Depression or Suppressed Emotional Pain?

Have you been diagnosed with depression like I was? Were you prescribed antidepressants as the “fix”? Like me, have you struggled with trying to get off these toxic, dependency-causing drugs? If so, we need to talk… right here… right now. As I am coming out the other side of the final withdrawal and detoxing, I have had some pretty profound realizations that I want to share with you…. no… need to share with you.

1.  We live in a society in which the classic response to expressed emotional pain is, “Don’t cry.” 

Think back to when you have been feeling emotional pain and you were teary and needed to cry. How did friends and family respond? What did these caring people tell you? Don’t cry. You needed to cry and you were told not to. I have said the same words to my children, students, and friends. I think of all the times that they needed to cry to release inner pain, and I told them not to. Why in the world would I tell them not to do what is the most natural, cleansing, healing thing to do when we are feeling emotional pain? That answer is an easy one. It is the way I was conditioned. Since my first memories of needing to express emotional pain, the message has been “Don’t cry.” The words are meant well. Those who care about us don’t like to see us cry. It means that we are in pain that they can’t do anything about, and so they try to soothe us with those two words, “Don’t cry.” I learned well because I used the same words when my loved ones were hurting.

2. We live in a society in which people suppress their emotional pain instead of expressing it. 

What is our response when we hear those words, “Don’t cry”? We stuff our pain down inside us, and we allow our loved ones to distract us so that we don’t feel hurt anymore. We’ve done the same thing to people we love because we can’t bear to see them crying or in any kind of pain. We are desperate to find something that will make our loved ones feel better, and so we take their minds off their pain and do whatever we can to get them smiling and even laughing again. There… all better… or so we think and hope. The outer manifestation of emotional pain may no longer be apparent, but in the stuffing down, we locked it in. As with anything that is kept locked up, this pain yearns for release.

3. Emotional pain needs to be expressed so that it can be released and we can heal. 

As I went into the final withdrawal from Effexor earlier this week, I experienced all the nausea, dizziness, headache, vertigo, and brain zaps that I had read would happen. I also became a weepy, sobbing mess. People call this a side effect — “crying for no reason.” Even through the misery of the physical symptoms of withdrawal, I knew what the crying was, and I knew it certainly was not for no reason. Those tears were pain that the drug had suppressed for years. When the chemical barrier was gone, those tears ripped right from the core of my being; my heart felt like it was breaking. They weren’t a side effect; they were the expression of emotional pain that had been suppressed for years.

During a visit with a friend of mine recently, she shared the hurt her daughter had gone through when her first romantic relationship ended. I cheered this mother’s response to her daughter’s pain. This mom told her daughter to cry it out and to take as many days as she needed. Her daughter was miserable and heartbroken for several days. She cried whenever the tears arose, and her mom provided the supportive space for her to grieve her loss. It didn’t matter that it was a high school romance; her emotional pain was real. Her mom knew that she needed to express her pain so that she could release it and heal, and that is exactly what she did.

As I listened to her, I knew that was exactly what I had needed to do when I had to leave my marriage… and when I had to leave my last relationship. I had needed to grieve huge losses, but I had stuffed down all that hurt and grief so that I could be strong and go on. I had needed someone just like my friend to be okay with telling me to take the time to cry it out and to really feel the pain. In doing that, I would have felt miserable for a while, but the cleansing quality of tears would have cleared out emotional pain that became locked in and manifested as physical pain in my body.

4. Our society sees depression as an illness that requires medication.

What if depression is really the need to express our emotional pain? What if depression is really a sign of sensitive people who are deeply affected by events and experiences in their lives and who need emotional support to express their pain instead of dulling it with drugs?

I am not trained in medicine or therapy, so question my questions… and question them deeply and thoughtfully. But, what if we are drugging thousands upon thousands of people who just need to express their emotional pain so they can heal and be well? I think back nineteen years ago to the diagnosis of depression that I received, and I feel such outrage at the quick and easy diagnosis and chemical “fix.” At that point in my life, I had left a dysfunctional, abusive marriage to begin life on my own as a single parent. I was working full-time plus doing contract work on the side to make ends meet. I was worried about my children’s healing and well-being as they had to adapt to a new life in a different community and school. I was worried sick about my son who was frequently physically ill due to severe anxiety attacks. Yes, I was emotional and teary when I talked to the doctor. Yes, I was experiencing constant headaches that were affecting my sight and the feeling in my fingers. Yes, I even answered  yes when he asked me if I ever thought about suicide. But, did all of that need to be suppressed with a drug? Or, did I need to fully express the pain of becoming the target for my ex-husband’s attacks? Did I need to fully express my grief over the loss of my partner, my relationship, the hopes and dreams I had for our family?

