What to Do When Depression Strikes
What is that heaviness on my chest that feels like a ton of bricks, for which the only relief is bawling my eyes out? Ah yes, I remember you.
The raw, real emotions that creep in the shadows of night, depression is a monstrous hitter. It knows how to steal my thoughts, words, and actions like a bad outlaw.
I thought it was just me, but it’s not. My friends and family are feeling the weight, too. Are you? Apparently, restlessness has been going around. There’s an unspoken comfort felt when we know we’re not alone in our battles.
The process is all the same: easily triggered, negative thoughts, and sleepless nights. Sometimes, there’s a twinge of difference that leaves me wondering, what is this? But, the old familiarity creeps back, and the wave of relief that it’s not a new hurdle to conquer floods in.
It always feels permanent when I’m in the valley of despair. It feels like I won’t ever make it out of this place again. I can do this — I’ve done it before, I remind myself. In hindsight, I always know the end of the tunnel is coming. I just have to hang on.
Depression comes with an overwhelming brain fog from lack of restful sleep. The bed hugs my broken body and secures its lack of safety. The ebb and flow of emotions is real, and I’ve learned that tackling the endless emotional roller coaster is most challenging, but essential for living.
There’s a significant difference between feeling sad and being depressed. Sadness is situational. Depression is the heavy blanket of despair that clouds judgment, perception, and ability to assess the situation accurately. It’s so much deeper than simply partaking in activities that typically bring happiness.
Following is what I’ve learned along my journey …
The trick is radical self-awareness. Validate your feelings, but also forge ahead. Don’t get stuck in sadness, past traumas, or the trap of nostalgia. Know your triggers. Give yourself grace for not functioning as usual. Taking extra time for self-care is essential.
Lean in and feel the feelings and also know that feelings lie. Confusing, but true. Pretending that everything is fine prolongs the pain. Acknowledgement of the darkness is how we approach the light. Like: “Oh, depression, it’s you again. OK.” Teasing out the lies is essential: My world is not upside down, this will not last forever, and I am going to be OK.
Set a routine or schedule. Having a “to-do” list prompts action, and action kills time spent thinking about depression. Have short-term achievable goals. Help someone else. Eat healthy. Work out. Pray or meditate. Remind yourself who you are. If you forget, have a list of people that will help you do this. Don’t skip therapy sessions. Force yourself to go to bed. Take a shower. Get outside. Be careful of everything you’re listening to, who you’re talking with, and what is feeding your mind. Guard your mind and heart because they act as filters for your feelings.
Refrain from isolating. It’s so hard to be around others when everything hurts, but it hurts worse being alone. I am so incredibly blessed to have a network of people who know how to help me in these seasons. The few and true that I trust with my darkness. These individuals are ones that have known and felt this darkness so deeply themselves. This is why they are able to sit with me and provide what I actually need, not just try to make me feel better or spew toxic positivity.
As I walked through the aisles of the grocery store the other night, it hit me — literally. As I grabbed my blueberry-flavored coffee (the second one in, of course, because there are fewer germs), which was sure to pull me out of my pit, the first one promptly flew off the shelf and hit me square in the face. I bust out laughing so hard in the middle of the aisle and couldn’t stop!
A sense of hope washed over me, and I knew the darkness was fading. Overwhelmed with emotion, I laughed until I cried. There is always a distinct moment when I’ve felt the veil lifting, and it’s such a beautiful realization. I could see the light again. In this moment, I knew I was going to come out of this.
It’s one of the sweetest feelings my soul has ever felt: the relief that this season won’t last forever. Freedom from the chains of depression is an unexplainable joy. I am reminded of the grace I’ve been extended, divine appointments with radiant individuals, and how my God pulls me out of the darkness and into the light. Every time.
It’s OK to not be OK … for now. But, as long as we have breath, there is hope. Dum spiro, spero.
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