Questioning Life: What Answers Can Depression Hold?

Papers with different sized question marks lay scattered on a table.Sometimes depression is a message that is important to receive. The message is to pay attention to something that is not right for you. It may be that you are in a relationship, job, career, organization, church, community, identity, gender, living situation, or anything else that isn’t right for you.

So if you’re depressed and don’t know why, talking about it in therapy could help you understand. But it’s also helpful to be able to listen to depression yourself. It’s like listening to your body tell you you’re hungry, sleepy, thirsty, or sick, and that you need food, sleep, water, rest. If we don’t listen and respond in a nurturing way to these messages, we can feel very uncomfortable and may damage our bodies. Ignoring depression can have serious consequences. If what’s causing it doesn’t change, and we ignore how we feel, it will probably get worse. Like other physical needs, ignored depression can cause misery, poor health, poor self-care, and more.

So if you’re depressed and you don’t know why, try taking an inventory. First take some time to think and write and maybe talk to people who will listen. Ask yourself when you started feeling depressed and what was happening around that time.

Here are some other useful questions to think, write, or talk about:

  • Am I doing what is easy, fun, and brings me joy?
  • Do I expect life to be about suffering?
  • Am I afraid to be happier than my parents?
  • Am I taking responsibility for anything that really isn’t my responsibility?
  • Do I enjoy the money I have?
  • What is my biggest burden?
  • When have I felt light and free? How can I re-create that?
  • What would I do differently if I knew I only had a year to live?
  • What would I say/write to people in my life if I didn’t care what their reaction would be?
  • If I had a magic wish, what would it be?
  • If I were happy now, what would I lose, or what bad thing would happen?
  • How am I giving too much—more than I really have to give emotionally, no matter how much I wish I could give it and not hurt myself in the process?
  • How am I getting in my own way, saying mean things to myself, or holding myself back from what I really want or who I really am?
  • If I had unlimited money, what would I do starting today?
  • What people or animals have left a hole in my heart?
  • What is my guiding principle for my life? What do I want to do while I’m alive?
  • Am I doing what I’m really good at?
  • If I could live anywhere in the world, where would I live?
  • If someone I totally trusted and believed told me life is only about playing, having fun, and being loving and compassionate with myself and others, what would I do differently?
  • What influence does shame and self-attack have on my life?
  • What’s really most important to me? Would everyone around me correctly guess my answer to this question?
  • What do I really, really, really want? What’s the first step I can do today to get it?
  • What if I could let go of anything I want to let go of—what would it be?

When we search deeply inside for brutally honest answers, we often can dig ourselves out from the hole of depression. When we really know the truth about what we feel, want, need, dream about, value, need a boundary around—we can begin to make decisions toward emotional health and away from the direction that is weighing us down.

So what is your truth?

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Cynthia W. Lubow, MS, MFT, therapist in El Cerrito, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • anna

    anna

    September 10th, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    although I am by no means depressed or have such thoughts some of these questions stumped me.It took time to answer and some even got no answer because well I could not think of one.I think this just shows its never perfect even if we think there’s nothing wrong.but that’s fine I think, as long as it is not weighing us down!

  • Huff

    Huff

    September 10th, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    This whole person inventory that you suggest really does take a lot of thinking and soul searching. I am not sure how many of us can ever get to a point where we are okay with learning the answers to many of these questions that we could have been runnning away from for a very long time

  • Cynthia Lubow, MFT

    Cynthia Lubow, MFT

    September 10th, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    I think I didn’t make it clear that you don’t need to expect to answer all of the questions–just find the ones that are helpful to you to answer. They are hard questions, but they can transform the way you feel if you find the right ones for you at the right time.

  • ashley

    ashley

    September 11th, 2012 at 12:40 AM

    a lot of times just listening to your body and your self can help you diagnose and rectify anything that might be holding you back..problem is many times most of us are just too busy to listen to this voice from our body or our self and some other times we just do not recognize it..its not about reacting only when there is an obvious problem,but also about staying alert for any warning from within the system.

  • Huff

    Huff

    September 11th, 2012 at 4:02 AM

    Oh yeah, Cynthis, I know you didn’t mean to look for an answer to all, because that would be exhausting!
    I just know that for me, and I fully admit that I have issues that I run from rather than confront, even just a few of these would be hard given that I spend most of my time trying to bury my head in the sand!
    I know it’s not the healthiest thing to do, but I know I am scared. At least I know that, right?
    I in n o way meant to demean the list, just that I know for me addressing any one of these can be hard.

