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You're Wrong About Why You're Depressed

There are reasons you feel depressed, but they may not be the ones you think they are. Maybe you’re like me, you get really down sometimes for what seems like no reason, or an incredibly stupid one.

Say you overheard a friend say something mean, and you feel so blue you’re practically suicidal. Maybe you broke a toe and can’t take that skiing trip you were planning. Or perhaps someone was rude to you in a store and you sink into a deep funk you can’t shake for days. Or maybe you’re like me, and you see a pigeon who looks like he or she is on his or her last legs, and you’re this close to curling up into the fetal position, rocking back and forth in the corner, sucking your thumb and mumbling incoherently.

When we are depressed we are very much like those matryoshka dolls, better known as Russian nesting dolls, sets of babushka-wearing wooden women of decreasing size placed one inside the other. There’s the recent, external circumstance that seems to be behind your blues, but the thing is, that’s just the doll you can see. Under that doll is someone who is insecure and fears everyone hates her, and under that doll is someone with some painful memories, and under that doll is a child who somehow learned that there are lots of things wrong with her and that she’s fundamentally unlovable and ugly.

So yes, it’s sad when someone says something that hurts your feelings. But that’s not why you’re crying uncontrollably and eating that second pint of ice cream. See, right under the surface there’s a woman inside you who worries people talk behind her back, and underneath that wooden doll is a you who feels like a fake and a phony and is terrified of being found out, and then there’s another doll who is certain she has to be perfect or she’ll be abandoned, and then maybe there’s yet another little doll down there who feels her mommy and daddy didn’t love her.

You broke your toe – is that any reason to mope around for days, and stay up every night feeling miserable and watching infomercials? But while big doll you has every reason to be disappointed, there’s another you who gets anxious when she can’t plan or control everything, and then there’s a deeper doll who is scared to death of that chaos and catastrophe are right around the corner, because the deepest little doll comes from a home where alcohol and violence rear up their ugly little heads every so often.

So what’s this all mean?

This is not about Freud. This is not about you not getting that doll you wanted when you were five. This about layers – the complex, complicated stratum that lie beneath the soil from which spring the fruit and flowers we can see.

There’s no use looking for these hidden dolls, going mining for their wounds and obsessions. But the next time you over-react, lash out, get really depressed, and feel sort of crazy, remember those nested dolls who never rest, and probably never go away. It’s not you; it’s them.

And be kind to them, and to yourself. You are going to pull through this– together.

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