Wednesday, September 17, 2014

depression hurts, hope floats

As I write this post, it's raining again.  But, this time,  it's a more steady, committed rain, and our temperature has (finally) dropped below ninety.  I've been thinking about writing this post for a very long time.  Let me start by saying that what I am about to share is my experience.  The causes and outcomes of depression are as varied as the treatments. The way one person experiences depression is often very different than another.
      I graduated from Arizona State with a BA in psychology.  I'm very familiar with the mental health field.  I have referred many, many people to counseling.  I've had close friends and family that have battled depression.  I thought I knew what depression looked like and what it was.  And I did.  From the outside.
     People often throw around the phrase, "I'm depressed."  In the past, I've said it myself.  And then, for three solid months,  I developed a much greater understanding of what it really meant to be "depressed".  I'm generally a happy and emotionally healthy person. It was literally shocking one morning for me to wake up, take inventory of what I had been feeling for weeks, and then say these words in my head, 'I am suffering from clinical depression'.
     For me, the depression was very physical.  There was a cartoon in the eighties…The Road Runner show (remember?).  This insane coyote was always trying to take out this crazy happy road runner by dropping an anvil (or an ACME safe) on his head. I visualized that anvil all the time.  I was walking around with it on my chest twenty four/ seven.  My heart hurt, my spirit hurt.
     I put on a good show.  On most days, I felt kind of paralyzed on the couch or my bed.  The thought of having to do even the most menial task was completely over whelming.  But, every day at two o'clock, I would manage to put on my clothes and my make-up and sometimes even a smile before my kids walked in the door. I'm so very grateful that I was still able to function on some level.    
     For me, depression was something that I descended into slowly.   I say "descended" because it wasn't something that happened overnight.  It was gradual and powerful.  Some of my depression was (for sure) situational.  Some of it was…. hereditary?  environmental?  In the end, the cause wasn't as important to me as finding the treatment and a way out of this darkest of places.
    Things that helped.
A couple of incredible friends.  The kind of friends that were willing to take that three a.m. call and love me and not judge me. For me, verbalizing what I was feeling (to a few trusted people) seemed to be my first step to recovery.  I needed help.  I had to get past my own ego to ask for it, but it was worth. 

Flowers.  Strange?  For me, taking care of my potted flowers, watching them grow and sometimes filling my kitchen island with fresh cut flowers gave me some peace in the middle of turmoil.  There was something about  a flower and it's blossoms and color that reminded me of growth and happiness and possibilities. 

Exercise.  Despite my complete mental exhaustion, I still forced myself to try and do something physical a couple of times a week.  Even if it was just walking around the block.  There are thousands of studies linking exercise with depression recovery.  For me, it was a vital link.

Crying.  After fighting and repressing my tears for weeks at a time, I finally let them go, in a Niagara Falls kind of way.  And it wasn't pretty, and I didn't care. Crying releases chemicals in the body that cause depression. Apparently I had  a lot of chemicals that needed to be purged.  I cried every day (for a couple of weeks) and although some people may think this was a bad thing, for me it wasn't.  I needed to cry and process and be sad for awhile before I could move forward. 

Music.  Somedays it was to help me cry it out, and somedays to give me hope. Eventually it developed into a playlist that echoes the title of this post, "hope floats".

Counseling. Two different counselors who approached depression from two different kinds of treatment. And just a heads up… when choosing a counselor, it's kind of like shopping for insurance agents.  There are some really good ones and some really bad ones.  Sorting through my feelings that were causing the depression was another important step for me to recover.

My faith.  After hours on my knees, I woke up one morning and decided I was done being sad. Even though my life plan seemed to have taken a major detour, I decided it was still my life plan.  The plan my Father in Heaven had given me because He  knew I could live it and that I needed to live it to become who He wants me to become.   

     As I type this post, I have been free from depression for several months.  My purpose in sharing this experience is simply this, to share hope.  Hope for myself if I'm ever in that dark place again.  Hope for others who may be there right now.  The concept of hope has incredibly endless possibilities for good.  I believe it's something our Heavenly Father has instilled in each one of us.  So if you find yourself in that dark place today, hold on.  Even if it's just with your fingernails on the edge of that cliff.  Hold on.  Things will get better. Circumstances will change.  Life will keep moving you along if you let it.  Just hold on.

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