Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Q: Thoughts on depression

This heartfelt comment came in yesterday:

Thank you for continuing your inspiring blog. Could you please write a post about depression (anxiety)? I have been really struggling with being consistently good, but something comes up, and then I'm in bed all day and accomplish NOTHING. Sometimes I really just feel like the world would be better without me. I just can't seem to think clearly at ALL sometimes, and just want to sleep all day and do nothing at all. Please, please, please... if you have anything to share about the growing problem of "depression" to share with the world, it could really help some people (me especially). Thank you very much, and I really appreciate everything that you have written.

Thanks, dearest, for writing. Please know that we're here for you, and stay in touch.

Like I think almost everyone has, I've dealt with depression throughout my life. Mine is mostly situational, meaning it comes from being unhappy with a situation I'm facing. When I'm depressed, that usually means I'm lying down in front of the situation and letting it roll over me. When I start coming out of it, I take the reins and reverse the feeling of being a victim.

I know that's not the same for everyone. Depression can mean different things to different people. One idea that's been enormously helpful to me is something I read a few years back, I think in a magazine article about depression. It was a doctor saying something like, "The opposite of depression is not joy. The opposite of depression is having an appropriate emotional response to a given situation."

This really relieved me! I was feeling guilty for not feeling joy every minute, no matter what. But it's actually normal and appropriate to have a negative emotion about certain things—like if a loved one dies, or a friend is in trouble, or a child is going astray. These are not times to be flippantly joyous. But they're also not times when we need to slide into the pit of despair. An appropriate response might be concern, levelheadedness, and taking action to help.

So healing of depression might not necessarily look like abundant, over-the-top joy. It might instead look like being able to have an appropriate response to circumstances. In other words, it's okay to be sad sometimes.

Now, how can one go about not letting the sadness take over? This, too, would be different for different people. But for me, I try to remember a few simple facts.

  1. God likes me. Sure, I always know that He loves me. But the fact that He *likes* me is comforting in a different way.
  2. There's always a tomorrow. There will never *not* be a tomorrow. So I always have another opportunity to live a happy day. Maybe today is a struggle. But tomorrow the sun will dawn and I can start fresh.
  3. Even on the days I'm struggling, I can still do good for others. I can still make a difference in another's life. Sometimes by thinking about others I snap out of it quicker.
  4. God made me joyous. Joy is a permanent part of my being. Anything unlike joy is a function of this material existence, so is only temporary. I may have a temporary situation to get through, but my joy I always have with me.

I don't always get this right away. Depression can sneak up on you, can feel like a growing gray cloud that deserves to be there for some reason. As soon as you recognize that cloud on the horizon, though, you can shine the light of Truth on it. Sometimes it takes discipline, sometimes it takes unselfishness. But you have the tools.

I would love to have everyone's thoughts on this, both to help the comment writer and to help me. How do you deal with depression?

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 5/29/2007 01:58:00 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

I struggled with depression for many years ... and still feel it slipping up on me occasionally. A practitioner gave me some great advice. She said, "It's almost impossible to be grateful and depressed at the same time," and she suggested that when I start to feel like I'm sinking, I need to start looking for reasons to be grateful -- even if it's something as small as the bed I'm lying on, or the roof over my head, or the fact that my terrier is taking time off from her mischief-making to curl up beside me while I cry.

A little gratitude is usually enough to break the mesmerism and pull me up before I sink too far. And if I start to feel overwhelmed, I grab the phone and call a practitioner before I reach the point where I'm too tired and too down to feel capable of making that call (which used to happen a lot).

I'm also fond of one of the line from Science and Health that says, "Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven." There's an e-card on spirituality.com (I don't have the exact link handy, but you can search for it easily enough) that uses that quote, and I just love it.

At 5/29/2007 04:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also love this piece from Miscellaneous Writings,p81 line 25:

In the desolation of human understanding,
divine Love hears and answers the human call for help;

At 5/30/2007 06:37:00 AM, Blogger John said...

I suffered from depression for about 10 years and only got relief this past January. My depression was not situational--it was just an emotional heaviness that went on and on.

I took a range of medications for my problem that brought me relief. Every year or so I tried going off of my meds and always ended up with the depression again. I went back to the meds. The depression was something that I was powerless over.

This past January, I made the decision to go off of ALL my medications that I was taking for a half-dozen conditions.

With a practitioner's help I was able to do it and most of the conditions were healed quickly. Depression was one of them.

I still occasionally have situational depression, but not the every moment, every day variety.

I'm writing this just to say that God can and does heal depression, chemical imbalances and self-defeating thinking. For me, however, it wasn't a matter of exercising will power; it was the power of prayer.


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