The Power of “Can’t”.

Sooner or later, most of us who try to cope with depression feel so overwhelmed that all we can hold onto is: I just can’t do it. I can’t stop being depressed. I can’t stop it from coming back.

When “I can’t” comes rushing out, it feel like the response to an accusation. Sometimes, I feel the weight of other people’s expectations. “If you really wanted to get well, you could at least get up and get moving.” Sure, they don’t understand, they don’t get it. But I’m asking the same question of myself.

I’m answering my own accusation. “So why can’t you handle this? You’re a completely worthless weakling!” “But I just can’t!” is my only answer. I’ve internalized the stigma and prejudice and feebly try to respond. I don’t trust myself. What if I am faking this? What if I’m just afraid to face things? I know that isn’t true, but there’s the inner belief that I ought to be able to snap out of depression. But there’s nothing left to fight with. Everything deserts me: vitality, willpower, feelings, the ability to think clearly about getting well, to make choices, to take action. The inner drive to get well is replaced by the depressive drive to get worse or simply stagnate.

When I’m trying to cope in that condition, all I can do is to start where I am. Since I can’t do anything, just where would that starting point be? Depression gifts you with extraordinarily vivid, powerful, detailed memories of all your mistakes, failures, weaknesses, embarrassments. You have absolute clarity of mind for the negatives, and they build a case of shame and worthlessness. Severe depression, after all, really wants to destroy you, literally if possible. So it leaves you the mental and emotional equipment to undermine your life.

That’s what I’m obsessed with. At the same time, though, I’m aware that I’m tearing myself down. I see what I’m doing to myself, and another level of awareness opens up. I want to stop the depression. I really want to feel better. I may not be able to do much to end it, but I know I want to come alive again.

Why do I push people away?

To explain in its most simple form from my perspective requires only two words: Defense Mechanism. What I’ve discovered is vulnerability takes a lot of courage and resolve, and adding to the anxiety is the reaction of an outside party and if the effort was worth it.  In life, we live and learn from our experiences.  Despite this, and due to previous cases of having my trust broken or my vulnerability of being taken advantage of leads to the activation of my defense mechanism. In turn, I naturally push people away.

t’s not uncommon to prefer your own company over that of others, regardless if you’re an introvert or extrovert. While there is nothing wrong with some downtime and relaxation, it’s the extreme that becomes a difficult issue to handle. The mistake I unknowingly find myself constantly making is my self imposed isolation.  Instead of allowing my mind to relax, I end up exposing my fragile state of mind to overthinking.

Stuck.  Stuck is where I’m at. I’ve become emotionally unavailable to those who love me because I feel like I don’t deserve love.  I do not love myself, therefore how can I love fairly? I don’t handle what should be a positive experience well, and the negative I’ve grown accustomed to.  This attitude has become second nature to me, and is essentially a part of my being. I view any and all relationships from a detached perspective and refrain from building stronger bonds, and I don’t want to be stuck with this mindset.  I find myself withdrawing from social interaction thinking I’m protecting my mental health, but the truth is all I’m doing is further damaging myself. 

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There is never a single solution to problems that involve your mental health and being isolated.  While communication and openness can be one approach, the other approach is to withdraw entirely and avoid any contact with anyone who might have the potential to cause hurt or stress.  Both approaches help in reducing the stress of the situation but only one is productive while the other is nothing but avoidant coping mechanisms.  Avoidant coping or defense mechanism is by its very own definition a maladaptive coping method.  Rather than confronting the situation and finding an active solution via participation and acceptance, avoidance coping refrains from taking any active action. 

Some examples of this are:

  1. Not answering or returning calls or messages
  2. Sending few or no messages to anyone asking to meet or catch up
  3. Backing out of premade plans constantly
  4. Avoiding getting interested in other people’s lives or emotional state
  5. Replying with short, clipped, or blunt responses.

 We all need someone who understands our feelings, acknowledges our fears, and hears our thoughts without judgment.  It should come as no surprise that scientific research consistently shows that humans need one another in their lives to feel a sense of happiness and fulfillment. Retreating within yourself with some subconscious resolve of never exposing that emotional capacity is a road I’m so eagerly waiting to exit.