  • Nathan

    Nathan

    September 11th, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Listening to depression and its symptoms is good no doubt.But there are some people who hear too much,if you know what I’m sayin.They are ‘depressed’ for every little thing and any bump in life,bumps that we all encounter,is a major thing to them and they harm themselves due to this because after that bump it can take them days and even weeks to return to normalcy.

    Are these people just overdoing what is suggested here or is a completely different negative technique(if it is one) that they are using?I see people like this every once in a while and it just depresses me (pun intended).

  • solange

    solange

    September 11th, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    Listening to ourselves can be kind of scary. . . but there is nothing else in the world that can tell us more about what is going on with us. And if you fail to listen to those little warnings, then how are you ever going to be able to move past the hurt and get to a healthier place in life?

    It’s scary- it is for all of us. But if I don’t pay attention to the warning signs then there is no one else who is going to be there to do that for me. I should be my own best listener, and if I refuse to be that for myself, then I have no one else to blam when my world comes crashing down.

  • Colleen m

    Colleen m

    September 12th, 2012 at 4:34 AM

    Much of our happiness in life is derived from how we feel about life. I like the question that asks what we expect out of life. Is it pain or happiness? I am such a firm believer that if you feel that life should be about finding the things that make you happy then this is the path that you will choose to take. If you are more pessimistic and expect to be disappointed at every turn, then there is a very good chance that this is what you will come upon all along your life journey. I think that it is far more rewarding to look for the good in life instead of seeking out the bad.

  • Patricia

    Patricia

    February 22nd, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Hello, Depression…yes not nice. I have depression in my family, my mother and two sisters. words cannot explain what my family has had to endure with what they have had to live with and what self harm they have brought upon themselves through this cruel stage. I have also had to keep myself out of this pit of darkness and it hasn’t been easy. I have done extensive research on this for years and have come to the conclusion that it all stems back to your environment and the conditioning of humans in society. I am now studying Anthropology and Sociology and it has opened my mind to how controlled we all are from the day we are born… “this is not a natural way of life”… no wonder we have so much mental illness in the world, people are so suppressed from this conditioning that they lose site of who they really are ??? Hence, depression is born… somethings gotta give.

  • sandy

    sandy

    December 23rd, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    This actually makes so much sense
    But how do I get the strength to change my current life that is making me so crazy????

  • Just Kimberly

    Just Kimberly

    February 16th, 2014 at 12:58 AM

    I’ve read some of your other articles on depression and find lots of value in them.

    However, as a person who has “lived” through numerous major depressive episodes and who — despite being very successful in Corporate America (VP International Operations) suffered chronic suicidal ideation since age seven, I’d be unable to dredge up the energy to even read the entire list of questions, much less ponder them, during an episode.

    I *will* say to people with major depression there IS hope. At 50 years of age I dedicated myself to (so far) close to two years of therapy and endured numerous prescription drug changes (each one taking six + weeks to titrate through my system) until I finally found a combination that worked.

    Don’t give up! No matter how successful, how many awards, how much recognition I received, I never could figure out why people insisted we all *had* to stay alive when we didn’t feel like living. I never “got” it.

    I’m STUNNED, now that I’m almost 52, to actually experience life NOT feeling suicidal *every* single day. The ideation was my partner for SO long, it’s taking me MONTHS to get used to this feeling.

    It’s not bliss, but it is amazing how much I am getting done when I don’t spend all my down time annoyed that the people I love would be so traumatized if I died.

    Keep at it! I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to experience “this” feeling.

  • Tami P

    Tami P

    March 26th, 2017 at 6:48 PM

    I really relate to your words Kimberly, but I wonder what to do when not only do I not feel like living, but I see no purpose in living – for all of us actually. I have been depressed for so long that although I do remember being happy before, I don’t remember how it felt.

    I am so tired of it all. I don’t see the reason to keep on with just “existing”.

  • Narayan R

    Narayan R

    March 6th, 2017 at 2:45 AM

    I lost my lover and I’m feeling sadness.
    Can I do. ..?

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