It’s that time of year. The sun has barely peeked over the distant hills when I back out of my garage and head for work. Then, a mere nine hours later, the shadows stretch long across the parking lot. Soon I will leave work in the dark having seen but 15 minutes of sunlight all day.
My mind, also, grows dark.
I’ve struggled with depression since Junior High School, although I didn’t really recognize how deeply it affected me until years later. It seems, at times, that my brain is hard wired for darkness. Some see the glass as half-full and others as half-empty; there are times when I can’t even see the glass.
I’ve started and stopped writing this a few times now. I debated even starting it in the first place. People don’t like to hear about dark things. I’m certain that some will reject my assessment of depression and the path that I have chosen in searching for healing. Some cannot comprehend the struggle. “Your life isn’t so bad; just get over it, already!” Others just don’t want to know.
According to Healthline, one in ten Americans suffers from depression, and the number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20% every year. Medication works well for some. Others seem to respond to counseling. The majority go untreated.
Personally, medication was a failure for me. It actually worsened my condition. I didn’t take well to counseling. I still have trouble with depression, especially this time of year, but it no longer rules my life.
Please note that this is MY experience. I’m sharing from MY life. I can’t and won’t diagnose anyone; nor is the following a prescription or course of treatment. I regret that I have to put this in here, but the state of the world compels me.
I’ve come to believe that depression, while in some cases it may have biochemical roots, is manifest as selfishness. When I’m depressed I find that I’m not thinking about others; I’m thinking only of myself. How I feel. How everything is conspiring against me. How I’m no good. The reasons why I’m a failure. Now, I’m well aware that these thoughts are not real, but when I’m in that state they are real to me.
There are a lot of things that I do to keep myself from sinking into the muck, here are a few:
I Look Up Scriptures and Reading Plans to Set My Mind Right
I’m not paid to say this, but YouVersion has been a powerful tool in that respect. They have thousands of bible reading plans and devotionals that address so many different areas of life. You can view them online or via either the iOS or Android app. You can even search for key words.
I Listen to Positive Messages and Read Positive Books
I don’t mean the books and messages that promise riches “if you’ll only believe.” I’m referring to speakers/authors such as Zig Ziglar, who based most of his work in the scriptures. His work reminds me of the person that God created in His image, rather than the man created in the image of the world. It reminds me that if I live right I will find not only peace, but satisfaction and fulfillment.
I Make Time for Exercise
While it is difficult to motivate myself at times, I set goals that have a timetable, particularly goals that cost me money up front. For instance, this year I did a Half-Marathon in May and a Half-Ironman in June. This meant that I had to train mostly indoors throughout the long Wisconsin winter. But they gave me a reason to get out of bed.
Exercise has an effect on your brain chemistry and is shown to improve depression symptoms. There were many times I didn’t feel like following my training plan and working out. But never did I regret doing it when I’d finished.
I Do Something for Someone Else
This is more powerful than you can imagine. When I focus on doing something nice for someone else, especially if there’s no way for them to do it for themselves, I find that the darkness gets a few shades brighter. If it can be done anonymously, that’s even better. God sees what’s been done in secret, and He will reward you (Matthew 6:2-4, ESV). Lather. Rinse. Repeat. The more that we do for others, the less we focus on ourselves, and the more we become like our Savior (Philippians 2:6, ESV).
1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (ESV).