confessions of a depressed mind: Silver Linings Playbook Therapy

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Everyone has a right to be happy. That’s what we’re all going for in this life, right? We all hope that our jobs, families, lovers, friends and accomplished goals will make us happy. Nobody wants to be sad, and oftentimes we don’t know what to do with our sadness. It suddenly seems to darken the once beautiful world in which we sought to live our lives.

Depression deprives a person of happiness. It sets up an emotional, mental & spiritual blockade between a person and the happiness their lives once gave them.

And if I have been deprived of happiness and an impulse to smile and laugh, all of you should be as well. None of you should be happy, either. Stop smiling, all of you! Stop laughing; the noise hurts my ears! How dare any of you be happy when happiness is so far away from me right now.

That’s how it feels. And I don’t want to tell any of you this, because I’m supposed to want all of you to be happy. I’m supposed to want to make the people I love in my life laugh and smile. In fact, I’ve done that in the past; but I can’t do that right now. And I hate that I feel this way. I feel guilty. And I hate that you can’t see inside of me right now, because if you could you probably wouldn’t be smiling.

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This picture, ironically enough, captured a moment when I was feeling all those words you just read. For the longest time, I couldn’t even glance at this photograph without feeling a fist of loneliness, pain and anger punch me in the throat. All because of those reasons I described above.

A scene from the movie Silver Linings Playbook became a powerful and personal teaching for me. In fact, I would like to describe what I’m about to tell you about as “Silver Linings Playbook Therapy.”

In this particular scene, the protagonist is on a fake date with a woman who, like him, has a history of battling internal demons and needed to once again find inner peace. It’s the night of Halloween, and they’re standing outside the movie theater when a certain song starts playing over the speakers. This song is the same song that was playing when the protagonist discovered his wife cheating on him in their own house. At the very beginning of the movie, we witness how this song is still a trigger of extreme emotion for him. Now it is playing again, in the presence of this woman who has entered his life.

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As the woman notices his strong reaction begin to take over, she starts saying these words to him:

“Breathe. It’s only a song, not a monster. It’s only a song.” The protagonist is able to regain composure, and the moment becomes a moment of victory for him. It’s the first time the the negative memory associated with the song doesn’t completely take him under.

***

I have many “songs,” and that picture of all those happy people (and not just happy people, people I am close to) was one of them. One day, several months after that picture was taken and after several counseling sessions that had restored more of my emotional prowess, I forced myself to face it. I sat on the floor of my room by myself and stared at my computer screen, where the picture was staring back at me. I never once allowed myself to look away.

For the first few moments, all I did was cry. I was wailing. I remembered how I was literally sitting on the edge of the photograph, right outside the range of the camera; I was unseen. I remembered only looking down at my own hands; I didn’t even see what people were doing in the room until I saw the picture; I was left out. I remembered hearing the happy commotion and trying not to cry; I just wanted to leave.

After the flow of my tears finally slowed down, I started talking out loud about the picture. I named all the people in it and described my relationships with them and how these people felt about me. I rattled off the history I had with them, all the experiences that had proved how much they cared about me. When I started talking about the picture, all I could say were good things.

The second wave of tears began, but this time as I wailed it was like something was being released. I could almost feel the toxic thoughts that had poisoned this picture in my mind leave me. I kept looking at the picture. I looked at that picture until I could feel the love all the people in that picture had for me. And I did get there.

I had to do something similar to an album of pictures that were taken at a party I didn’t go to. It was a birthday party of a very good friend, but I had already purchased a rather expensive ticket to this event. I ended up not enjoying myself at all, drank way too much and just climbed in a taxi and went home. The wave of darkness that came over me was too much, so I couldn’t even connect with the people who were around me. I wasn’t with my friends; they were all at this party I was completely missing. It was one of the more depressing nights of my life.

***

These memories, these triggers, are powerful things and will take us under if we don’t break them off. And I am the only person who can break them off, because I am the only person who gave it power. This was a critical step for me as I was (and in some ways still am) working through depression. However, just because you may not be going through something as severe as depression, you may still be giving something in your past the power to take you under. It might be time for a little Silver Linings Playbook Therapy.

 

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