Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Depression as Possession

It's been nearly ten years since I have experienced the kind of depression I have felt since everything came down Thursday night. I'm not talking about sadness or angst, or even despair. I'm talking curled up in fetal position with a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other kind of depression [this is a metaphor -- I'm not actually doing this]. I would have tried to sleep through it, but sleep seems to be something my body and mind have forgotten how to do.

It occurred to me at some point in the last few days (perhaps during the short period of clarity I felt Saturday night and Sunday morning), that being depressed like this feels an awful lot like some kind of possession. I didn't even recognize the person I have been the past few days as me -- I didn't even look like me in the mirror.

Through a strange alchemy of hormones and neurotransmitters, my mind and body had been hijacked by this thing we call depression. It feels almost literally like being possessed by a spirit of darkness.

One of the nice things about prolonged sleep deprivation is that it can produce altered states (and I get a lot of reading done). I feel pretty clear right now (but I could be delusional as well -- so flip a coin), as though I am seeing clearly for the first time in days.

I can see the depression I have been experiencing as a kind of possession by a subpersonality. I've never looked at depression in this way before, or seen anyone else look at it this way either.

None of this negates the neuro-chemical component, or the emotional component. And I would certainly hesitate to suggest that this can be applied to the clinically depressed. But for people who are dealing with situational depression, as I have been, I think there might be some value in approaching the problem from the perspective of subpersonalities.

One of the foundations of subpersonality theory is that subs develop most often as a self-protective measure. They arise to protect a young and fragile psyche from intense physical or emotional experiences. When seen from this angle, depression serves the same purpose.

Intense situational depression isn't feeling sad or hurt, it's feeling almost nothing. Along with the numbness comes despair that it will ever be any different, lethargy and avoidance of responsibilities, either prolonged sleep or sleeplessness, and a desire for escape by any means available. This may be one way that some psyches learn to cope with intense feelings -- the pain is experienced as so intense that some part of the psyche takes over and shuts everything down.

But for those of us who have been in therapy and have learned to access an observer self, or have learned to do so through meditation, or have found access to the core self through "parts" or subpersonality work, we can experience short periods of disidentification from the depressed state. Anyone can be taught this ability, especially in therapy, where it might be crucial to gain some objective perspective.

Simply experiencing this disidentification presents the very real possibility that situational depression is a form of subpersonality. Some researches have suggested (and I'll find more evidence on this in a later post) that different parts or subs have completely different postures, attitudes and beliefs -- it makes sense they would also have slightly different neuro-chemical states.

Obviously, I'm just speculating here (although from a solid foundation). But seeing my recent depression as a subpersonality allows me to look at what it needs and how it is trying to serve me. Instead of feeling a victim of the hormones and other chemicals in my body, I simply see them as a symptom of the larger issue -- that I was possessed by a depressed subpersonality, one that I will name, for now, The Darkness (I've never been good at naming things).

[NOTE: If you are reading this and are seriously depressed, please seek help. Treatment works.]

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