When your heart is two sizes too small

As much as I know it is a symptom of depression and a seriously distorted way to think, I am often (very often actually) consumed with the feeling that people don’t like me. There is a part of my thought process that tells me, it isn’t true, but there is the other part that aligns with the dark feelings of insecurity and worthlessness. How can a smart person like me, who is gifted with such a beautiful life, be so wrapped up in these senseless symptoms of depression? Honestly, I don’t know. I have tried to figure it out - but I don’t really know what has caused this. Perhaps it was my childhood? Trauma? Genetics? Really, it doesn’t matter how I got to this point, it matters where I go from here.

I’ve had two basic behaviours that result from my negative beliefs. First, I have tried to shower these supposed haters, with gifts and attention to try to win over their approval. I have been known to go way above and beyond to impress a boss or friend who has shown signs of disliking me (most likely normal behaviour that I interpret as offensive). I do this thinking it might change the climate between us. But of course when the assumption on my behalf is that I’m fundamentally hated, the results never turn out well. I have also gone wild organizing community events, clubs and parties - all with the driving desire for belonging in a group that rejects me (supposedly).

The other option is to hide. I seclude myself, for fear of running into the haters and enduring the shame, embarrassment and humiliation that comes with being in the presence of the happy people who hate my guts. On some level I know it’s not as bad as I am feeling… but still, I’m overwhelmed. So, I avoid, and make excuses.

Lately (the past couple of years) I’ve gone with the second option - hiding. I’ve avoided my kids activities ie hockey, dance or soccer - because I fear the parents I have to deal with. I have avoided going to grocery stores for fear of running into haters and getting dirty looks or passed by with out acknowledgement. I have opted out of exercise classes, yoga studios and party invites, all because of the anxiety I have about painful encounters. There is almost nowhere left I can go in the small town where I don’t vibrate with stress about who might be hating me.

So what can be done about this miserable symptom of depression? First of all, the fact that I know it is a distortion and not all true is somewhat comforting, but this information does not seem to be able to calm the stormy weather of my emotions. Here is what I have concluded - after having done everything - and I mean EVERYTHING my doctor and counselors have told me to do in the past. (ie. medication, CBT, etc etc)

1) Accept that my mind is flawed. my thoughts and emotions are not always going to be in alignment, so do not keep the expectation that I should be something or someone I’m not. I have a dark side - this is me.

2) Tap into the light. Even in my most miserable moments I have learned that I have gifts that can help other people. This morning for example, I taught a yoga and mindfulness class to a group of people who were so grateful and truly moved by the experience. Their lives are not easy, but my class helped them through their day. This brought the light in for me.

3) Cherish the love. I am aware that my life is essentially a cake-walk. Things are so much easier for me that most people on the planet. I cannot take this for granted. There are also two little people who adore me and I adore them. This I can work with.

4) Get back up on the horse. So, I get knocked down. Sometimes several times a day. But there are moments when the amazing, strong and powerful part of me surfaces and I feel like I can take on the world. So, while I’m in these moments, I’ll get everything I can accomplished. And while I’m not in these moments I’ll have patience. I’ll wait.

5) Write for posterity. I am aware that my father’s mind was a lot like my mind is today. He didn’t work on it. He let it consume him. For my children, should they ever be in this state, and for my community of people with depression, this is for you. I’m writing about this to reduce stigma, and to contribute to conversations and solutions. Depressed people are doing amazing things all over the world - despite their illness, but under the extreme heaviness of it. One thing that has helped me, and will perhaps help you - is to know that others are going through this too.