Today, someone on a facebook page asked for first aid ideas to share with people who were suffering from depression. I am both a therapist and a person who suffered from debilitating depression. So, I shared a few things that help me when the “mood” strikes, and realize there may be others who suffer, and I thought my writing for today could be about that. And yes, sometimes I still wake up so sad, with tears in my eyes, blue and dreary for no discernible reason. It’s the brain chemicals, really, and now I know that I AM IN CHARGE of changing my mood. How empowering!
*Even though you don’t think so, there are always better OPTIONS than harming yourself or even imagining ending your life (that one gets addictive-stop it), because you think you will always feel like this, you can’t remember ever not feeling this way. THAT’S A LIE!
I am telling you this, you are not helpless, you are powerful beyond words. There have been plenty of days you have felt happy, the depression was NOT always waiting to grab you by the throat and suffocate you, and you WON’T always feel like this. Really. You don’t believe me, but try to trust me because I have been there and I am not there now. Couldn’t have been as bad as yours? Don’t know, but I had pretty well decided on a way not to have to feel this pain any more. Thank goodness I found a better option…and met the goal – I don’t feel the pain any more.
*Your brain chemicals may be out of balance. For some, for me, I needed an antidepressant. And the first one I tried made me MUCH WORSE, much more suicidal and hopeless. Not “I felt hopeless.” I felt I WAS hopeless. Be careful. Brain chemicals are very powerful and everyone’s balance is different. And they LIE to you. You feel awful and your mind wants to explain WHY, so it exaggerates some things and diminishes others to make sense of the feelings.
*Ever feel like you are driving down a dark and foggy road and you can just barely see the yellow line in the middle of the road, and sometimes it’s just GONE? Black hole depression makes you feel alone and lost and worthless. “I’m a failure.” “There is some basic flaw in me.” “No one will ever really love me.” “There’s no way out.” Remember that your brain chemicals are tricking you, that the feedback from your emotions is NOT TRUE. YOU are not a failure even if something you tried didn’t work. Try something else. You have many gifts and talents, we all do. There is no basic flaw in the Child of God you are. You may have followed a wrong path for you or hung out with the wrong people or believe you messed up in a job or a relationship, whatever, but YOU are not flawed. You can start over. And I’ll bet there are already people who have loved you, and you haven’t been able to let them in. When you are depressed, it’s like they are behind a grey fog. I remember even people who came to my house and held me while I cried, I thought they were just being generous, not that they loved me and were there for me. Your fog is obscuring the truth. And it makes you very selfish, just turned within to listen to your chemicals lie to you. It’s up to you to change the subject in your mind by doing something neutral that makes your brain work. (I call it I -Intelligence- over E – Emotion)…try solitaire with real cards, computer games, drawing, anything that can disconnect you from the feelings long enough to get some relief.
*When you can, start a list of things you are grateful for. This will tell the Universe to deliver more GOOD to you. Really, trust me. The first time, you may not find anything. Or maybe you will see a beautiful flower or a sunset. Or you can notice that your shower felt good. Write them down. Do this every day, sometimes several times. Gradually you will find one thing. Then two. Then four. Gradually you will notice that you had five minutes when you were not in the black hole, and your list is getting longer. The next day maybe it will be six. Eventually you will find that the five and six minutes add up to a good morning, a good evening, even a whole good day. You are progressing, give yourself credit.
*At this point, as your list starts getting longer, start adding the things you like about you to your list. That was the hardest for me. I didn’t like how I looked, nothing about my body. I thought I had failed in my career and had nothing to offer the world (it was just time to change jobs). I had had three failed marriages. I thought self-love was arrogance, bad religious training or something. Anyway I was embarrassed inside to even try this exercise. I remember the first time I did it, I could only say I liked my painted red toenails. I did not notice that it was I who had painted them. And that they made me feel cheerful though everything else was grey. Or that I could try other small things that would make me feel cheerful. Maybe I could even make my bed.
*You can start a journal now, and just write whatever comes to your mind. Twenty minutes a day. After a while, start noticing what you are telling yourself about yourself, about the people in your life, about your future. Is there something you can re-write now that you feel better? Can you re-write the story of your past with more objectivity and compassion for others who also had struggles that affected you? Can you call to mind the bright shiny times (I know, I know, the first time I was asked to do that I thought the person had to be kidding. I couldn’t remember ever feeling truly happy. Everything had been colored by the depression. But keep at it, and hold on to and expand on any shiny memory you find. Gradually you will be able to give up your story that it has always been awful to be alive. Because it isn’t true.
Life is always a mixture, and it matters what you focus on. What you focus on always expands…so always distract yourself when you have the blues, and focus on the GOOD that is in you and all around you. Sounds corny, I know. When I was depressed, I got really angry with someone who told me I was at complete choice how to feel. But it’s true, and I just wanted to stay a victim.
*You will start feeling better. I do advise finding a good counselor if you can afford it, preferably one who will help you create new “self-talk.” Otherwise, find a self-help group where you can be honest, maybe at a church (though you might not feel comfortable at first sharing deeply at your own church), maybe at a local hospital.
*For me, when I was the most depressed, I already had a relationship with God, but it wasn’t making me feel any better, in fact I got to thinking even God didn’t love me, had abandoned me. I didn’t notice then whenever I directly asked for the pain to go away it would, for a while. I just noticed that it wasn’t permanent so I discounted it, like everything else. I was just unskilled in dealing with depression, no one had explained it to me, and in my recovery, my mystical brand of spirituality brings me great joy. Perhaps some spiritual direction is for you.
*After a while, it will surprise you when the depression hits you, but you will believe it anyway. “Yup, knew it all along, these good days wouldn’t last.” “There it is, lurking, waiting to grab me.” “It’ll never go away.” BUT, now you know that’s just your brain chemicals lying to you again, maybe you can write a poem about it, maybe you need to change your diet or get more exercise to help balance the chemicals again, and you certainly can avoid being its victim again.
Best of luck to you. I am with you in spirit. I have found a wonderful life and so can you. I am so grateful I was given a chance to develop full and rich life, and that I didn’t give up too soon. Be patient, you are so WORTH it.