There are many forms of surrender in the world–some that turn out good, others bad. We stop treatments, end marriages, leave jobs, switch majors, and abandon projects. We take sick days, break our New Years’ Resolutions, and concede arguments. We decide it’s more important to get six hours of sleep than to make that 9 AM deadline. We write texts and emails, but delete them before sending. Most people’s lives involve some degree of strategic retreat–from year to year, from day to day. We can’t win all the time.
For many people with depression, this drive to give up is inflated to an unhealthy degree. Sometimes, you may want to give something up before it even starts. Often, it’s important to fight that urge–to stick with your intentions even when it’s hard. But, just like anyone else, sometimes you have to know when to surrender. And the way you surrender can be just as important as when to surrender. Toni Bernhard at PsychologyToday calls this “giving in” rather than “giving up.”
One of the most important aspects of “giving in” is to replace self-loathing with self-compassion. You shouldn’t hate yourself from needing a break; you should take a break because you love yourself. For instance, instead of thinking:
“I can’t finish this. I’m useless.”
Instead try and think something like:
“It’s not worth beating myself up when I’m not making progress. I’m going to set this aside for now and relax.”
Another important thing difference is whether or not you’re projecting your surrender into the future, or mistaking a setback for a failure. So instead of thinking:
“I stayed in all weekend. I’ll never make any friends.”
Try to think:
“Making friends isn’t working right now. I’ll need to take care of myself for a bit, and focus on the relationships I have, before I’m ready to pursue new friendships.”
Thirdly, it’s important to accept that change is a part of life, and sometimes “giving in” just means letting go of a status quo that doesn’t work for you anymore. According to Ms. Bernhard, instead of saying:
“I give up on my friends. They don’t understand me or paying attention to me.”
You should say:
“These friendships aren’t working out for me in their current form. It’s not their fault that they don’t understand, but I deserve friends who will be responsive to my needs.”
Sometimes, what seems like failure can be easily reframed as an opportunity to expand your boundaries. There’s no way to make everything easy, or to make sure that everything you try works out the way you want it to. Life comes with its share of disappointments, and that can be especially difficult for the depressed. But you can make sure that your failures don’t come to define your life.
Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!