My physician explained depression as “running out of gas.” He told me it was like I could see where I needed to go, but I no longer had the inner resources to get there. Okay, that made sense to me; I had been in survival mode for a long, long time, but was prescribing a toxic chemical that causes dependency the answer to “running out of gas”? Or, would time off to rest and grieve — to become a weepy, sobbing mess for as long as it took to get all that pain out — have been what was needed more? If I had known what I know now, I would never have agreed to taking a drug that was so toxic that it took me a month to “get on it.”

I have tried to get off Effexor twice before. Both times, as I experienced the debilitating withdrawal symptoms, doctors’ responses have not been to support me through it or to help me be proactive about dealing with the detoxing process that was happening in my body. Their responses were to get me right back on it. Because I didn’t know better, I allowed it believing them when their words convinced me that I had a lifelong chemical imbalance that drugs would rectify… and feeling like a complete failure as I agreed. This time, I have focused on allowing the chemical withdrawal and supporting my body with the detoxing process. I am being proactive about my own health and well-being… and as I do that, I am allowing my own healing.

Every day this week, I gave up my healing to Holy Spirit, and I released and allowed it to happen. My healing is not all my own doing. I have the best guide possible! If you are willing and open, I would like to share a prayer with you:

Dear Holy Spirit, I give up this healing process to You. Be with me as I give up toxic chemical suppressants and open to the true healing of God’s Love. Hold me in the reassuring, soothing arms of Your Love as I release the drugs that suppress my pain and allow it to be expressed and released. I rest easier knowing that all that I give up to You is healed and that I am held in Perfect Love always. Let me be still and know that I am not alone for You are always with me. Help me to open into my healing and Your guidance. Amen.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with depression, I pray that what I have experienced and realized will resonate with you. I hope that you will share your thoughts and experiences with depression below so that we can support one another toward true healing and well-being. With great love always, Linda.

6 thoughts on “Depression or Suppressed Emotional Pain?”

  1. Thank you… I am going through a rough time right now and cannot seem to get past it. I lived in California for the last 10 years, I just filed for divorce in February after only 10 months of marriage. I filed for divorce because I found out that my husband has been lying to me. Because I am non-confrontational, instead of talking to him about everything, I went and filed, served him and kicked him out. My company let me stay on with them remotely so my mom came to California, helped me pack and moved me back to New Jersey. Our divorce was final on the 8th of August and this hit me like a ton of bricks. I cannot pick myself up. I am missing my life in California, more than I really thought I would. I miss him, I miss my friends and my life in California so much. I am having such a tough time. I love my job and I miss being in the office with my co-workers. My family has been a great support and has helped me to get out of debt, but I want to go back. So now, I feel guilty about wanting to leave my family. I feel like I am going through the depression stage of grieving my divorce. My thoughts are out of control on some occasions and some days I am ok.

    1. Hi Julia 🙂 I appreciate the courage it took for you to write. Yes, you are grieving your divorce — you are grieving the loss of your relationship and all your hopes and dreams for the life you would share with your partner. You are also grieving your life in California — your colleagues, your friends, and life as you knew it. You are grieving huge losses, and you need to allow yourself to feel all that you are feeling. Let all the emotions rise to the surface where you can acknowledge them and release them. Cry it all out, or do whatever helps you express these emotions — write in a journal (which I find helps me find my way), talk to your family, talk to God (that’s the best one) — and then when you feel cried out or empty, get up and get moving. Get outside into nature and move your body. It is a great natural soother, and you will come back feeling better and more at peace.
      When you write that your thoughts are out of control on some occasions, just allow them to be. Observe them come and go. They aren’t you, Julia. They are just thoughts. Your emotions aren’t you. They will rise and release, if you let them. Beneath it all is beautiful YOU. I have found it so healing to realize that I am not all the convoluted thoughts and the raw emotions that come up in my mind and body. I am the spiritual presence who can observe these thoughts and feelings and not become invested in them. For so long, I thought I would never find my way through all the out-of-control thoughts and pain of what I had experienced because I believed that I needed to deal with them all to be healed. I thought I needed to figure them all out… and there’s another thought 🙂 I don’t need to do anything other than allow them to come and then to go on the screen of my awareness. I don’t need to become invested in any thought or emotion, for I have learned that they are not me. As I have finally gotten that, I feel such inner freedom and peace. All I need to do is observe these thoughts and emotions, acknowledge them, and allow them to go… and they will go.
      Julia, if you want to go back to California, then go. You aren’t leaving your family. You are going on with your life, and don’t you think they would celebrate your healing and ability to go on to create a new version of life for yourself? Returning to California wouldn’t mean that you are leaving your family in anything but your physical location. You are always family, no matter where you are.
      Julia, you will get through this and you will go on, stronger within yourself for what you are experiencing. It is these experiences that forge deeper versions of who we are, and I hope that, in time, you will be able to appreciate the hidden blessings in this experience. It is a learning experience of the most meaningful kind. I send you great love and big hugs, Julia.

