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Emotional Pain Does Not Have To Be A Permanent State

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While watching a rerun of the popular TV show NCIS recently, the character Ducky gave a great piece of advice in his favorite quote “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Some attribute this saying to Winston Churchill, but that has never been verified.

I was struck by these words.  First, I was relaxed and mindlessly watching a TV show to pass the time and be entertained; I did not expect to stumble upon something quite so meaningful.  Second, I found it to be a simple yet profound thought.  It has many applications in life, none more personal than when one is going through an episode of depression.

People describe depression in lots of ways, including that of being in hell.  Endless hours of misery and pain with no end in sight.  Even if you don’t believe in hell, many can identify with this analogy.  Perhaps this quote could be rewritten as “If you are passing through the hell known as depression…”  Importantly, this phrase takes us to the real situation, which is not one of “being in” hell but of “passing through” hell, or specifically, passing through an episode of depression.

The idea of “passing through” is a more accurate description of the illness, where one has fluctuations in moods that are not permanent but come as episodes of variable length that eventually improve.  By definition, these episodes change over time and have a beginning, middle and end.  There is a transition not unlike the “passing through” reference in this quote.

It’s very difficult to keep this in mind when in the midst of an episode, when the world is dark and grim with no end in sight.  You need to envision that you’re “passing through” an episode of this illness and will come out of it, that your life will improve.  Some find this hard to believe.  If you can picture it, this thought provides a glimmer of hope that the episode of depression is a phase that you will come through and feel different afterwards.  It may take a while, for some a very long while, but it will happen.  This I know.

In the second half of the quote there’s the thought “keep going.”  It means don’t stay there, stuck in your depression, a prisoner deep in your emotional pain.  Nothing is gained by sitting still, remaining in your distress and doing little to help yourself out of it.  It speaks to the importance of making an effort to improve your mental health.  As I mentioned in other articles, the way to start is with the Basics of Mental Health.  Take your meds as directed, avoiding street drugs and alcohol; make good sleep a priority and follow sleep hygiene guidelines; eat a healthy, balanced diet; get daily physical exercise; have a routine and structure to each day; and avoid isolation by keeping in contact with friends and family.  Find a good mental health provider with whom you connect and can work with.

Putting it together, here’s how this quote speaks to me:  If you’re passing through the hell known as depression, don’t stop there, for your pain and suffering will surely continue.  Make every effort to help yourself out of it.  Keep going.

 Stay well!


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