Tag Archives: gratitude journals

On Depression and Gratitude

I’ve been doing this 21 days of Gratitude thing as a hoot, but I just considered that I got this as a part of therapy.  In other words, if you are depressed, being grateful for what you have is supposed to make you feel better.  But does it?  If you’ve never had clinical mental illness, you probably think it should make everything better.  You probably apply logic to situations.  But that’s just the thing.  Depressed people can SEE logic, they just can’t act on it very well.  Here’s one example.  A dirty house makes you feel bad, yes?  Cleaning it would make you feel better.  Therefore (x + cow = red) you should get up and clean your house.

Get up, Mr. Sad Face!  Just whistle while you work!

Get up, Mr. Sad Face! Just whistle while you work!

snow white sad face bang

As you can see, Mr. Sad Face wasn’t too impressed with Snow White’s chipper attitude toward cleanliness, though blowing her up with a magic wand did bring a smile to his face.  That’s always nice.  More on that in a bit.

Gratitude journals are supposed to work the same way.  But here’s the thing. There are different stages of Depression.  It’s never “cured” but you can have times of mostly remission, as long as you take your meds and / or go to therapy or whatever it is you do to cope.  But if you are in the really down stage, someone telling you to be grateful is only going to make it worse.  For example:

Man I'm bummed I don't have Barbie's life with money and house and stuffs.

Man I’m bummed I don’t have Barbie’s life with money and house and stuffs.

What's this?  A rainbow of good things in my life?  Who knew?

What’s this? A rainbow of good things in my life? Who knew?

Yay I have no home or car or foods but there are bunnies and flowers and sun!  I am happy!

Yay I have no home or car or foods but there are bunnies and flowers and sun! I am happy!

It goes a little differently with the depressed brain.

I don't live like Barbie.  Life bites.

I don’t live like Barbie. Life bites.

What the heck is this?  There better be some skittles coming next.

What the heck is this? There better be some skittles coming next.

My life bites cause it's not like Barbies.  Also cause I don't appreciate flowers and stuffs.  And cause of gratitude journals.

My life bites cause it’s not like Barbie’s. Also cause I don’t appreciate flowers and stuffs. Or gratitude journals.  I suck.

So you see the difference?  It’s not that the depressed person is trying to be obstinate, that’s just how our brains work.  We already KNOW we have good things in our lives, and sometimes that us feel even more down.  Just because you have depression doesn’t mean you don’t have gratitude.  It means you have a chemical imbalance, and possibly some other sucky events have happened in your life.  Your brain sees through a different lens when suffering depression.  Like the drug commercial we know so well – this is your brain on depression.  This is your brain without it.  There’s a difference – it’s even visible on brain scans, so it’s not made up stuff to let depressed people lie on their duffs and take no responsibility.  No matter how much it seems that way – even to the one who is depressed.

Now gratitude is a good thing, and when you’re out of your darkest days, it’s fine.  But please don’t push people to be grateful when that is just one of the many things they wish they can do but can’t.  It causes guilt, not happiness.  Coming out of depression takes time, and hard work, and the right kind of therapy and meds.  It’s not a quick fix.  But there is one thing that is – even if the fix only lasts a few minutes.  Humor.  Humor helps.  I’ve been in the hospital, and I’ve seen it work with other “mentals”.  It is possible to laugh in the midst of suffering.  And that’s part of why I blog.  I love humor, and I hope my somewhat bizarre form of it helps people, whether they are sick or not.  Remember that rainbows don’t appear during the worst of the thunderstorm.  They come after.  But during you can always use an umbrella.  Until that blows away and you just hide under a taller person.  Or – I lost track of my metaphors.  Anyway, this is Alice signing out, hoping your brain has a good day.

Alice

P.S. I hope you found humor in how Snow White has kind of a Joker grin (not really intended).  Why so serious?