I was recently talking with a client who is dealing with some very difficult PTSD and depression concerns. She was describing her sense that many of her goals have been interrupted, and her struggle to take any action since she couldn’t see how it would connect to a goal.
I think the feelings she described are true for many folks who have been affected by illness or trauma. When life is severely disrupted, when the things we thought we would be doing begin to feel out of reach, it can be hard to see why we should bother engaging at all. We struggle to see the point.
What I have learned is that sometimes, when we are in the dark, action and engagement are the point. Trauma and depression are emotional experiences that provide us with a constant litany of all the ways that the world is dangerous or that we have failed. In a misguided effort to protect us from pain, depression and anxiety can tell us that we should just not bother trying anything. Here are some common messages you might be getting from your depression or anxiety:
- It’s just going to backfire anyway.
- I have already missed my deadline to do this, so doing it later will still feel like a failure.
- Nothing ever works out for me.
- I don’t deserve to succeed.
- Doing this small self-care won’t get me a job (finish my degree, fix my relationship, etc.), so why bother?
When my clients share thoughts like this with me, I remind them of two things. First, that we can appreciate the work our depression and anxiety put in on trying to protect us from harm. That is true. What is also true is that depression and anxiety will use lies to try to reach that goal. They will lie using pieces of truth. And the fundamental lie that they will tell is that lack of action keeps you safe.
Lack of action doesn’t keep you safe. It keeps you stuck. So, today I am going to invite you to engage with your life in some small way that brings you joy. I know that you may be facing pain and challenge. I know that the future may feel too complicated to face. So don’t face the future. Don’t worry about where your action is taking you. If the struggle to understand how this makes change is keeping you frozen, step around the struggle. Do something because you can and because you like it.
Today, this moment, do something that you love. Happen to the world instead of the world happening to you. It doesn’t have to be huge. Cook something delicious. Stand in the sun. Do a 5 minute lovingkindness meditation. Snuggle your pet. Watch something funny. Take a long shower. Do something that you can start, even from a place of darkness, something small and manageable. But happen to the world. Happen to yourself. Create a ripple of joy and connection.
If you’re willing to share how you happened to the world, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you need some help getting started–click on that appointment button to the right.