I've talked about depression a lot over the years. It's a part of who I am. Many of you know that I'm not ashamed of it. I was thinking about it some more this morning as I drove into work and to drop my kids off at school. (I don't think a day goes by that I don't learn something new about myself. Funny how that is, don't you think?)
I was thinking about how happy I've become again in the recent months. I've had some lows that are normal for me this time of year, but nothing I couldn't handle. I realized today that I can be happy in spite of being a person who struggles from depression. Depression is a part of me, but it doesn't OWN me. I've learned how to own IT over the last decade without even realizing it. I am understanding how precious this trial has been for me and how much I have learned about myself and about others as a result. I've gained more than I've lost from this affliction and for that reason, I am grateful.
It has made me more aware of my feelings and other people's feelings. I feel more in tune with myself and with my relationship with God than I could have ever been otherwise. I truly believe that. People with depression spend a lot of time in their own heads... going over things, over, and over, and over again. At least that's how it has been with me. The bad part is that when you are in a really low, low it is usually negative thought. And that is NOT good. But when you learn how to cope and how to heal, it becomes easier to spend less and less time in those places.
I have spent months at a time feeling so down and low that I rarely smiled or laughed. I was consumed with negative thought and it nearly drowned me. I was giving the disease the control and it was not a good situation. But then, over the course of time, things began to change. I went to back to school and came close to obtaining my associates degree. Things changed again before I finished and I went to work at a job that fell in my lap out of nowhere. My kids got a little older and more independent. I was FORCED out of my house. As much as I sometimes hate being a working mom, it has been a tremendous blessing in my life and helps me to combat the cycles of my depression. I belong to a church that keeps me busy. Our congregation is a very large family and I do all I can to be active. I have friends there and people to smile at me and ask me how I am, not just on Sunday, but all week long. Being around other people is such an important part of managing the lows.
Some of you may remember some of my earlier posts from a few months back where I was committing myself to be happier and more content with myself and with others. I cannot even begin to express the changes that have taken place in my life. I feel as happy now as I have ever felt. I am more content with my life and with who I am than I have ever been. I have battled sickness after sickness the last two months that would normally have sent me into a complete tailspin with my depression, but it hasn't this time. Sickness + winter months = depression disaster for me... but not this year.
I have made small changes in my life that have impacted me in tremendous ways. Here is what I decided to do:
* Smile as often as I can. Especially when I meet anyone face to face. - I haven't been 100% on this, but I find myself smiling even when there is no one around now. It's great. Plus, I FEEL better when I smile! It works!
* Be sincerely grateful and express gratitude more often.
* Stay on top of my daily personal prayers and personal scripture study.
* Be more faithful in having daily family scripture study and family prayer. There is always so much less contention and raised voices when we do this on a regular basis.
* Have higher quality Family Home Evenings every week.
* Watch less TV in my bedroom.
* Have a good attitude and try not to be critical of others. (Again, need some more work on this one, but getting there.)
* Sing in the car. If I'm alone - sing LOUD! :)
* Laugh. Every. Day. - I feel like this one is almost the most important one when I am struggling with a depression low. There is something physical as well as mental about laughing that just makes you FEEL better!
* Give more service. Serving others just lifts us up in so many ways.
I didn't make these changes all at once. They came gradually over the last several months, but looking back now, I can see how these small changes have added up to a large change within me. I realized that I rarely compare myself to others anymore. I rarely say, "I can't" anymore. I am kinder to my children. I cook more. I reach out to others more. I have more energy. I FEEL happy. I have depression. I will ALWAYS have depression. But I can be happy in spite of it. I am in control. If you have depression, I challenge you to try some of these things. I promise you will feel better too. It doesn't happen over night, but I promise - it WILL happen!