If you have ever known someone with clinical depression, you know what a terrible thing it can be: to be so overwhelmingly sad, to the point of uncontrollable mourning, without being able to point to any specific reason, or to be the friend or relative who longs to console the inconsolable.
I have never experienced depression so low. The closest I came occurred years ago. It was mid-January and I found myself wanting to curl up in bed and lock out the world. I had a nearly irrepressible urge to cry. For no reason. I had a good marriage, a beautiful home. Finances were stable. My children were healthy. What reason did I have to be sad? Yet, I had to drag myself out of bed, make myself get dressed. Make myself tend to the needs of young children, try to be personable, then hide in the bathroom and cry a bit more.
Then one day, a rare thing happened. Rare for January. In our part of Illinois. The sun came out. It was warm enough for me to chase the kids out in the yard. By the end of the day, I was my normal self again. It was like someone had lifted a sumo wrestler off my chest.
It was my Aha! moment. Ever heard of seasonal affective disorder? Well, this island girl suddenly realized the likely source of all those down and out uncontrollable emotions. I needed sunshine and I needed color. Day after day of overcast grey skies over dead brown grass and trees? Not so good.
The perfect solution was to go back to Puerto Rico to winter. Well, perfect except for the leaving the hubby part, since his patients wouldn’t take kindly to him leaving for three months. So instead, I bought a bunch of houseplants, painted my kitchen a brick red, and added nice bright colors to the rest of the house. I even bought a small light that is supposed to imitate sun exposure to use on days when the bright colors were not enough. That, and I discovered the hated treadmill became my good friend. Something about exercise and endorphins. With this arsenal to trick my senses, winter depression has since ceased to be a major issue.
I am normally a pretty even-keel kind of person. Not super emotional, unless I get mad. I don’t get super excited or super upset about life events. However, the wraith of melancholy lingers ever in the shadows, ready to devour any tidbits I throw his way. Those tidbits most often take the form of self-pity or guilt over what I have already asked forgiveness for. I call it “stinkin’ thinkin’. Here’s my favorite weapon:
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things. Whatever you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, put these things into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.…” Philippians 4:7-9
How many of you grew up with that children’s song, “Count your many blessings see what God has done”? It’s a concept not just for children. It’s hard to feel self-pity and self-condemnation when stinkin’ thinkin’ is replaced with lovely, pure and true.
I believe if I allow that melancholy wraith to feed often enough, it will grow bolder and eventually stop hanging out in the shadows and take over the rest of my life. I intend to starve him to death.
My faith that God has my life under His control brings amazing peace. Though the world fall around me, He never fails. If my heart is linked with His, why stress? That’s my motto, anyway. I don’t always succeed in carrying it out, but it gets easier all the time.
Last night, Doug and I watched a documentary. Uh, let me clarify. I watched the documentary. Doug snoozed through half of it. It was this program that got me to thinking about today’s topic. The documentary was called ‘Every Brilliant Thing.’ A man acted out his story of growing up in a home with a suicidal parent. As a young child, he reacted by keeping a list of “Every Brilliant Thing.” Brilliant, from his British background, meaning something wonderful. Something to be truly thankful for. As long as he maintained his list keeping, he could keep his own sadness and fear at bay. What a brilliant (and Biblically recommended) way of dealing with it. Disclaimer: I am not saying this would work for someone with clinical depression or other medical mental health disorders. While I can’t see it hurting, they need professional counsel. I’m speaking to those of us struggling with routine emotional downs. We do have some control over where our emotions take us.
I decided to end my year with my own little list of brilliant things from 2016. It is far from inclusive, and not at all in order of importance. Just random things about the beauty of this past year.
- Birth of a child
- Baby’s fingers, tiny and perfect!
- My husband’s head resting on my shoulder.
- A teenage son who still likes hugs
- Becoming the shortest in my family
- Grown children who like spending time with me.
- Good books.
- Grandchildren cuddles.
- Climbing roses (that is, roses that climb. Not me climbing them :).)
I could keep writing, and maybe I will. Just not here. What are some of the brilliant things of your year? Take a moment and share a few!
Happy New Year! May it be filled with many, many brilliant things.