Tag: managing depression

Alphabet of thanks, “E”

(Hey, I had this ready to publish this morning. I did not miss a day. But I just caught it now, so am sending it on its way to you.)

I am thankful today that I can Exercise. That means I’m healthy enough to do so.

My husband and I walk forty-forty five minutes every day. When we can’t because of inclement weather, we use our treadmill. I feel downright sluggish when I don’t.

Excercise is good for just about every illness. It helps prevent strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, dementia, etc. And it certainly doesn’t have to be forty minutes. Thirty minutes is just fine.

And the best part is, it’s free. No expensive gym memberships. One can just walk out the door and begin.

While exercise is good for almost every medical condition, it really helps promote good mental health. I’ve written many posts about the importance of exercise in treating and preventing depression and anxiety. You can find some of those posts here, and here.

For me, to be able to walk for forty minutes is a real gift. I have very bad feet (five surgeries to prove it) and sometimes I would rather not walk but I know that I am able to walk because I do walk.  I’ve always remembered what my doctor told me a number of years ago.

If you don’t routinely walk most days of the week, you will find that eventually, you won’t be able to walk. You will go from a cane, to a wheelchair, to being bedridden.

So I walk. When my feet hurt, when my back hurts, when I just am not in the mood. If you have to start out with two days a week, do it. I can almost guarantee that after even one walk, your mood will improve. You will sleep better, too.

So today I am very thankful for exercise. It has made a huge difference in my life.

 

Psalm 40

Depression isn’t for “sissies

I see I posted twice yesterday.

But the whole “thought my kitten was lost” really had me frazzled. I thought I had everything in order and the post entitled “why overreacting doesn’t help depression” hadn’t even been edited. I’ve since corrected it.  It was a post from a few years ago that I thought bared repeating. I hope you found it helpful.

So because it did publish I felt I should continue the theme. The truth is that depression isn’t for “sissies”. What is interesting about those that suffer from depression is that it’s almost never the “bad”, “mean” or “shallow” person that experiences depression. You have to be kind of a “deep-thinking” person, a sensitive person to suffer this mental illness. And “mental illness” doesn’t always mean what we think it means. Depression is an “illness” that involves the  “mind”, therefore it’s a mental illness.  What is the matter with our society that we still don’t understand this?

My heart aches for anyone who suffers depression and/or anxiety. It’s horrible. And I think more people suffer from the disorder than don’t. But there is still such a stigma that many people never talk about it. Instead, they stand at the edge of a precipice never knowing when they are going to fall in the pit. That feeling of impending doom clouds their very existence and life becomes shrouded with fear and dread.

You would almost prefer to fall in the pit rather than standing at the edge worried that any minute you might drop into the dark hole and disappear.

(I realize this isn’t a photo of a “pit” but they were all too scary-looking so I chose this cliff instead. Same concept though, right?)

edge of a cliff

It’s like feeling dead inside but pretending to be alive. The effort of trying to act like everyone else is almost more than you can bear.

I get it.

If I thought I was heading there again, honestly, I would be terrified.

For a little while.

“Why for only a little while?” you ask.

Because while I have a history of depression, I also have a longer history of recovery. I’ve learned a lot from my battles. Mostly, that God will get me through if I cooperate.

Would he get me to the other side anyway? Probably. But it would take a lot longer and if I were rescued every time, I don’t develop the skill set necessary to keep me from succumbing the next time.

Psalm 40

I’m never one to tell anyone that all one has to do when faced with depression is to trust God and just like a magic Genie, everything will get better. While God can heal instantly and he often does, it’s no guarantee.

Besides, we develop a great deal of resilience when we cooperate with God instead of letting God do all the work.

My understanding of God’s dealings with people throughout Scripture is that cooperating with God is always God’s first choice. It’s kind of like God wants us to have a stake in our own growth. It has been proven time and again that people who have a vested interest in something appreciate it more.  I think God created in us the desire to claim some responsibility for our own lives.

When Moses balked at God’s command to speak to Pharoah because he didn’t think he could (for whatever reason and the jury is out on that reason), God said that Aaron could be his mouthpiece. How much personal growth did Moses give up right then? I would say, a lot.

So if you are on that precipice, you don’t have to fall in. I have no idea the faith walk of any of my “followers” so I can’t really give you steps 1-10 to keep you afloat. I can only tell you what I do.

I will try to share more tomorrow but here’s a preliminary list (in no order) without much detail:

  1. I pray and read Scripture.
  2. I exercise. If I’m struggling with a current depressive episode, I might walk longer and/or more than once a day.
  3. I stay distracted. If you are employed, this is easier. If not, just start moving and doing something, anything, and that will spur you on some more. This is very hard when you’re feeling down. Do it anyway.
  4. I should’ve started with this: Make your bed. I’ve been saying that much longer than the recent hype over the commencement speech of the same title and the subsequent book.
  5. Talk to someone today with your “voice” not your fingers.
  6. Avoid negative people.
  7. Don’t go to bed tonight without having accomplished something. (See # 3)
  8. Keep up with your personal grooming. You should look in the mirror and feel somewhat better by the image you see.)

