Lift Up the Downcast
We’ve all seen the commercials:
wind yourself up to get through the day.”
Can I just say that all of that is true? I hate to use the word depression (I think most people do), but I’ve been fairly open on this blog about how difficult things have been since my daughter died. I’ve grasped and scraped for words to express the isolation, the pain, and the debilitating effect on any effort to keep going through the motions of life, and every time it feels like those words fall short.
Along the way, I’ve tried to overcome persistent sadness, discouragement, lack of energy, a roller coaster of good days and bad days, whatever other words you want to use, many different ways. I can tell you a lot of things not to do, and a few things that have helped.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that a quick fix is a myth.
So many days I’ve woken up feeling rested, moved through the day’s activities relatively well, and actually enjoyed what I was doing, and I thought to myself, “Hurray! I’m finally leaving this behind!” Only to wake up the next day back in the swamp, feeling more discouraged because I was wrong. I hadn’t actually left it behind.
Many people struggle with depression of various kinds, so it’s pretty likely that even if you aren’t struggling with it yourself, someone you know and love is. Here are a few ways that have helped me, along with a few things I recommend avoiding.
If you are struggling with depression:
- Tell God about how you feel and ask for help. Don’t shut God off just because you don’t feel Their presence anymore. Feelings are fickle things, affected by lack of sleep, poor eating habits, hormones, illness, grief, and more.
I found that praying in the shower was a good place because 1) I could usually count on not being interrupted by my children, and 2) if I cried my heart out, the water washed my tears and snot away (I’m not a pretty cryer.)
- Read your Bible. Even if you just read a paragraph a day, you need to read your Bible. I know that failing to read the Word of God has contributed to the depth and length of my struggle. And oh how I know how hard it is to pick it up. I’ve often realized that while I had just read a paragraph, my mind was somewhere else and I had no idea what I was reading. Keep at it. Read it over and over until you can fix your mind on it.
Psalms are excellent. They are short. They are complete all by themselves, unlike a story which requires you to keep track of what happened before. The short epistles are also excellent, especially Philippians and First/Second Peter. Those letters were written to encourage suffering Christians and are full of great truths.
- Talk yourself through the day, using the Bible and common sense. What I mean is this: if you find yourself taking the actions or words of another person personally, remind yourself of two things: “the Bible instructs me to assume the best of others,” and “I’m predisposed to assume the worst right now. I need to take my own emotional/mental/physical state into account when I’m reading other people and cut everyone some slack.” When I remind myself of those things, I’m more likely to step back and wait to see if what I think is really the case. This helps preserve those relationships and keeps me from having to go back later and apologize for falsely accusing them (even in my own mind).
- Talk to someone about your struggle. Be careful and deliberate about who you talk to. Keep your circle small, at least at first. Look for someone who is a strong believer but who has struggled through some hard things themselves. They will understand where you are and will have tried-and-true council for you. You need someone who is both willing to be flexible with you and willing to persist and draw you out even when you try to withdraw or hide what’s inside from them.
- Remain engaged with your family and friends. Make yourself go to birthday parties, cook-outs, ball games… whatever it is that you and your friends and family do together. Go even when every cell in your body wants to hole up in bed. God made us to need people, and you have never experienced encouragement quite like spending time with people who care about you and who love to have fun.
I am so thankful for my husband and friends who have encouraged me to keep going places and doing things with people. No matter how many times it happens, I’m always surprised at how much better I feel when I go, even when it’s The Last Thing I want to do that day.
- Give yourself time. This has been so hard for me. I want to be done. I want to move on, move forward, leave this behind, get better. My counsellor keeps reminding me that there is no timetable on grieving. And if I try to stuff it all and hide it, that actually makes the whole process longer. I need to feel those feelings and work through it, not run away from it.
Next time, I will share some suggestions for people who love someone who is struggling with depression.
What has helped you during a difficult time in your life?
Kelly wrote about depression in women at the Pursuit of Mommyness this week. Will you drop by and leave her an encouraging message?