Matthew Cuddeback, LCSW

Winston Churchill said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” This quote stuck with me long after I heard it, it is incredibly profound for many different reasons. Churchill was saying this, as a rousing orator, to motivate the British people during the second World War. However, I find that it is also incredibly impactful for when we are waging our own internal wars as a guide for how to see our way through these difficult times.

When we are depressed or highly anxious, we often feel stuck or trapped and can’t see in the darkest moments a way out. It can feel incredibly hopeless. I believe this quote acknowledges the fact that in difficult moments, we often are unable to see a way out and become overwhelmed by it all, the circumstances, our feelings, etc. We feel stuck and don’t know what to do, where to go, or which way is the right way to feeling better. So, instead of looking for the answer of where to go, it is important to just move. Pick a direction and move, don’t backtrack, don’t second guess it, now is not the time, now is the time to trust that if you keep moving you will find your way out. Once you are in a healthier place you can take a look and assess if you’re going in the direction that is most helpful and healthy and what to do next.

There is a key factor to this strategy and that is intentionality, you need to give up the idea that if you just do this or just do that, what someone told you worked for them, you will definitely feel better. The reason this is dangerous is because it leads to even more hopelessness if it doesn’t work. Someone tells you, “Oh, well if you exercise more you will feel better, it worked for me!” While the intention is good, it may not work for you, and if it doesn’t it can easily feel as though you are in worse emotional shape than you thought. This kind of advice can be incredibly helpful, but also be sure to use radical acceptance and acknowledge it is not about finding the exact right solution, but instead to just be sure to be looking for any solution. It is important to commit to the idea that though you may not be able to see the “right” way out of your depression, if you are intentional in taking steps to feel better, even when those steps aren’t working as quickly or as well as you would like, you still give it time to work. The reason being intentional is the key to this is that it is so easy to slip out of what you are trying to do, the first time you say “I don’t feel like getting out today,” then the second time you say, “I don’t have the energy.” The third time you say “It wasn’t even working before, why keep trying?” Getting out of the house and being a part of the world may not help make you feel more connected to the world, but staying in and not trying anything definitely won’t.

When in those deepest moments where you can’t tell which way is the best way to go, just acknowledge through mindfulness that you aren’t able to see the best way in that moment, embrace it, and then pick a direction anyway and go. While you may be unsure if a tactic to feel better will work or not, committing to giving it a real try and being intentional in that effort is key, even when you don’t feel like it. The reason Churchill’s quote resonates so much is because it tells us you can so easily get stuck and lose hope and just stay there. No matter how hellish things may be at the moment, keep going, keep moving. Eventually you will find your way out, either through giving the situation time or by recognizing that if you just keep going you eventually find a path that works for you.

If you are feeling this way, like you are going through hell, and you think it could help to have someone help you try and find a way to go please reach out to Symmetry Counseling.