Depression Hack; Accept Your New Normal

What is normal? Normal is the way things are most of the time. It is what you believe to be true on a regular basis. Some synonyms include:

Usual

Ordinary

Typical

Standard

Accustomed

Habitual

Expected

Normal as it pertains to yourself is the way you think you are supposed to be. For instance, if you consider yourself to be smart and hard-working, that is normal for you. If you believe that the majority of the time you are very healthy and fit, then that is what your normal is. If you are a hot-head, a big-eater, a slacker, the life of the party, a dentist, a doctor or a teacher that is your normal. The sum of whatever you believe you are is what normal is for you.  

Unfortunately, most people believe that if something is not normal, it is not right. They think that if something is not the way it should be or the way it always has been, it must be wrong or abnormal. Synonyms for abnormal include:

Unusual

Rare

Uncommon

Atypical

Irregular

Strange

Odd

Unexpected

Deviant

Freakish

The problem with this line of thinking as it pertains to yourself is that normal is looked at as good, and abnormal is connotated as bad. Therefore, whenever you deviate from your norm, you feel like you are being bad. You feel like there is something wrong with you. You feel depressed. Let’s look at some real-life examples.

Chad loves to work out. He lifts weights, does cross-fit every morning, and has impressive biceps.  He identifies himself as an athlete. That is his normal. One day Chad is involved in a car accident that puts him in the hospital for months and ultimately leaves him partially paralyzed on one side of his body. He has lost his muscular physique with no option of ever lifting weights again. Chad falls into a deep depression because he feels that he is not normal anymore.

Henry loves to garden. He takes great pride in his precisely manicured lawn and beautifully landscaped flower beds. All of his friends and neighbors praise him for his hard work. He identifies himself as a green thumb and a master gardener.  That is his normal. Over the years, Henry develops arthritis. He can’t bend down without severe knee or back pain, and his left hand is stiff. His yard starts to look unkempt and overgrown because he cannot tend to it like he used to. Henry falls into a deep depression because he feels that he is not normal anymore.

Both Chad and Henry are depressed because they are following the thinking that normal is good and anything else is bad. That is not true. What they have to realize is that they are not abnormal or bad. They are new and different. The way they are now is their new normal.

If Chad and Henry can change their way of thinking and learn to accept that their “normal” has changed, they will be better able to move on and pull out of their depression. If they can’t accept it, they will continue to feel bad about themselves, ruminating about how things used to be, and spiral into an even deeper depression.

Accepting a new normal, especially in these two extreme cases, is not an easy thing to do. There will be periods of pain, loss, anger, hopelessness and most certainly depression. However, it is possible to overcome those feelings either on your own, or with professional help by using the Depression Hack; Accept Your New Normal.In order to do so you must: 

Understand that your new normal is not bad, it is simply your new reality.

 Do not fall victim to black and white thinking. If something is not normal, that does not mean that it is wrong or bad. Life is ever-changing, and you will have many “new normals” in your lifetime.

Accept your new normal/realitywith whatever limitations it may have.

If your new normal is a loss of some kind (health, job, spouse) you may think it is unfair or that you are worse off than you were, but you cannot focus on the past. Life is not fair. Reality is what it is. There is no going back. You have to play with the hand that you are dealt and not dwell on what was. Focus on what is.

 Embrace your new normal/reality by consciously deciding to make the best of it.

 Look at the good aspects of your new normal. One door may be closed, but another door may be opened. The two examples illustrate tragedies to explain our point, but many new normals can be very positive. Embrace them.

After much support from his wife, family, friends, physical therapist and psychiatrist, Chad was able to accept his new normal. He weighs a fraction of what he used to and is confined to a wheelchair, but he realizes that this is his new normal. He has become an avid reader and now identifies himself as an inspiration to others. He gives talks about his experience and how he overcame it. He even jokes about how ridiculous it was that he once thought his life was over just because he was no longer a muscle-head.

Henry had a much harder time accepting his new normal because he truly identified himself based on his gardens. He felt as though everyone that saw his yard thought he was worthless because it looked so bad. Henry did not have the support of his wife either, who constantly berated him for letting things go. On several occasions Henry landed himself in the hospital by ignoring his pain and overdoing it. His daughter’s church group finally stepped in and was able to help Henry. After speaking to a certified counselor there, he (and his wife) agreed to have a lawn service come in and grass-over his multiple flower beds. He got himself a fancy camera and now visits famous gardens taking pictures to share with his friends and neighbors. Henry identifies himself as a photographer and takes great pride in his photos.

One last point to remember is that the sum of whatever you believe you are is what normal is for you.  It is common to identify ourselves with one trait such as a health nut, a hot-head, an inspirational speaker or a photographer. However, it is not healthy to label yourself as one thing. You are a masterful creation of many things. When one aspect of your life changes, it does not necessarily mean that you have a new normal. Broaden your perspective on yourself and you will be less likely to succumb to depression as life changes.

 

 

 

This is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with a licensed healthcare professional.

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