Recently, one of my clients shared a link with me in which a very prominent Bollywood actress speaks openly about depression and her experiences. And suddenly, the media is ablaze with discussions on depression. When I watched the clip, my first thought was, it was very brave of Deepika Padukone (yes, that is the name of the actor) to speak so openly about it. Brave, because the society considers all form of emotional disorders as ‘crazy’; brave, because as a reigning queen of Bollywood she is expected to be blemish-proof! Brave, because, she narrated her own experience. And truthfully!
Quite a few many of us suffer from various emotional states – depression, anxiety, mood swings – to name a few. And given the ever increasing pace of life, the numbers and frequency is going up. As a coach I come across various manifestations of emotional states in almost all my clients. While some can continue to live with depression for years, ascribing the cause to one or other immediate stressors, some are deeply impacted by it resulting in severe emotional imbalance impacting personal lives. My first suggestion is always the same – if you are suffering from depression, and aware of it, please consult a physician to get temporary relief. Depression, if unattended or ignored, has the potential to cause a lot of stressful situations. Once you have taken control of it through medication (prescribed from a physician), you have the opportunity to deal with it at a mental and emotional level and get cured.
Mood swings are natural. The primary causal factor for mood swings is hormonal imbalance. The imbalance can be due to a number of reasons – poor lifestyle, your eating habits, stress at home or work or even watching an emotional movie or reading an emotional book. But some mood swings are temporary and they wither away very quickly. You need not be worried about these, as there is nothing wrong with you. A quick fix – healthy meal, good night’s rest, talking through a stressful situation with your colleague, spouse, family – can fix most of these. However, when these swings become more frequent and lasts longer, you need to be cautious.
If you are prone to depressions, to violent and protracted mood swings, as a Coach, I need to look something beyond what happened yesterday. Your genetic makeup, your upbringing, the incidents in childhood, all leave a mark on your emotional state, which cannot be erased through medication. Medication seeks to hide it for a limited time, but they surface again. And again. And again.
What type of environment were we bought up in? Did we felt protected? Safe? Did someone abuse us, sexually hurt us? Was we able to express our emotions or were we asked to hide them? “ Crying is for sissy”; “Need is greed”; , “Loving yourself is selfish”; “Raising your voice is disrespectful”…. There are abundant examples from our childhood which we all have heard and been through it many number of. They were our mood-inhibitors. They sought to alter our mood by asking us not to display emotions, wants and altered our perception of what is right (correct). And when you grew up, there were still more waiting around the corner of youth: for females, a mood swing was always linked to period; for males, showing emotions equated to “being sissy”. Am I right? Does it resonate with you?
Yes women we do get hormonal imbalances but blaming mood swings or depression just on that is not always correct. At least in women, depression can be a sign of a desire to be listened to. And loved. In societies where deep division exists on gender lines, the feminine urge to be recognised as a person, manifests itself in depression and withdrawal. Quite frequently ascribed to menstrual cycle, people who love you dearly (like your mother or spouse, or even a sibling) can recognise the real reason behind the depression. If someone has loved you dearly they know when you are moody or emotional there is deep cry within you to be listened and loved. And they do just the same to pull you back.
Similarly with men, a failure to express themselves (which may be a result of strict parenting or other such socio-cultural pressures), often results in ‘foul’ moods (a.k.a. mood swings) and depression. And it is just not a failure to express themselves. It can be due to a number of reasons – under achievement, a sense of insecurity or fear. The society is more harsh on male emotions. Depressions and mood swings are traditionally considered ‘feminine’ traits and men displaying such behaviours are subject to ridicule (remember sissy? Girlie?). Hence, from early days, young boys are encouraged (nay instructed) to hide well their emotions. What happens internally is a different story altogether. Pent up emotions gather layer after layer in the psyche resulting into deep depression and often manifesting into violent mood swings and behaviour patterns. Such men often have poor regard for others – especially women.
Food has a greater role to play – much more than it is credited for. Unhealthy diet and irregular diet causes a disconnection between your mind and soul. Think about it, how often have we felt depressed after the quick euphoria coming from a take-away or a fast food diet? Food is the fuel for our body and less fuel in the body means less fuel for the mind. The activities that we do, the games we play, the movies we watch and the people we interact with all are part of this puzzle.