  2. Thanks Very much Linda. I too have been prescribed antidepressants at times in my life. In my twenties I was given Valium which I disliked very much. It wasn’t until 2000 that I was taking celexa by prescription. I have just come off it with dr. guidance in March of this year. Actually I tried to stop in this time once before in 2013. I withdrew in April and had to start again in October of that year.
    What happens to me when I get depressed is that I become suicidal and for that reason it is not safe for me. My experience has been that taking meds has quickly taken me out of depression and allowed me to function again. Also I experienced many positive changes over my years taking them. I became much less self pitying and negative and the self talk transformed from critical to supportive. I was fortunate in that I experienced almost no side effects. What I did experience was lowered sexual function and also a narrow range of emotions. Although my lows disappeared so did my joy I would say.
    My depression was diagnosed as Dysthymia. This is a high function form of depression that lasts many years and often is unnoticed until a crisis causes the symptoms to intensify and normal functioning becomes impossible. This crisis for me has always occurred when a relationship ends. Sometimes I made it thru without meds but my last two episodes have been very life threatening (suicidal thoughts and plans).
    I have been seeing a homeopath and a counsellor these last two years and am trying to fly solo again, so far its been fine.
    Like you Linda I found the withdrawal to be an ordeal. I do not want to be taking these drugs as I believe the solution lies elsewhere for me but I am grateful to know they are available and effective for me when I have need of them. I hesitate to condemn these drugs as I believe they have saved my life and have been helpful to many people I talk with. They are not without negative qualities though and I pray that I may be fortunate enough to never need them again.
    My depression crisis have come even though I have had a spiritual practice and active 12 step support for over 31 years. I have felt like such a failure when my “program” disappears and I have no other solution but the desire to die. I know today that my spiritual problems can often cause very real physical effects and I believe that stress and trauma can change the chemistry of our brains. I know that recently science has confirmed the very real physical and chemical changes that can be found in our brains caused by stress, trauma, addiction, and grief. I believe we are in essence spiritual, yet our experience here is also physical in nature and both aspects need to be respected, and nourished.
    Blessings to you Linda, my friend. Thanks so much for this forum. Hart.

    1. Hi Hart 🙂 Thank you for your comments and for sharing your experience with anti-depressants. I think that your comments contribute to a healthy dialogue about anti-depressants… and one that needs to happen. In my post, my intention was to share my experience and questions about a drug that was prescribed so easily to “fix” my symptoms. There was no discussion about the underlying causes… just a chemical, dependency-causing solution. No other alternatives were mentioned or explored, and at the time, I didn’t question the doctor’s prescription. I realize and appreciate that my experience cannot and should not be applied across the board, but I do want to question the ready reach for the prescription pad when it comes to the diagnosis of depression.

      I do have a couple of questions that arise from your post, and I hope that you don’t mind that I ask them.
      • When you write “Also I experienced many positive changes over my years taking them. I became much less self pitying and negative and the self talk transformed from critical to supportive,’ were these changes the result of the medication or the healing and inner growth work that you were doing?
      • “I know today that my spiritual problems can often cause very real physical effects and I believe that stress and trauma can change the chemistry of our brains. I know that recently science has confirmed the very real physical and chemical changes that can be found in our brains caused by stress, trauma, addiction, and grief. I believe we are in essence spiritual, yet our experience here is also physical in nature and both aspects need to be respected, and nourished.” I agree that stress has profound effects on our brains and our bodies, but is the solution to be found in a chemical that only serves to make pharmaceutical companies even more wealthy because its use guarantees dependency? Where, in the bottle of capsules, is there concern for your inner healing and well-being? Where is there any consideration of other alternatives to support our experience in this physical experience… and what is nourishing about a chemical substance?
      I agree that each case is individual and must be regarded in that way. I have no doubt that taking anti-depressants has saved lives when people were on the brink of suicide. However, how does a prescription take into consideration the whole person and our essence as spiritual beings? Is it not just responding to symptoms? If it caused a narrowed range of emotions, isn’t the relinquishment of joy a tragic cost?
      I look forward to your responses, Hart, because it means dialogue and not just passive acceptance. With great love to you, my friend. Linda

