“Suck it up,” I would have probably said a decade ago. Then I went through a few spats of depression, the kinds not so easily shrugged. My empathy for those who suffer with it changed.
There you have it. I get depressed. Telling me that I have no reason to be depressed doesn’t help much. I have in my mind’s eye little judgmental adversaries who are telling me I’m being overly dramatic. I’m just not positive enough, I should pray more, or I should get my act together. These gremlins are all telling me to “suck it up.” A talented and most richly blessed guy like me should get over it.
Then Robin Williams commits suicide. Good grief, one of the most talented and wealthy individuals on the planet takes his own life. A year ago, Rick Warren’s son did the same. It shook me. If the writer of the wildly bestselling Purpose Driven Life can have a child who commits suicide, I sure can, too. Busy parents aren’t immune. Just last month I posted about the death of a mother of a dozen children — my Facebook post went viral — and I discovered later that she hadn’t died of a car accident, but of suicide. I have a couple of coaches — extremely blessed and beautiful people — who have shared of their personal struggles with depression. I’ve learned much from them and their desire to help others who struggle.
Depression is everywhere. And I’m included. I wouldn’t count myself a clinical case, and I do not have suicidal tendencies, but I have experienced extremely low emotional ruts that haven’t been easily escaped. And you know me: I’m a rhetorical geek. I can talk myself in circles of how awesome life is and how blessed I am, but at times the feeling cannot be reasoned or prayed away.
I can’t explain it. Worse, I cannot afford it.
I’m self-employed with business partners, customers and vendors with responsibilities to each of them. I’m the bread-winner for my family. I can’t just call in sick or take the day off of parenting. My depression puts me and many others in precarious situations, so I’ve had to deal with it the best I can. In a way, I had better suck it up or else other people (not just me) will suffer.
I suspect millions are in my shoes. We know we suffer from depression, but we haven’t sought clinical attention. We’re on the edge — should we seek help, or should we not — kind of like the hesitation you feel before going to the doctor for a migraine, seeing the chiropractor for a pain in your back, or seeking financial help trying to keep from going broke. We may not trust the medication, advice or handout — not all are trustworthy — so we bear the pain.
We just do our best to suck it up.
I’m no expert in this, but I wanted to post on my blog on what has helped me. Depression is no sin, it just is, and I have had to deal with it just like anyone else. I have found the following seven anecdotes helpful in dealing with my depression. I hope these resonate with you or a loved one who struggles, too.
- Seek Friendships. I have a few people in my life whom I call when going through tough times emotionally. My wife, my parents, and a couple really good friends (the kind who won’t tell me to simply “suck it up”). In fact, be proactive and develop these connections before you fall into a depressive state. We all need friends that can give strong counsel in life, whether you suffer from depression or not.
- Exercise. This works for me. When I can’t shake it, I go for a run. This isn’t just mental. Research shows that physical exercise create endorphins that run through your bloodstream and help alleviate depression. We all know this to be true, but we just need to get up and start getting in shape.
- Routine Meditation. I have found myself most depressed when I’m out of sync from my daily routines. It’s really easy to find yourself out of your normal state when you’re self-employed. Routines like reading, silent meditation, prayer, coffee or tea in the morning while watching the sun rise, etc., etc. These are all extremely helpful to set a pattern on non-depressive rhythm.
- Cut the Crap. I find myself habitually jumping on Internet news way too much. I also have an artistic love for deep — but depressing — music (Pink Floyd and Evanescence are two of my favs). When depressed, I need to just turn it off. I can only deal with depressing news and complex musical poetry when I’m in a healthy state of mind. When I’m depressed, the crap doesn’t help at all. It sometimes makes it worse.
- Call Out the Trigger. For me, situations will trigger depression. An overwhelming debt, a relational conflict, a disappointing result from some project I’m working on — these are common triggers for me. When problems arise that aren’t easily solved, I take the time to articulate them to help alleviate depression. Writing is a most therapeutic way to call out the trigger, pull my thoughts together, and come to resolution that I am able to put into action. (Come to think of it, this very blog post helps: I’m calling out depression as a personal problem of mine.)
- Learn. I hope this doesn’t sound overly simple, but I have found this to be a helpful focus. Here’s what is tough when I’m depressed: I must focus on what I need to learn, and not what others should learn. I can get myself wound up pretty tight when an actual person is the trigger (see #5), but I need to dial back and ask myself what I need to learn in the situation. This could be what Jesus was getting at when he told us not to judge one another and quit focusing on the speck in another’s eye. “Stop focusing on what they should learn…focus on what you should learn.” This is often a heavenly reminder for depression like the kind I experience.
- Take on What Is Next. This is tough for a dreamer like me. I cannot stop thinking big, and I get depressed when my dreams are cut down to reality. Instead of worrying about depressing results, I will force myself to just take the next step. Live in the moment, you might say. I ask myself, “What simple task or project can I do next?” Like exercise, just the simple act of motion helps get those mental endorphins flowing and pull my thoughts out of depression. When I’m back to my optimistic, jeubulant self, I can then get back to the bigger things in life.
Depression is a tricky subject, and I have to admit that I’m no expert. But I’m learning — probably just like you — to deal with it and get back to a life worth living. I hope this helps you, and if you have other thoughts, please add them to the comment section below. Others would probably find your ideas helpful.