With every disruptive emotion comes a set of physical sensations in the body. Take nervousness. A nervous person might have sweaty palms, a heightened heart beat, or “butterflies” in the stomach. The sensations can be different for everyone. But some sensations may be more difficult to notice.
A client who struggled with depression had difficulty finding sensations as we went through the regulation process. Since I also had struggled with depression, I knew exactly what she was going through. Sensations might include pressure, heaviness, lethargy, or slowed breathing — not as obvious as sweaty palms.
The first time I regulated my own depression, it was a beautiful day outside, just like the day of 9/11 — sunny, blue sky, low humidity, outside temperature in the 70s. I was taking a walk and depression overwhelmed me. I found a log to sit on, closed my eyes, and went through the regulation process, looking for sensations. I felt heavy and something like a weight pulled down on my heart. After a minute or two I opened my eyes. The depression had lifted.
Depression that recurs may alter the brain. Neurological studies found that the size of the hippocampus shrinks with chronic depression making it more difficult to think clearly and recall memories. For those with major depression, resolving it may not as simple as one regulation session.
Because my depression coincided with chronic PTSD, it took more than one session to resolve it. In fact, it took multiple sessions over the course of four years. Even after having resolved bouts of depression, the emotion recurred probably because my hippocampi were physically altered. Sometimes the recurring depression was so bad that I thought about suicide. But after multiple regulation sessions, more than a year has passed since feeling depressed. Today, I still don’t know if my depression is completely resolved. But I am better and knowing how to overcome it gives worth to today.