I think the worst parts of depression consist of apathy and listlessness. They suck you into a downward spiral so powerful it seems like there is no way out. It wouldn’t matter if there was a way out because you have no energy to get out. It’s such a vicious cycle because you are simultaneously miserable and don’t want to feel that way one more second.
I have a tremendous amount of compassion for those who live under a cloud of depression day after day after day for months, even years. I only experienced weeks of intense depression and just a few hours of not-going-to-live-anymore depression. Those hours were the worst of my life. I called out to God in the deepest part of my depression. My depression didn’t go away in that moment, just the desire to act on my thoughts of ending my life. I was still in a heap of tears and misery but I began the hard work to get out of it. My depression was situational but my situation didn’t change over night.
Once I was out from under the worst part of my depression, I made a decision to do something different. To stop swirling. It took a few months before I was completely free of the spiral. I found the steps that helped me or maybe they found me. Here’s what I did:
- I listened only to Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s Solutions CD’s. Filled with information about how to take control of my mind and my life.
- I saw a mental health professional weekly.
- I shared my pain with trusted people.
- I got out of bed and walked every day (or close to it). Sometimes I walked a few times a day.
- I soaked up God’s love messages to me through the Bible. If you take that book’s overall message cover to cover, it is really about relentless, non-judgmental love and freedom.
- Every time I felt a wave of depression I would describe it to myself, usually aloud. Kind of like this, “I feel that familiar surge of black, life sucking poison trying to take me down like the black spider-man suit. It’s really sadness. I feel the hot tears pouring out of my eyes, they get cooler as they roll down my cheeks. I feel a heaviness in my chest. I’ll let this be here for now.” Then after a few minutes I would take a deep breath and think about good things in my life, “I have good in my life. I have a few friends who really care about me. I have a roof over my head, food to eat and gas in my car. The sky is a beautiful blue.” I would then go outside, look at the sky, feel the air on my face, take a few more deep, relaxing breaths and then ask myself what I needed to be doing. Tasks that needed my attention. Then I got busy. Some days I would go for a walk, even while crying and talking to myself like I just described a few sentences ago. I did this over and over again for weeks. The sadness began to lessen. I didn’t feel it as strongly or for as long in the ensuing grief sessions.
Unless your depression is clinical depression caused only by a physiological issue, there is usually at least one experience that needs to be grieved lurking underneath the depression. It’s like a wound. Sometimes wounds get infected so intensely you might need antibiotics or the infection will rapidly multiply and can even take your life. The infection is the depression (unprocessed grief). The wound is from a painful experience: death of a loved one, loss of a job, end of a relationship, a disaster, witnessing violence, and abuse are a few depression causing experiences.
The best gift you can give yourself is that of processing your grief. If you are experiencing depression, it would be worth it to work with a mental health professional to find out what might be going on beneath the depression. Sometimes we don’t think painful aspects of our past can be involved in our current depression. Just because something happened a long time ago and you thought you were “over it”, doesn’t mean it can’t be affecting you today. Grief has an interesting way of lurking quietly below the surface for years and then barging its way back into your life in a most insidious way.
If you’re looking for a mental health professional, try PsychologyToday.com or Theravive.com to find one near you. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide and need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255. They also have an online chat option. If you intend to take your life, call 911 or get to an emergency room immediately.