroline Trellis is a language enthusiast, writer, and online researcher who loves history, travel, and psychology. From Caroline: “I am currently in a depressing situation and know what I am writing about. I didn’t say anything about it in the article because the focus should not be on me.” Caroline has put her life, career, and travel plans on hold to support the person she loves most in the world through a lengthy, terminal illness, while trying to see good and do good in the world. She has a master’s degree in psychology and has worked in the social services. Caroline has also taught at the local community college since 1997.