That was a very cursory list.

Apparently, I’m on a roll, so I’ll try to keep this up for the rest of the week.

It’s hard for me to write about depression when I’m not actively experiencing an episode. But it’s also hard if I am.

Anyway, God bless and have a good day.

(PS. You can always check out my menu under the heading “depression”.  I have lots of material there that you might find helpful.)

 

 

 

prayer comes in many forms and colors

Pain hurts. Now there’s a “Duh”.

I have the greatest empathy for anyone who suffers chronic pain. It’s no fun.

As you know,  I’ve had numerous foot surgeries. For the past two years, I’ve been able to walk without limping and without pain.

Until yesterday.

Even the limp is back. Needless to say, I’ve been discouraged. There’s pain in places in my foot I wouldn’t have thought could cause pain!

Now, this is not to elicit your sympathy. It’s just to acknowledge that pain is very much a part of the Christian’s experience.

I’m always amazed at those Christians who are proponents of the “Christians don’t hate to experience pain. We can pray ourselves right out of it.”

Hmmm. Do you think they would have dared tell Jesus that as he hung on the cross?

I don’t think so.

But it’s not just physical pain where Christians are not exempt. It’s the emotional pain as well and this garners even more disdain from those Christians I dub the “Christians for whom everything is always wonderful.”

Just wait.

If one’s lives long enough, they will experience some emotional pain. How traumatic it is, whether it results in true depression or not, might well depend on their willingness to admit it.

Maybe there’s something to be said for experience some pain before you have to experience a whole lot of it. Hopefully, I’ve already reached my “quota”.

But there’s to be learned from pain.

First of all, we get a “sampling” of what Jesus suffered for us.

Secondly, we learn to trust more. Wouldn’t you agree that our faith grows more during difficult times?. I wish it wasn’t so, but I’m afraid it is.

Third, pain, in all its forms, keeps us humble. Somehow when we’re in pain, it’s easier to empathize with others.

Since my mom died, I’ve found it easier to empathize with the pain others feel when they lose a loved one. Up to this point, I feel I fell short. The last year, and especially the final six months were particularly hard due to the dementia. So when I ran into a couple who were having a garage sale and they shared they had moved back to the area to take care of the women’s father who had dementia, I knew what to say. I was able to share the pain I had felt. I hope it helped.

Pain should make us more “open” and understanding of another’s pain.

I’ve never lost my home to a natural disaster, the type of which is hammering Texas.  I did have a tree fall on our house many years ago and I remember how I felt then. While that was nothing in comparison, I can take my mind a little further and think, “What if my whole house had been destroyed?” To me, losing my home is the second rung on the ladder of disasters, with death and/0r a terrible prognosis being at the top.

Recently, I went through a season of pain with someone. Watching them suffer broke my heart. I felt helpless but I wasn’t.

I prayed hard. Not just in the morning either, but throughout the day and every time they’re name came to mind , which was just about all the time.

That’s the skill we hone when it’s someone else’s’ pain. We really learn how to strip aside all our fancy words; we learn how to “get real” in our prayers.

We cry out.

We don’t worry about whether we are being too honest or not. (Is that even possible?)

We set aside our “genteel” notions about prayer.

We pray a whole lot more like Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Maybe that’s the biggest benefit of pain-learning to pray better.

God bless and remember there isn’t anything you can’t say to God.

 

depression

Tailor-make your depression recovery plan

Here’s the thing.

Everyone’s different. No surprise there, huh?

Everyone’s different “looks” and feels different. Maybe a little surprise there.

There are certain hallmark strategies for recovery that will benefit most people on their way to recovery. No surprise there. But just like the unique people we are, some of the recovery strategies that you will develop will be totally unique as well.

Just as everyone’s depression does have similarities, so do they have their differences. Some people find sleeping difficult, some sleep a lot. Same with eating. For example, when I suffered clinical depression, o functioned pretty normally. But I felt like the “walking dead.” Nothing drew my interest; there was no joy in anything. I felt like I walked in a fog all the time.

For example, when I suffered clinical depression, I functioned pretty normally. But I felt like the “walking dead.” Nothing drew my interest; there was no joy in anything. I felt like I was in a fog all the time.

The worst part was grocery shopping.

Seriously.

I don’t know why grocery shopping was excruciating but it was.  For one thing, I couldn’t avoid people. And I just knew that everyone could tell I was depressed. Plus, it seemed everyone was happy. Also, I couldn’t make decisions about what to buy. It was overwhelming.

The next hardest experience was simply being around other people whether at church, birthday parties, family gatherings. I felt so disconnected from everyone. Back to the whole “walking dead ” thing. Again, I just knew everyone knew what a mess I was.

These were all my perceptions, but they were very real to me.

For my own recovery, there were certain strategies that worked best for me. Exercise was crucial for me to keep my depression at bay, as was (and is) keeping my “gut” operating as normal and regularly as possible. My spiritual life and keeping “short accounts with God” was also crucial. (Keeping short accounts with God means keeping a constant “communing” with God, especially in regards to forgiveness.)

