A few years ago I stumbled upon a book called, “The Mindful Way Through Depression, Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness.” I read a few pages of it, put it in a drawer by my bedside and never looked at it again. I don’t know why, (maybe Covid fatigue) but I picked it up again about 9 months ago. All I can say is, “Where has this book been all my life?!” It’s like this book speaks directly to me. I think anyone who has experienced depression or is currently depressed will feel exactly the same.
I bought the book because the word “Chronic” appealed to me. I have suffered from chronic depression since my teens; it’s never been a one and done situation. I have had so many relapses over the years that it felt like depression ran through my entire life like a thread in a quilt. Truthfully I can only think of two or three times when I was completely free from it. And that depressed me even more. I mean how much more could I do? Therapy, antidepressants, light therapy, self-help books and tapes, courses, lectures...The grip of depression never truly disappeared. At times it got better but it never really lasted.
Reading this book was like someone threw me a lifeline. Why had I never heard of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)? MBSR was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 and is rooted in mindfulness meditation practices and their applications to stress, pain, and chronic illness. Many years later MBCT was created by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, along with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, specifically for mental health problems, recurrent depression and acute depression and anxiety. MBCT applies mindful meditation with cognitive behavior therapy. In MBCT you learn to see how your views affect your mood. You learn to develop a different relationship to your negative feelings. You learn how to be fully aware of the present moment without judgement. Coincidentally I had been meditating every day since the pandemic started and I have seen a dramatic difference in my mood and ability to handle difficult feelings and emotions.
I found this passage so enlightening:
“One of the most critical facts we have learned was that there is a difference between those of us who have experienced an episode of depression and those who have not: depression forges a connection in the brain between sad mood and negative thoughts, so that even normal sadness can reawaken major negative thoughts.”
-The Mindful Way Through Depression
(Williams, Teasdale, Segal, Kabat-Zinn)
I feel as if I finally understood why I kept falling into recurring depression for almost my entire life. Just one small negative thought or bad mood started a snowball effect of automatic thoughts of worthlessness and self-critical thoughts. And these thoughts triggered depression. That in a nutshell describes the pattern that I’ve been experiencing all these years. Just hearing this has given me such a sense of relief, knowing that there is something tangible that I can do to prevent the dark spiral of depression. I have been walking around feeling incredibly powerful and let me let you, it’s amazing. I highly, highly recommend you pick up this book and give some of the lessons a try. I can’t wait to hear about your insights and share my own.