Depression Warning Signals are an alarm system that can help you identify, solve, and manage problems in your life. It is one of the benefits of having depression that you can use to make your life better. Don’t assume your symptoms of depression are a problem and something about you that needs fixing. Instead, you can pay attention to them and use them to help you figure out what is going on under the surface.
Yet sometimes, what your depression warning signals are about is not so obvious. The problem could exist in your subconscious, which makes it all too easy to get trapped within the negative side of depression.
This is why it is so important to know how to pay attention to what your depression symptoms are trying to tell you. This post is about why we need to pay attention to our depression warning signals from the perspective of a recent experience I just went through.
The Frog in a Pot
I’ve been having a bit of a hard time lately. I haven’t even fully realized just how much my emotions have been weighing me down recently. If you’ve struggled with depression for a while, you know what I am talking about. You know how it slowly creeps into your life. Slow and silent, so you don’t notice until it’s taken over.
We’re like the freaking frogs in a pot. You know that metaphor where if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out? But if you put the frog in a pot of cold water and let it slowly heat up, the frog will sit there until it boils to death. Yeah, that’s us, we’re the frog, and the pot of water is the negativity of our depression.
It started a few weeks ago when a child welfare worker showed up at my front door. Someone had called with concerns that our home was uninhabitable and that I was not providing my children with an education. You can see how that can get the wheels of depression churning and how I may begin the spiral into the depths of negativity.
I don’t know who called, but I am sure it was a family member. One who has not spoken to me, given my children or me the time of day, or been anywhere near my home in several years. I have been fighting the negativity of feeling like my family does not approve of me for a long time now, and for the most part, I am fine with it.
I mean, family is more who you choose than who is biologically related to you, right? But every once in a while, the thought brings me down. Usually, I use my skills and follow my Depression Warrior action plan*, which includes avoiding Facebook, and I get over it pretty quickly. But this time, I didn’t pay attention to my depression warning signals because they were not at the forefront of my awareness.
Ignoring My Depression Warning Signals
When all this happened, I felt so small, so unloved, and so hurt by the betrayal of my so-called family that I was quickly becoming consumed by many negative, unhealthy thoughts and the inevitable feelings that always come with them.
Did I do my depression action plan* or use the depression checklist*? No, I didn’t. I wasn’t paying attention to my depression warning signals. I convinced myself that I was fine and ignored the feelings festering under the surface. I haven’t been facing these feelings at all; I’ve been trying to avoid them and bury them. Yet I didn’t realize I was doing this. Because the harmful feelings I was having weren’t the focus of the problem. So they were easy to overlook.
This is why I decided to write this post.
You see, when the social worker came, he was very nice. He said he didn’t see any evidence of what I had been accused of. He said the house seemed fine, didn’t smell, and that I seemed to have a pretty good handle on our homeschool curriculum. This was good, yes, of course, it was great!
But it being good was a big part of my problem. Because it was good, I ignored the other “stuff” going on and churning inside of me. Because all that other stuff wasn’t the problem I was dealing with, right? Almost as if it was invisible. So, “Hey, I’m fine. It sucks, but I am fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE.”
I became the frog in the pot of cold water that was slowly heating up. And I had no idea. Because I wasn’t paying attention to my depression warning signals. The painful feelings, the anxiety, the lack of energy and motivation, and overall feeling overwhelmed and not in control of my life. Those were my depression warning signals. But I dismissed them and chose to focus instead on making sure the house was as clean as possible and that I had my kid’s schoolwork and curriculum in order.
Why We Need to Pay Attention to Our Depression Warning Signals
Everything began to give me feelings of anxiety and sadness. Looking at my book sales, trying to write the current book I am on, my blog stats, money, the kids – just about everything seemed to be going downhill. And I felt not good enough to do any of it. “Everyone else is better. Nobody cares what I have to write about. I should just quit and accept my fate.” Slowly but surely, life began to feel even more overwhelming. I was sinking into the negative side of depression.
