Saturday, October 24, 2009

Overcoming Depression, Part 3

Today's tip on overcoming depression challenges us to look past the current dismal state we may be feeling, and reaching out to things that are good.

Tip #3: Focus on what's good

When it feels like our world is crashing down around us, and we don't even look for the "light at the end of the tunnel" because we know if we see the light, it's probably a train, we can improve our mood by focusing on what's going right. What things we have going for us. How the world is a better place because we're in it.

For example, one day, I got some very bad news: I found out I did NOT qualify for a program I needed to progress further in my career, and was told (in political, polite, language) that I've gone as far as I can go and I'm the bottom of the barrel. Lots of losers get into this school, so I was feeling really, really, down about it. Now that I'm facing life as a single mom, money has become more important to me. I'm now the provider. And in a couple years, this job will turn into a pumpkin. So I was crying and sad and feeling like nothing in my life was going well. I didn't get the program, my promotion recommendation was laughed at, my weight won't budge (in spite of all these half-marathons I've been running), and my son has developed a very disrespectful mouth.

But then the Lord spoke to me.

And reminded me that my problems are minimal. No, my weight isn't going down, but I'm in great shape and unlike my peers I no longer need medication. I'm not likely to get promoted (*1) but I make good money. And I have a healthy retirement package. No, things aren't going well in the social department either (the dating and friend scene has really changed in the last 15 years since I've swam in it), but I have a beautiful son who gives me a legal excuse to do Aspie things most adults would get disrespected for (like play with sounds (mouth/throat), explore textures (grass, fence, etc), and twirl around like nobody's business).

So, one by one I started thinking about all the good things in my life. What's right. I started praying and thanking God for all the good things.

And I realized, sitting around moping in my room was NOT making the world a better place. So I started (slowly) volunteering again and doing things for others. And slowly but surely this helped pick me up out of my depressive slump.

I encourage you to try these tips, and let me know they work out for you and/or your friends the next time a depression comes along.

(*1) I'm NOT going to say I'll never get promoted, though this school is pretty much required in my line of work, since, after all, promotion comes not from the east, west, or the south- but GOD sets up one and takes down another. If God wants me to get promoted, I will. I have to do the work, of course, but He can put me where He wants me, in spite of what my administration says (ps 76:6-7).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Overcoming Depression, Part 2

Today's tip on overcoming depression comes from one of the daily "DivorceCare" devotionals I have been receiving.

Tip #2 Manage your expectations

Says Dr. Jim A. Talley "You expected somebody to do something. That person didn't do it, and you get mad. What makes you even madder is that person doesn't seem to give a rip that he or she didn't do it. Now you're really hurt, and you begin to boil on the inside. You shift at that point to real bitterness. You have to go back and reset your expectations to what you can control and deal with. You can't force other people into your expectations."

I was really down about myself- I had worked so hard to lose weight, only to put it all back on when my ex announced our marriage's demise. Then, I was so emotionally overloaded that I felt like I couldn't handle even the smallest stressors. And, to top it off, my friends (what few I have!) were keeping their distance, because they didn't know how to handle the situation.

Through the course, I learned that it's normal to be overwhelmed with a divorce, to have a rough time dealing with things and to respond by overeating (or undereating, if that's your stress-mechanism). I learned to be gentle with myself, and tell myself that it's *normal* to be emotional, *normal* to not be able to focus all day long, *normal* to be sad, and *normal* for others to withdraw from you (either because they don't know how to help, they feel uncomfortable, or they just don't like being around sad people). I told myself NOT to expect my usual star performance on the job, and not to expect that everything would be perfect around the house.

And, over time, it worked. I can go out with those few friends now and have a good time, without thinking about all the hurt I suffered in that marriage. I can focus on losing that weight, and my productivity on the job has returned to normal. I don't have the life I wanted or expected, but things are starting to go really well and my outlook on life has greatly improved.

So, if you're faced with a tough time, try re-evaluating your expectations, and see if there are areas where you can lighten up a little bit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Overcoming Depression, Part 1

Hello everyone... I've been gone for a bit between teaching and extensive traveling over the last two months.

I've also had some very low moments where any blog post would have been simply my cry for attention and external affirmation. The change in my family status really hit me hard, and I haven't been this depressed since college, many years ago.

I discovered a few neat "coping" techniques and I thought I'd share them with you over the next few weeks. I don't know of any specific place where I learned of these, but I"m sure I didn't come up with the ideas on my own. They may have come from the Spirit, or perhaps from things I read/learned/overheard but took so long to process that I forgot where the ideas originated.

The first tip is this:

Tell yourself you are happy.

The next time you feel down in the dumps, try remembering something that you have every right to feel good about, and then tell yourself over and over how happy you are about that one thing (even if everything else is going wrong).

If you don't have something that you feel good about, then maybe you can create such a memory by volunteering, accomplishing a task on your "gonna do one day" list, or tackling a concrete project around the house.

Sounds simplistic, but let me illustrate with a real life example:

I received some very good news a couple weeks ago. But, now facing the world as a single mom, I had been quite down in the dumps about my change in marital status. But this very good news should have set me on cloud nine because it is something I had worked 12 years for. I couldn't understand why I wasn't happy. XYZ worked out, and now your life will be immensely better. I should have been celebrating, dancing in the streets. Then I decided to tell myself, "I AM happy. I AM so thankful to God that this worked out, and so HAPPY that I won't have to suffer like I expected to." Every time I had a few moments to myself to dwell on things, I kept telling myself over and over: "This is good news! I am SO happy about it! I am not in a 'happy mood' right now, but I'm going to choose to celebrate this good news and be happy about it. Things are falling into place as best as they possibly can, and I'm not going to mope about it. No, I'm going to be happy!"

Without realizing it, I talked myself into a good mood because the next day I was back to my old self, and a few days after that people began to comment about how happy I'd been.

Affirmations really work. Try it and let me know how it works out for you.