Here it is, 2020 and we are locked inside to maybe the most terrifying thing of all... our thoughts. Thoughts are powerful; for some reason, they have an immense amount of power over us as we go through our daily lives. They control what we do, how we talk, and the ways we perceive the world. But what if those thoughts come to attack us?
That's what happened to me when I was growing up.
There's no reason to get into the long story of my life because that was mentioned in another article I wrote. But essentially I have struggled with depression the majority of my life. At first, it was very small but it grew into an uncontrollable and immense fire that almost cost me my life. In the end, I survived it by being radically saved by Jesus which I am thankful for every day. But for this article I wanted to take a step back because there are probably many people reading this that either has been following Jesus for years and are still depressed, or there's people who don't believe in Jesus at all. So instead of telling you to pray and hope God takes your depression away, I want to give some practical things that I did for the ten years while struggling with depression.
1. Admit that it is real
This was maybe up there with one of the most annoying things that happened to me while growing up. People would often tell me that I should, "stop being sad", or "stop being tired all the time", or the worst one... "man up". It is important to recognize that depression is an actual illness and like other illnesses it needs to be handled properly. Imagine if we told people who had pneumonia to "man up". it wouldn't turn out so well for those people and this is the same with mental illness. So, If you are struggling with depression, I want to firstly affirm you that you should not be ashamed because sometimes you feel weak. You are suffering with something that attacks your mind and it is very real and not made up in your head. It is okay to seek help in any way that you need!
2. Get some sleep sleep sleep
Okay I know this one is so cliche and I am sorry but I have to include this one. Having a decent amount of sleep is vital to combating depression. For me growing up I found that the times when I had my spirals were often late at night with a lack of sleep. I would think about how tired I was all day, and how because I was tired I couldn't be productive, and then because I wasn't productive I am a failure and a disappointment to my friends and family. Then the cycle would continue for days at a time. For a lack of a better word, it was exhausting. (I'm sorry I just had to do it.) More sleep equals more energy which leads to productivity which leads to a bigger feeling of achievement and fulfillment!
3. Spend time in the sunlight
Okay, this one probably helped me the most. Sunlight filtering through the blinds on a Saturday morning, a perfect Sunday afternoon sun in spring, the light peeking through the clouds casting a rainbow across the horizon, the sun is a beautiful thing. Not only is it an important vitamin for overall health it is also for me, therapeutic. There were often days where I would just sit by the window just to sit with the sun and I could literally feel myself getting pulled from that little pit that I often would fall into. The importance of the sun is magnanimous because it is something beautiful that is so tangible for everyone to see and feel and it might make your day a little brighter! (Okay that was the last pun I promise)
4. Make a list
Lists can either be really daunting or really invigorating dependent on the person but for me, I hate lists. lists make me feel like I am restricting myself from being free and that I have to stay confined to that particular lists and I just think it is the worst. But yet, they saved me more times than I can count. Making a list is an easy way to boost productivity and increase achievement. Don't make the list long or difficult, make it as simple as possible. I often found out that if my list became too hard it felt as if there was no reason to start at all. My lists looked something like this:
1) Make my bed
2) Do some stretching
3) Find some way to smile
That was it. Just those three things everyday helped revitalize my life daily and make me feel productive and energized without falling into manic mode or anything.
It is important to note that this isn't a comprehensive list of things that helped me. In the ten years I have struggled with this there are tons of things that have helped me, but these four are always ones I run back to. If you need help please please please reach out to someone and tell them. You are loved and valued, even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes. Be strong and courageous, you got this.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255