I have depression.
It’s nothing new. I faced the same after my husband died. At the time, my doctor gave me Valium to deal with it. Since I didn’t want to become addicted, I took a half or quarter of a pill, just enough to take the edge off wanting to cry all the time.
Then I discovered that the more I sat around feeling sorry for myself, the more I spiraled downward. But when I focused on others and wrote a book to help others dealing with cancer, the depression lessened.
Since then, I’ve focused outward – doing for others what I’d like them to do for me. I even gave myself the title of CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) to keep the emphasis on others.
And it worked. For a while.
Then my life changed.
Last year, I decided to sell the house my husband and I had built, where he took his last breath. It was a tough decision, but my son’s two little girls were an hour away, and I needed to be closer so I could watch (and help) them grow up.
All was going well after the move. My son, who worked just minutes from my house, would stop on his way home to help with little things like replacing outlets, mounting smoke detectors, and putting stuff away on top shelves. I got to see those little girls more in one month than I had the previous year.
Then life stopped.
I had a stroke.
Since then, my aging body and my mortality let me know that time is limited. I couldn’t move as quickly and I stumbled often. My left hand didn’t cooperate all the time, so typing was laborious and frustrating. I couldn’t work on my next Fabulous book, since I wasn’t feeling so fabulous.
My stepchildren and their offspring had withdrawn from my life since their dad’s death. When I contacted them, they’d respond, even came over for Thanksgiving. But having their pictures on my walls or on my phone reminded me of what I’d lost, in addition to the man I loved.
It would have been easy to focus on the negative and feel sorry for myself. Pity parties seem to be the most popular but least attended of any parties. And I didn’t want to live there.
With the help of a counselor, I decided to focus on the positives in
my life. When my son brought his 6-year-old daughter to pick me up for dinner, his 3-year-old stayed home with Mommy. As I walked in their front door, little Eleri came running toward me, yelling, “Gramma! I missed you!” Then she hugged my leg. Talk about heart-warming! Every time I see the girls or pictures of them, I smile.
Then, there are friends at church, in my new neighborhood, and in my writers group. Instead of being “too busy” to spend time with them, I accept invitations. And I’m having fun, getting to know them better, and enjoying myself.
My depression isn’t gone, but it is manageable.
How can you fight depression?
I’ve learned that other people can’t warm my heart. Only I can. And here a few pointers for you to do the same:
- Think positive thoughts. If you concentrate on how bad you feel, you’ll just feel worse.
- Remember the good times. Most of us have more good memories than bad ones, but we tend to focus on the bad. Become aware of your thoughts and decide to turn them around,
- Put pictures of good memories or mementoes of fun experiences around. They’ll make you smile when you see them.
- Spend a few minutes each evening thinking about what you have to be thankful for, then write down 5 things.
- Get out. It’s easy to just stay home in your comfortable little world. But then you focus on yourself and how lonely you are. Choose to be around people.
- Do for others. Instead of sitting around thinking, poor me, concentrate on helping someone else.
- Notice when something warms your heart. Then, recreate the experience.