Depression and mood swings are attributes of your mental state. When your mind is injured, depression kicks in. Incidents such as death of your loved ones, divorce, separations can cause deep mental stress, triggering violent mood swings resulting in depressions. Public figures, who can no longer command limelight, parents whose kids have ‘failed’ to meet their expectations, all suffer from depression. As before a loss of ‘grounding’ causes a loss of the very basis of your belief system leading to a state where you cannot find any reasons or purpose in your immediate surroundings.
Depression is not easy to recognise. And the fact that some of us are taught from childhood to hide this well,lt does not help. However, there are some common signs: feeling uninspired or demotivated, extremely fragile emotional state, or losing interest in things that you cherished; and on the other hand, violent behaviour, complete disregard for people around you are often common signs of depression. We often wave these away as momentary afflictions; failing to recognise the early symptoms. If recognised early, this can be treated. A denial or delay to acknowledge the issue leads to a chronic state and the treatment gets quite complex.
As a practitioner, and having dealt with a number of cases, my first recommendation to my client is to consult a medical practitioner. In order to tackle the problem at its roots, you need to be in the right frame of mind. Trying to seek the root cause, when your mental stage is agitated, does not help. Seek medical advice and then consult a counsellor. While medical intervention will provide temporary relief, going to the root cause would enable a deeper and long lasting resolution of the problem.
As a Coach I encourage my clients to speak freely about their issues. And listen. Listen to them actively; the choice of words, the emotions being displayed, and their own selection of the events from their past. Little by little, we help each other to peel of the layers of those emotions to get to the root cause. A pattern emerges about why you behave the way you do, why certain events – apparently innocuous – causes deep distress to you and why some events, expected to cause you pain, does not impact you at all. Believe me, it is not an easy process; scratching old wounds never is. But when the wound is causing pain to other parts of your body, it needs to be done. and as a therapist you need to be a good listener because lot of their mood swings, the words what they use to describe them is what they have learnt to be or what they force themselves to follow.
Coaching interventions help by bringing back the flow of energy through food, movement and thoughts. Every individual has a balance of feminine and masculine (yin and yang) selves. Understanding your balance and correcting the imbalance is a proven way to provide lasting relief from depressions and mood swings. The other technique that I frequently use is identifying the archetype of my client and leading them towards or away from it helps to correct the imbalance.
No one can recognise the symptoms as quickly as you can. You know you are going down the depression route, much before than anyone near you does. And you can ‘sense’ the changing mood earlier than anyone around you. But you, willingly, let yourself traverse that path. Soon it becomes a habit. And the frequency (and often the severity) increases. Hold on for a minute. You can prevent it. You can change the course. The moment you sense a mood swing taking place, here are some quick simple ways to change the course. Sometime just ‘taking off’ helps. If you are at work, move away for 10 minutes. Get out of the building in the fresh air and walk. If you are near nature (a garden or woods), walking in nature for 10 minutes can help reverse the mood. Try releasing the trapped emotions through talking. Talk about it with someone who you trust. When you talk, suddenly the magnitude of the issue seems smaller than before. Talking about it dissolves the pent-up layers and hence the magnitude. An appreciation for who a person is – complete with their tantrums, tears and irrational behaviour – helps. Instead of being judgemental showing them creative ways to take out their emotions helps them to relieve the tension.
This blog has become far too longer than I expected. And there’s so much more to depression than what I have written above. I have always been fascinated by the mental and spiritual well being and how this is impacted by our past and current thoughts and actions. I will close this here by just making a very important point: Depression is not a disease. It is not something to be ashamed about. Or to hide. Depression is a symptom. It is the mental manifestation of something which you had to undergo, which you may have unwillingly accepted, but your body has not done so far. Do not force your body to accept it as you had done. The body wants to throw it out; and you should enable your body to do it. Either yourself, or with the help of an expert who is trained in the art of easing it slowly but firmly away from your body and your mind. If you can identify depression symptoms in people near you, help them. Help them acknowledge it, and deal with it. It requires kindness and empathy on your part to help others resolve it. Medicines (or chemicals) help, but only temporarily. Surely we are not made of chemicals that could be altered by the use of other chemicals. It has taken science years to acknowledge the power of mind over wellness. Now that we know it, lets use it for our common good!