I carry an ideal around in my head about what I should be able to accomplish: I should be able to be told something once, understand it once, and then never have to be told again.
Real life doesn’t work that way, of course, and the hardest lessons take time and repeated instruction.
I have found that out in the therapy that I’m undergoing for chronic depression.
I’m still having difficulty in expression my needs and wants to others.
Now, my therapist doesn’t want me to turn into a self-centered, selfish person who cares only about my own wants.
He doesn’t want me to become demanding or shove my wants down someone else’s throat.
But he does think it’s important to my emotional development and to my depressive moods for me to learn that my needs and wants are important.
Through my upbringing, I learned that my needs and wants were not important and I was selfish and spoiled to want them considered.
Even though intellectually, I know that people’s own needs and wants are important, even my own, I don’t accept it emotionally.
And therein lies my problem.
I recently failed once again to tell my husband what I was really feeling about something, what I was really wanting. It wasn’t over anything earthshaking, but it was important enough that I needed to express myself.
Instead, I resisted, and then later when my husband asked me what was wrong, that I seemed far away, I answered with my old standby: “I’m tired.”
I wasn’t making that up. It wasn’t like I was full of energy and raring to go. I really was tired. But I was tired with the fatigue of depression more than the fatigue of work.
My therapist said that when I don’t speak up about my needs and wants, I might avoid conflict. But I push the feelings down.
“And who keeps score?” he asked.
“I do,” I said.
“Your body does,” he said.
When I’ve acted in a way that is consistent with helplessness—not expressing myself, believing that it’s not important, believing that my needs and wants are not important—then I feel helpless.
That shows up in my body with a depressed mood and fatigue.
What can change that? My behavior.
I have to act like I’m not helpless. I have to express myself. I have to act like my needs and wants are important, even if emotionally I don’t yet get it.
If I watch closely, my therapist told me, I will begin to notice that when I don’t express myself, my mood is lowered. When I do begin to speak up, my mood will be better.
The brain is a social organ. Interpersonal relations affect how I feel, he said.
So once again I’m learning that my behavior can make a huge difference in how I feel.