Applying Imposter Syndrome to Depression

Mental health often discusses Imposter Syndrome as it relates to our role in the workplace, but I don’t think I have heard it in relation to depression… but I’m actually thinking it quite does.  Often, I did not feel ‘justified’ in the depression I was struggling with because my life circumstances were so much better than what other people have gone through. Not saying my life was perfect, but considering the range of horrible experiences out there, my life and childhood have been downright “good”.  So there is an internal undercurrent of “What right do I have to struggle with depression? My life has been fortunate, I should not feel this way”  – e.g. I don’t “deserve” to be depressed.  This doesn’t, of course, help us feel any better. It just keeps us rejecting the reality of our current experience.   And, if I’ve learned anything, its that we can’t really make progress on something that we are actively trying to push away at arm’s length.

We need to break the stigma that depression is only a result of bad things in your external experiences. Although this is of course sometimes true – it certainly is not always true.  Not only do I know many other stories of people with depression who lead “statistically good” lives, but there are also the other stories – the stories of the extraordinary people who had absolutely awful circumstances happen to them, and yet, they did not end up suffer from debilitating depression.  The assumption, that I realize I still held on some subconscious level, is that depression is a reaction to something happening in our lives. It’s not. It’s just not.  It is absolutely independent from it.  And for those of us that have not had experiences that we feel justify feeling like our lives are too hard, this assumption only makes it feel like *we* are more defective.  That there must be something wrong with us for us to be so ungrateful to all the good we have in our lives. I wonder if there is a topic here worth exploring.

I’ve struggled with depression amidst much of my ‘very good’ life and yet I realize I still hold this belief somewhere deep inside.  That, if I am struggling, there is something broken or wrong with me, because my life doesn’t justify me feeling this way.

It keeps me stuck, because when I’m feeling depressed, I keep looking at my ‘life’ to try to explain it. My focus is ‘okay, what is making me unhappy?’ – thus I’m transfixed on everything that is less than perfect … under the guise of ‘trying to fix it‘ in order to ‘try to fix me‘.  Yet, I’ve learned, what we focus on truly does expand. So, focusing on all that is wrong rather than all that is right only keeps us stuck feeling bad.

So yeah, technically there is something wrong – wrong with how our brains are wired.  Not wrong with the world, not wrong with how we’re living, not wrong with what we are doing or not doing, but just wrong with our mindset itself. We feel the way we feel, and our suffering is both real and independent of our circumstances.

I get stuck in a loop of feeling *guilty* for being depressed because I *know* my life is so lucky and privileged.  There is a shame to it.  But it is NOT like I am not grateful, I truly do recognize and value all that have.  Yet then the depression makes me think “well, if that were true, then you wouldn’t be feeling low, you would be happy.”  – e.g. I still am playing that assumption on some level.  Instead, if I were to fundamentally realize that I can feel down, or stressed, and that it doesn’t mean that I am taking my life for granted, that it doesn’t mean that there is something I have to *fix*, out *there*, about my life… that it is something about my brain chemistry – THEN, at least, my focus is not trying to seek out the bad, for there is nothing I need to justify.  I can simply BE, for there is nothing ‘out there’ that I need to fix; no expectations.  And if the mind is not constantly focused on how things should be different than they are, it can settle into ‘peace’ in the present moment, and then maybe my mind can finally just relax.

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