“The opposite of play is not work- the opposite of play is depression.”
If you had the chance to read my blog last week about Anxiety and Self-Worth, thank you! I would love to hear your feedback on it and if any of it resonated with you. If you haven’t landed here before- I am doing a series of blogs right now discussing how your Self-Worth, whether positive or negative, impacts so many issues that we face in life. This week I’m moving on to how Self-Worth plays a part in depression. Let’s jump in.
If you don’t know who Brené Brown is, you need to. She is one of my favorite human beings and also a fellow social worker. (Google her. Read her books. And especially watch her Netflix documentary, “The Call to Courage”.) I absolutely love this quote from Brené: “The opposite of play is not work- the opposite of play is depression.” I am fascinated with this because it is such a unique illustration of depression and certainly true.
Many people think depression typically presents as sadness and lots of constant and uncontrollable crying, but that is not the typical case I see in my office at all. Mostly people with depression are holding down a job, raising children, serving in their churches, in healthy relationships, and even being wildly successful.
The majority of people that I work with who are living with depression (although I do not formally diagnose in my office anymore to avoid labels) usually have very little awareness that depression is what they are dealing with. They would just say they feel... checked out. Life is passing them by. They are unhappy, sure, but don’t have enough energy to try to fix it. Not a lot of energy for most anything, honestly. Nothing excites them, hobbies aren’t fun anymore, family is draining, they have very little to give. Life is pretty disappointing. There is absolutely no “play” in their lives.
I typically start asking questions like, “Looking back, what kinds of things did you enjoy growing up? When was the last time you felt excited? When does it seem like this started to change for you?” I need to know- when did you stop playing?
That usually tells me so much. Some event (or a series of events) in life started giving you a message about yourself (remember those negative core beliefs we talked about last week?) and you internalized it. They became a belief about yourself that you accepted. Again, those negative beliefs can sound like:
I’m not good enough
I’m a failure
No one will ever truly love me
I don’t deserve good things
Here we are again, staring our self-worth in the face. If you haven’t done the work and taken the time to define for yourself what you are worth, where your worth comes from, and what your truths are- the message other people give you gets adopted as your own. Their words become the internal narrative that plays inside your head, like a song on repeat. Before you know it, it’s not their voice saying you aren’t good enough, it’s your own.
For many people anxiety and depression come as a combo package (life is fun like that). Like I talked about last week- when you are put in a situation where your negative belief is on display for others (like the bad annual review with your boss) anxiety kicks in because you are being given the same, painful message again. Your alarm system is activated. Depression, on the other hand, often comes when you are home alone and the only one saying those hurtful things is you.
The constant stream of thoughts that beat you up is so completely draining and takes so much energy, no wonder there is hardly any ability to be invested in life at the end of the day. Every time you try, it just feels like another failure and a waste of time. No wonder there is no more playing. Because at this point, why bother?
This is exactly why doing the work to define your worth is so important (and never too late). We work to go back to those events that taught you something negative and we rewrite that script. What do you want to be able to believe at that time? What do you want to say to that younger version of yourself? How can we reject what you were taught and reclaim your truth? That’s where change begins.
Believing that you are worthy and DESERVE to live a full, happy, rewarding life gives the energy to play again.
If you are ready, don’t wait another day. If it feels daunting, you can do this. We can start small. If you are taking the time to read this, that tells me that you are ready.