      1. Hi Linda. Thanks for your caring and insightful comments. I will try to answer your questions as thoughtfully as I can.
        – as to your first question. I was doing lots of inner work as I was taking the meds and that work did contribute to my feelings of accomplishment and progress. However, there was a new quality to my recovery that I attribute to the antidepressant. I had some perspective on this in that my spiritual work had been underway for 21 years at the point my acute depression occurred. All those years I had been attending support groups, been in counselling, practiced prayer and meditation, practiced a spiritual program with some success. The difference that occurred on anti depressants was one of a change in quality. The daily negative voice that had been part of my reality, all my life. The victim voice, the voice of “its not worth trying because nothing ever works for you Hart”, the self-pity feelings. That “voice” that had been a daily occurrence even as I recovered suddenly was gone. Completely gone as part of my day. This frees up energy that is taken up dealing with that and made it available to be used in new experiences.
        I am not in any way trained to medically understand the process that my brain uses in its workings. I have my story though and I share it with you. I believe that as my brain developed in childhood I was in stress and trauma, even from birth, and this caused the chemical and neuron structure of my brain to be altered. Spiritual language would say I became spiritually separated or that my spirit was lost. Science would describe the some event as change in my brain chemistry and pathways that develop into long term effect and call this Dysthymia. I believe that both stories are true. I believe that these medications helped me physically to be able to experience new patterns and new available energy.
        I do believe that there are other ways than science to bring changes to our minds. Contemplation, meditation, spiritual training, even peoples uses of natural herbs and compounds in primitive cultures can have the same effect as I believe happened to me. God gave us physical and spiritual qualities. Both need to be addressed,{ hence the ancient paths of yoga,and meditation], I made progress in my 21 years of spiritual practice before medication but medication allowed something new in to being, and for myself I understand that as also being another gift God offered to me.

        – as to this question I agree with you totally. The chemical substance alone has no nourishing qualities. Doctors and science are guilty of hubris here and are blind to the spiritual recovery and Grace that needs to be present for us to restored to our essence. I agree that it is too quickly prescribed in an atmosphere of almost “magical potion” belief by way to many health professionals. My own experience though has tempered my former dismissiveness of “shrinks and pill pushers” and I must admit that I was helped by this prescription.
        However, I know deeply that prayer,meditation, communion with others, and Gods Grace are at the Centre of my restoration.

        In response to your other comments. Medication does bring many questions. What about the horrible side effects? There is so much that science does not understand about this process. Why do I have to lose my joy under these effects. I understand and share your concerns. I don’t have any answers.
        When I first became depressed and those around me became frightened and concerned, they’re only solution was to name my problem,{depression} and to talk me into going to a Dr. for help.
        Even in my depression I was defiant and angry about this. I was in a dialogue with God all the time, as my mood worsened and during the acute stage. My thought was that medicine and God were in opposition to each other for medicine was so unaware and un addressing of the spirit. I was practicing my twelve steps, admitting powerlessness, trying to let go, asking God for help. I felt abandoned by God in that I had descended to this place after working so hard for over twenty years. I needed his help and I was praying and asking fervently. Then ,after days of suffering, the thought occurred to me, Hart perhaps God wants me to go to the Dr. for help.Perhaps, I was suffering because of my own hubris and judgement that medications were garbage and harmful. I decided then to truly let go and trust Gods path even though it was so cloudy. I went to the Doctor and my acute depression ended when I took medication and as the years went by and I continued taking them, new changes happened for me.
        Today, I trust this experience, and I feel that medication was part of Gods will for me. I know. Linda, that it can be very different for others. I believe that medication and medicine in this area has a dark side and leads to tragedy. It is not a simple story though and I wanted to add my voice.
        Love to you my friend, thanks again for this forum. H.

        1. Hi Hart. Thank you for responding so thoughtfully to my questions. (And it isn’t the moderation process that takes a long time; the responsibility lies with me, the moderator, who was busy getting ready for school this past week, and didn’t get back to this site… so thank you for your patience.)
          I am so glad that anti-depressants worked to heighten the quality of your inner work. I think where my frustration comes from is that no other alternatives were presented or discussed, and I have come to appreciate the importance of the wholeness of who we are as body, mind, and spirit when it comes to health and well-being. I no longer want to address symptoms. I want to support the whole of me in living this physical experience as vibrantly, lovingly, and joyously as possible.
          I like the way that you use spirituality and science in mutually supportive ways, just as I appreciate the way in which the scientific community is beginning to embrace and to prove spiritual principles.
          Hart, thank you so very much for sharing your story and experiences with anti-depressants so openly. It takes courage to bare oneself so openly, but what I am learning is that those things that I divest are not me, and in fact, divesting them one at a time helps me to open into who I truly am. I am not my stories or my pain or my limiting beliefs… although they have all been instrumental in the growing that I have done. As I share them and let them go, I experience ever more presence and inner strength and focus. I applaud you, Hart, for joining me in shedding the veils that interfere with our understanding and true identity. I applaud you for adding your voice so that we can establish a dialogue. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if others would join us in our mutual sharing and support?
          With great love to you, my dear friend. Linda

Hello :) Please share your comments and related experiences. I look forward to learning and growing with you!

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