I also made my bed everyday. Watch this video for someone else’s opinion about this. It’s really good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70

Something else I did was to make sure I was presentable when if you’re depressed is pretty darn hard to do. But I would look in the mirror and at least do my best.

Other people might find it’s what they’re watching on TV or what they’re reading that is the trigger for them. Some people find it’s other people that trigger their episodes because they are so negative. So they avoid them when and if they can.

Someone else I know finds that keeping busy works. A different person I know finds controlling their thoughts is their first line of defense. (This is a big one, by the way, for everyone. Some just find it easier to reign in their thoughts.)

I think the point is that while the symptoms of depression are the same for everyone, they are tolerated differently. Recovery from depression always means a different way of thinking and adapting to our world, and yet the how and the timing is different for everyone.

As Dorothy Rowe writes in her groundbreaking book called simply “Depression”, “depression is a prison we create for ourselves. So if you think of it that way, there are many different ways to break out of a prison, aren’t there?

I hate depression. I hate it for you. I hate it for me. I hate it for everyone I love. Does that make it clear enough?

But…..

Depression is not a death sentence. Most everyone survives it. And sometimes, there are some great lessons we learn.

You know that eclipse we all watched yesterday. To me, it was very spiritual. It reminded me that no matter how dark it gets, God is still there shining his love on us and leading the way.

More tomorrow.

God bless and I really hope you have a good and happy day.

depression

Why don’t bad people get depressed?

Have you ever noticed that as a rule, mean, self-centered, egotistical, self-righteous people never seem to get depressed?

Haven’t you ever wondered why?

The other day I thought, after watching a news report about yet another terrorist attack, that’s it!

“What’s that, you ask”?

That’s how you stop terrorism and all the hateful acts we hear about every day.

You inject a whopping big dose of depression into these people. That would take care of it.

Really, it would.

If you’ve ever suffered a true clinical depression, the kind where you can’t get out of bed, or if you can you feel like you’re sleepwalking through your life, you would know exactly what I mean.

That’s how bad real depression can be. I will repeat myself for the umpteenth one,

Depression is not just being down in the dumps. It’s not a few bad days because your boss yelled at you. It’s not that you’re sad about a critical remake someone made about you. It’s not the fight you had with your husband.

Depression is all-consuming. You don’t talk yourself out of it. You don’t take a few vacation days and get over it. A good talk with a friend doesn’t cure it. These are all good strategies for the recovery phase but they won’t make depression go away.

Depression affects many parts of the body. It’s almost always impossible to know what prompts an attack. That’s why depression is sometimes so difficult to get a handle on. It can be brought on by grief and other losses, ill-health, divorce, crisis, etc. I’ve been watching my own moods since my mother died (just over three months ago). I know I am very vulnerable now, so I’m taking good care of my emotions. The Bible calls it “guarding one’s heart.” I’m gentle with myself but making sure I’m productive every day.

One fact we do know about depression for sure is that women suffer from it far more than men. That’s a no brainer to me and to a lot of other people, including medical and mental health professionals. When it comes to women, hormones play a big role especially during the peri-menopausal and menopausal years. Many a woman who never suffered depression her entire life, finds herself depressed during these years. It doesn’t mean we are weaker or more emotional. It just means we are subject to hormonal swings and men aren’t.

Not all will need medication. Why I don’t know but neither do you, and neither does anyone else.

There is so much we don’t know about the brain, it’s kind of unbelievable considering medical advances in so many other areas. Oh, we know what parts of the brain direct certain parts of the body, but even then people surprise us all the time.

There was a time that if someone were in a coma, we gave up thinking they would recover. Now more and more people come out of comas and go on to lead a normal life. In fact, now doctors put people in comas for all kinds of reasons.

There was a time, certain injuries were considered life-altering and yet we see people regain use of their limbs, their minds, etc.

We’ve come so far in so many medical areas and yet the brain continues to perplex us.

Think of Alzheimer’s, so many theories but so far from a cure. Maybe that’s because in our society we don’t think anyone that has Alzheimer’s disease is important enough to find a cure for because generally, they are much older. Except that now we know Alzheimer’s can impact a much younger person which is why Alzheimer’s research is so important.

All of this is just to emphasize and quiet the critics who think they’ve got it all figured out. Somehow these armchair experts think they know more about the brain and the body more than medical professionals and scientists.

Really?

So ignore the naysayers. You have a “say” about what you need to do for your own health. Remember, while you can tailor-make your own recovery as far as where you concentrate your efforts, there are some common symptoms included in all almost all depression that needs addressing.

Also, I find it interesting that Jesus never once condemns any kind of mental illness. In fact, you know all those statements Jesus makes about anxiety? We’re going to look at them a little closer in future posts. I think sometimes Christians think everything in the Bible happens immediately. I mean like you ask for anxiety to be relieved and whammo, it is. Not so.

Negative thinking, poor health habits, lack of discipline, destructive behavior, they didn’t happen overnight. They probably won’t get “cured overnight, either.

When you think about the disciples, how long did it take them to mature spiritually? What about the Apostle Paul?

Don’t condemn yourself today. If you’re really trying, if you’re asking God to help you battle through your depression, you will get better.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

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