I’m treading carefully and gently with today’s topic of depression.
The above comic has been shared and liked on Facebook and Google+ at least 30 thousand times. Obviously many people see truth in it and want to share it with the world.
I don’t like it.
Depression is not foreign to me. I have experienced depression at several key times in my life. I am not ashamed to say I have taken antidepressant medication at different times throughout my adulthood. Therapy and regular exercise help manage my depression the best.
Last fall my husband Mike, at that time serving as the only pastor at our church, announced to our congregation that he was dealing with depression. He made the decision to step down from seeking the senior pastor position. To put this in perspective, in many ways his announcement and decision totally changed the trajectory of how his life and our family situation were expecting to go. The past year was a tidal wave of ups and downs within our home as Mike worked through discovering who he is and where exactly God is calling him. Facing up to all this stuff is hard and exhausting. I’m so incredibly proud of my husband for doing it! Lots of men are never brave enough to go where he has gone.
Depression runs in my family of origin too. My mom deals with debilitating depression, and tracing my family tree I’m sure other family members on both sides silently were or are suffering too.
So…with all this experience, why don’t I love this comic strip that preaches kindness and understanding? Here is why:
- “Depression is a liar.” Last summer, I hit a depressive low I haven’t felt for a number of years. Mike was spiraling down, one of my teenagers was struggling, and I realized I was starting to spin off into a tangential depression of my own. This scared me. A lot. When I realized I was spending too much time staring at the walls, and way too much time sleeping, I knew I had to get myself some help. While I was at the doctor for medication, she said to me, “Remember, depression is a liar. It will tell you things that are not true. Depression will tell you not to get out of bed. It will tell you not to go out and be with people. Every day do something that depression is telling you not to do.”
I believe in self-care, mental health days of retreating from the world, sappy movies made for crying, and my friends Ben and Jerry. My therapist Jan has a wonderful concept called, “Put a frame around it.” It’s not that I don’t take what I need at times, but I frame it. I will take today to lie in bed all day with the covers over my head – and fully embrace it. Then tomorrow I’m getting up and getting dressed. This afternoon, I’m going to grieve for all I lost in this situation and let myself cry all I want and feel all the pain and sadness. Then tonight, I’m going to write down 5 things I’m grateful for in my life.
- Physical illness shouldn’t be treated like this either, so we don’t get to treat our depression like this. The last time I had surgery, the nurses had me get up and walk hours after I came out of surgery. Lying in bed does no one any favors with most ailments. Studies have shown that people with optimistic frames of mind recover faster from everything.
- Depression can become a black sink hole. It will suck down the person dealing with it and if we are not careful, the people around them, too. If you are living with or caring for someone who is depressed, it is imperative you take stellar care of yourself. Rest. Get out of the house and take time for your own interests. Go to therapy or check in with helpful friends to keep your thinking clear. Ask God for help. Attend church to find spiritual refreshment.
I’m all for huge doses of compassion. I’ve also had people in my life — therapists, my husband, honest friends — who loved me enough to speak the truth when I needed to hear it, even when I hated it. Compassion is hard. Saying the truth can be tough. Compassionate truthfulness is the toughest, and the most needed.
What do you believe to be true about depression? Have you or someone you loved experienced depression?
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