I've battled depression most of my life. It's not just "being sad". I can be happy and still feel depression deep down at my most basic level. I can be truly happy.
Depression is like a magnet in my brain, skewing my world experience toward a negative view. I've come to understand it better, and I can tell when brain chemistry is messing with me. More and more of the time, I can tell that it's brain chemistry. Quite often, this lets me take action.
Action, rather than experience, seems to help more than anything. Having something nice happen is good, rewarding, but I can be sad just the same. Also, I notice that, having this "pull" toward negative thinking, when things are at their worst, I can be my best. When I act, no matter how slightly, I have some amazing inner strength that I don't always feel. When quantifying actions I can take, I get overwhelmed. There is a panic that sets in, and many half-formed thoughts that I haven't quite put into words are screaming in my brain. It feels impossible to act, to change things, and this is where the worst of it comes.
I've seen shrinks, therapists, and there are always plenty of people telling me to "just look at the positive". The thing is, despite how dark I get sometimes, I'm a pretty positive and optimistic person - in general.
I've gotten advice that I should have a circle of people I can trust. I hate that. If my brain is being irrational, I don't want to feed it by having friends help me dwell on it. I need to identify some positives, focus on them, and do something. The people I can trust are the people I can tell that I'm bummed, and listen to me when I tell them I'll get over it. Sometimes I need a hug, but rarely does a pity-party help anything or anyone.
I've never had success with "positive affirmations". I can tell myself anything I want, but if I don't feel it, it doesn't sink in. For some people, just hearing words and phrases over time helps. Maybe it would if I stuck with it, but if I feel worse telling myself something that I think is a lie, why should I continue along that path?
I got a great tip from a counselor years ago: To write down negatives in my life, and reword them slightly to bring out the positive.
I've got issues with being social. Don't get me wrong, I'm awesome, and a hoot to be around, but sometimes I'm too afraid just to be seen that I can't get outside. So, I write:
"I'm a recluse" I don't always like being a recluse. As much as people can bother me at times, I really like you humans.
Then I think to myself what advantages this brings:
"I'm a recluse, which gives me a chance to really know myself, and to share that when I manage to get out."
It sounds cheesy, but it's true. Being terrified of social situations has inspired a love of reading, spurred my artistic and musical ability, and generally let me do a lot of thinking about what my values really are.
Thinking along those lines, it's not hard to look at things in a positive light.
The worst thing that's happened to me(that I'll admit to online!) is losing a parent when I was 14. Awful stuff at any age. I miss my mother all the time, but I take a huge amount of comfort in being told I remind people of her. Taking into myself the best that I remember of her really brings me peace.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago, I was bummed, but not for long. I rarely view that as a negative. It feels good to take even just a little better care of myself, and I don't know that I would have done it if I didn't have that little monster haunting me.
Things happen in our lives, it's unavoidable. We choose our own happiness, brain chemistry be damned. I don't always win the battle, but being aware of my own thinking, I've already won the war.
That's an easy thing to say when I'm in a great mood. The thing is, I'm not. I write this when I feel I'm at "rock bottom" - something I'll write more about when I feel I'm digging out of it - I feel a HUGE amount of sadness right now. I know that particular sadness is just brain chemistry, aggravated by change, the great stressor. I'm changing everything in my life. Again, I'll write about that later, rather than speculate on the future.
Things are changing.
Change is stressful, even if the change is good.
I feel a huge sadness, but I know it isn't real. Denying that I feel it won't help.
I've got some amazing things to look forward to.
Even if I didn't, I'd choose to look at the positives, and that is comforting.
In the surprisingly rare situation where being sad is the appropriate response, I give myself a little time to sulk. Don't let it take over, but I don't deny it. Sadness is natural. When it isn't the right response, I try to identify that, and it isn't always easy through the fog of depression, but I most always snap myself out of it.