Don't we all wish life could be smooth sailing all the time. Everyone knows that's just not realistic. We all go through difficult times in life. And it's normal to have strong feelings if things are not going the way you wanted them to. If you're going through a break-up or realizing a relationship isn't working, its normal to feel sad. If you got fired from your job or aren't doing well in school and don't know what direction to go in you're going to be scared and anxious. If you've lost a loved one you will be grieving. If someone betrayed you or something unjust has happened to you, you will be angry. Feelings are there to guide us, have us pay attention and maybe motivate us to make changes.
So how do you know when normal emotions become something more, something to worry about? A good baseline to look at is if there are no ups and downs to your feelings, you're just always down, for two to three weeks. Now when you've gotten hit with something big like your spouse just left you or you just got fired, immediately afterwards it will feel like a constant sadness or anxiety. But if you really look at it you might see you had a moment where you felt a little better, didn't think about it for that hour or even laughed with a friend. This doesn't mean the feelings won't come to you again, they will and that is normal. But if as time goes by you can see you're having less of those really bad moments and more of the moments that feel a little better, you are moving through the situation in a normal way. This also means that with time you will probably be okay. It helps if you have close friends and family that you trust to talk to. It helps to talk to someone so you don't feel so alone and also to figure what, if anything, you need to do to get through the situation. Often time and the love and acceptance of those around is all you need. Sometimes you actually need to make some changes and whatever the situation is helps to clarify what those changes are.
On the other hand if weeks and months are going by and you don't feel any better, maybe you're actually feeling worse, then there may be more going on. And if there isn't anything that's happened to cause you to feel depressed or anxious to the extent that you do then you really should speak to a therapist or psychologist about it. Depression can have a very physical component where you actually feel run down and maybe even have aches in your body. The lack of energy, everything feeling and looking gray and negative is also a part of depression. All of this makes it very difficult to get out of bed and do the most basic things like go to work or school. It also makes it difficult to do anything that might make you feel better, like go out with friends and family or exercise. If you're feeling like you're going into this black hole you can't climb out of this is also a sign that it's something more. And of course, if you are having suicidal thoughts, including thoughts of not wanting to wake up or having something happen to you so you're not here, that is a very serious sign and you need to speak to a professional. If you are having more detailed thoughts of how you plan to kill yourself that makes it even more serious and dangerous. You need to get help right away. Even if you have moments where you feel better, suicidal thoughts indicate something more serious is going on.
It is hard to reach out and ask for help. It always makes you feel vulnerable and usually means facing something that isn't easy to face. Therapy is not only for people with serious disorders. Talking to an unbiased person, who is trained and experienced in how to guide people through difficult times in life helps many people. We all have blind spots that keep us stuck. By definition a blind spot is very hard or impossible to see on your own. It does take courage to admit the difficulties you may be facing. And yet seeing things for what they are is a first step towards things getting better, whatever your situation.