Are any of those thoughts true? Of course not. These thoughts and feelings are my alarm system. The bells and whistles of my depression warning signals were going off like crazy. These signals are there to let me know something is wrong. But I didn’t pay attention because my focus was on the obvious problem. Social services. All these thoughts and feelings were about the not-so-obvious problem, and my system has been screaming at me to deal with it. But I have been that stupid frog just sitting in the pot, slowly boiling to death.
Then the negativity of depression set in. I began to feel the usual helplessness and hopelessness that makes me want to give up on everything. Especially myself.
Guys, this is why it is so important to pay attention to the signals your depression is sending you.
Finally Facing the Music
I got up today feeling consumed by the negativity of depression. So I played some music and started doing laundry, thinking maybe I’ll feel better if I get more chores done. Then a song I really like came on. As I sang along, I started to get choked up. Then the tears began to flow down my cheeks. I was practically bawling as I tried to sing along. Now, this song often makes me tear up, but not outright cry like that. Another depression warning signal!
This song was You Say by Lauren Daigle. I realized why I was falling down the slippery slope of depression about halfway through the song. I was devaluing myself entirely. I was feeling unloved and unimportant. Those are not the kind of feelings you can ignore or run away from. Those are the kind of feelings you must face head-on and deal with. If you don’t, they will drag you down into the negativity of depression. And we all know once you’re down in the depths, it is very difficult to get out of it.
I thank my Creator and all my angels for putting that song in my life today. I don’t know how deep these feelings would have burrowed into me had they not. Or how much the negativity of depression would have taken hold of me.
I am not ready to give up or lose everything I’ve worked for just because I subconsciously refused to realize that my familial betrayal and abandonment issues were resurfacing. Just because I have already dealt with the issue in the past does not mean it’s gone forever. In fact, it’s something I will probably have to deal with on and off for the rest of my life. Some things are just like that.
So I pulled out my Depression Warrior Checklist* and Action Plan* and started working through the steps. And you know what’s funny? It took about 20 minutes to get my power back, and I feel so much better. That’s all it took. A few minutes of realizing what I was feeling and letting myself feel it. Then thinking it through with each part of myself. That was it.
Not only did I feel better, but I was actually excited to move forward and focus on making myself and my life a priority despite what anyone else out there thinks about it. This is my life, and I am happy and proud to live it my way.
One of the very good and helpful parts of depression is the warning signals it sends to alert us to something being wrong.
We feel a lack of energy, the need to withdraw, and other symptoms of depression because our entire system is trying to get us to take a step back and pay attention to what is happening within us.
It may not always be obvious or apparent what your depression warning signals are about. That is why we need this kind of alarm system, to alert us to problems and issues that we may not otherwise realize even exist.
Paying attention to your depression warning signals is so incredibly important to keep the negative side of depression at bay. A place that can be very difficult to recover from.
Your symptoms of depression are not something to fear, reject, or try to get rid of. They are not an indication of your being worthless, wrong, or sick. They are alerting you to a problem you need to face.
Listen to yourself and give yourself the time, love, and non-judgmental space to figure out what this alarm system is alerting you to.
*The Depression Warrior Checklist and Action Plan are activities included in “The Depression Warriors Book One: From Pacifist to Warrior.” Pick up your copy today to learn more about the good side of depression, the parts of you, and how to change the reality of your depression.
If you found this post helpful, please share it with others. You are more than welcome to use the information contained in this post for any personal or not-for-profit purposes. Please cite Sarahdawn Tunis as the author and include a working link back to this page.
Please note: The information in this article/post is for informational purposes only and in no way is intended to be medical, psychological, or any other type of professional advice. Please talk to your doctor, therapist, or spiritual counselor if you need further assistance based on your specific situation. The author is not liable for any losses or damage resulting from acting upon the content related to this post, blog, website, or the content within.