How to Tell Between Sadness and Depression by Anne Beaulieu

I was sitting under a tree. It was early morning and the area was deserted at this time of day. It suited me just fine, this isolation, because I now felt safe enough to let tears run down my cheeks. I was feeling sad inside and this so-called sadness seemed to have swallowed my entire life. Touching a tree root with my left hand, I begged it to help me move forward, to give me energy, for I felt tired, wary, drained.

This tree where I hid from the world was located in a kids’ park of all places. To my left were swings with sky blue seats. In front of me were earth brown curvy slides. To my right was this kind of roped knitted dome where little ones exercised their climbing skills.

A little boy accompanied by an adult comes running into the park. He is about three or four and seems wide awake! He squeals with happiness at the sight of the sky blue swings and immediately runs up to them. The contrast between me and him is so sharp that I instantly put my fingers to my face and wipe my tears. I do not want him or his caretaker to see me cry.

Within seconds, the little boy starts howling “No! No! No!”

I think to myself, “What can possibly have happened by the swings? He is all alone, he has all the swings to himself!”

The little boy leaves the swings area and walks up to me. I swallow a big lump in my throat. Having had three children of my own, I know kids have an uncanny way to feel truth and the last thing I want is for him to ask me what is making me so sad. I just do not have the courage to go “there”, not that morning, not that day.

He plants both his little feet in front of me, big pearly tears freely rolling down his face. He simply says, “Someone pooped in my swing!”

“What? I don’t understand.” I anxiously replied.

“Someone pooped in my swing! There are two pieces of big poop in my seat and I can’t sit on it now, I will have poop on me!” His shoulders are heaving, he is having hiccups, he is swallowing snot and tears, and he is feeling it all, the full loss of his favourite swing.

I watch him, fascinated. Here is a small child of three or four and completely unafraid to share his feelings and emotions with a stranger who is sitting under a tree and who is deeply afraid of her own feelings and emotions. “The Universe has a funny way to teach us our lessons in life,” I think to myself.

“I am sorry you cannot use your favourite swing right now,” I tell him. I do not know what else to say. Somehow, what I said, he heard me, for he nods gravely, both of his eyes still fixed into mine.

I point to the slides. “Do you see the slides over here? No one has pooped on them. Maybe you can play there instead?”

His face brightens up massively. The tears stop, kind of magically. He looks at me with light in his eyes, he turns to the swings and back to me, and he smiles, a big smile, and he says, “Yeah!” And just like that, he turns around, runs to the slides, his sadness forgotten, fully present into the moment again.

I get up and start slowly walking back towards my house, feeling my heart squeezing once more into my chest, my sadness gripping every pore of my body, thinking to myself that I might never truly know what happiness is, and actually believing this lie.

How do you tell between sadness and depression?

The little boy was sad. Something happened that displeased him and he allowed himself to feel it fully. When he found out someone had pooped on his favourite swing, he did NOT repress his sadness, he did NOT push it down. On the contrary, he allowed himself to feel it fully, howling in the morning air, his little chest turned to heaven, tears freely going down his face. He did not seem to care who was looking at him and what they might think of him. What he cared most about was acknowledging all his feelings and emotions. He wanted the world to know he was sad and it was okay to be sad.

Because he was able to honour himself, his feelings, and his emotions, he was able to easily let them go, non-attached to the outcome. When I pointed to the slides, he smiled, remembering he came here to play and have fun. He left laughing, climbing, sliding, for the true love of the game.

I was depressed. I took walks with the dog early morning so I did not have to face or talk to anyone. Every chance I got, I isolated myself even further. That morning, I sat under a tree that was far away enough from the playground that passersby might not even notice my presence.

When the little boy walked up to me, I quickly wiped away my tears. I did not want him to see me sad. I did not want to have to explain what I felt, as if my heart was being ripped out of my chest. I thought that if I did share, I might scare him, I might scare myself too, for my sorrow seemed bottomless to me.

I was depressed because I was only able to recognize negative feelings and emotions within me. Most of my time was spent thinking about things that either made me sad or angry. Since anger is a blanket emotion covering hurt, my main emotion was “emotionally consistently hurt”, also called “depression”. I was missing the fun part of me in my own life. Depression is about missing our self, all of it, in our own life.

Let’s recap…

How can we tell when sad?

* We acknowledge our hurt openly. We tell others what is troubling us.
* We feel all our feelings and emotions without rejection.
* We come back to the present with gratitude. We let go of sadness easily.

How can we tell when depressed?

* We hide our sadness from others. We feel guilty or ashamed of feeling sad.
* We disallow ourselves from feeling all our feelings and emotions. We push away from feeling positive feelings.
* We stay stuck in the past. We are unable to feel grateful for what we have now.

Here are three rock solid tips for you who may suffer from depression:

#1. Count what you see around you. For example, “I see 1 chair, 1 table, 1 desk, 2 pillows, …” Keep counting until you feel like a lifting inside, as if you have just come over a bump and were now on top. Counting things brings us back to the present moment, to what is directly in front of us, to what we actually have control of. We have zero control of the past. We have 100% control to choose again every moment.

#2. Make a list of what you are grateful for in the present. For example, “I am grateful for breathing clean air into my lungs right now. I am grateful for hearing the sound of children laughing outside my bedroom window. I am grateful for feeling my heart beating in my chest.” When we take the time to place our hand onto our heart, concentrating on feeling our pulse, different tears come up, tears of joy.

#3. Take immediate rightful action to overcome depression. Now is a good time to acknowledge the difference between a sporadic bout of depression (temporary feeling really low) and chronic depression (permeates whole life long-term). At the time, what I suffered from was chronic depression. I had many undealt with emotional traumas inside of me. I needed massive help, but I kept being in denial of it, which is what caused the depression to become deeper and deeper within me. I was afraid that, if I spoke up, I was going to be rejected, stigmatized, abandoned, ridiculed…. I was afraid to be viewed as “weak”. Hear me out. NO ONE COMES OUT OF DEPRESSION ALONE! Seek assistance immediately! Go sit in front of your family doctor, a therapist, an emotional intelligence coach, a teacher, a parent, a friend… and simply say “I NEED HELP NOW!” No one does it alone, we heal together.

In my case, I went and sought out a mentor. I have been seeing him every week for almost four years now. As a result, I have overcome depression.

How do I know?

When I get up in the morning, I place my feet on the plush orange mat beside my bed and I proclaim, “Today I am taking a bath in relationships” to remind myself never to isolate myself again.

Then I turn on a crystal lamp light to remind myself to shine my inner light brightly for all of us who might need my assistance.

When I take walks, I breath deeply, I salute the people I encounter, I genuinely smile at them, I want to share my heart with others.

Best of all, when I sit quietly all alone, I hear the sound of children laughing even when there are no children present. I am genuinely happy, unshakable within myself that I am the best thing that has ever happened to me. Overcoming depression is about compassionately loving self.

I have learned the fastest way out of depression is by openly sharing, feeling without rejection all that needs to be felt, coming from a place of gratitude, and most importantly seeking immediate professional assistance.

Remember… Life is what we make it. It is possible to overcome depression. Choose to live with gratitude for YOU ARE HERE and you are WORTHY OF A GREAT LOVE!

With Compassion,

About the Author: Anne B1annbeaulieuEAULIEU is one of Your Monthly Mentors, an international speaker, empowering coach, and thought leader in the field of Emotional Intelligence and the Founder of Walking Inside Resources Inc. based in Vancouver, British Columbia. As an accomplished author and community builder, Anne is a powerful catalyst for positive change and embodies successful life strategies that keep empowering men and women across the globe. Read More…

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Cover Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash.