A fellow blogger posted yesterday about feeling sad for no apparant reason, just feeling sad and tired. I haven't asked her permission to link to that post, so I haven't, but it got me thinking.
I've suffered from depression most of my life, although it was only diagnosed 10 years ago, and I've been taking anti-depressants ever since. My depression is the chemical-imbalance kind, not due in particular to any trauma in my life, although traumas coming on top of my depression do tend to be overwhelming, which is what had me beating a path to my doctor's door in the first place.
Having a sad day used to scare me because on top of feeling sad was the fear that it was the start of a major cycle of depression. There was also the fear that I was not allowed to be sad or down. Now, that was an irrational fear based on things like the fact my dad would always comment when I was miserable, but never when I was happy, so I felt that I was never happy enough. And my mother, who I think probably suffered terribly from depression herself but never went to the doctor about it or took anything for it, often used to say that I was the only person who could make her laugh. No pressure on me then! So if I had a down day it became a major source of anxiety to me - no-one would love me any more if I wasn't making them laugh! My mum would get even more depressed if I couldn't cheer her up! - so what did I do to cheer myself up? Why, I had a 'nice' drink, of course! If I was going out with a group of friends (all of whom saw me as the unpaid cabaret, it often seemed to me) I'd have to get into the mood by having a drink before I went out to meet them. Of course, alcohol being a depressant meant that by trying to make myself feel better, I was actually making myself feel worse!
Because I now understand my fears and my need to put on a cheerful act for others, I don't need to drink to mask those fears. I never needed to drink to mask them, I just needed to understand them. What was left after I understood myself better was the very very bad habit of automatically pouring a drink whenever I felt any strong emotion, positive or negative, and it's that habit I'm trying to break now (and still succeeding!)
Nowadays I accept sadness for what it is. Most of the time if I'm sad I know why, and if there seems to be no reason for it, well, I just accept that we can't all be happy all of the time. I no longer have the fear that one sad day is going to lead to weeks of not even being able to drag myself out of bed and get dressed.
Understanding a problem and wanting to solve it will bring you at least half way to a solution. I understand better now why I used to drink and I want to stop, so I know that I can, as long as I take it one day at a time.