Sometimes even the most positive, upbeat people have days where nothing can cheer us up. We may be grieving a loss, depressed, hurt — whatever it is, there is just no consoling us. We try keeping busy, praying, exercising, thinking positive, pills, any number of things, but our mind just stays in a funk and the depressed thoughts keep trickling (or flooding) back.
Most of us have had days like this, or maybe even many days in a row like this, or even weeks and months, and just don’t know what to do to combat it except “ride it out.” As I’ve mentioned in a post before, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just that sometimes the light takes time to appear.
Deep grief is difficult to combat, and to be honest, that kind of thing should somewhat be allowed to run its own course. In other wards, for a little while, don’t try and fight it. It’s natural to feel grief when someone we’re close to has died, or a loss has happened in our lives (divorce, sudden loss of a long-term job, etc). One time years ago when a family member died, I was told that it was a sin to grieve, and that, as Christians, we should believe that the deceased is now better off and that our grieving is a selfish act.
Although I am a believing Christian, I do not agree with the above statement. Jesus is sinless and God’s son, so it stands to reason that He would not have wept and felt compassion for those grieving the loss of a loved one if it was a sin to grieve. After a period of mourning, grieving people in the Bible, due to necessity, went on about their lives.
Grief is such a natural emotion, as a matter of fact, that I really have not found any better way of dealing with it than time and allowing oneself to experience it. I am not talking about wallowing in grief for the rest of your life — simply not denying yourself the right to miss a lost loved one is probably more healthy than deciding that it’s wrong to grieve.
Nobody is expected to forget a loved one who has passed on. But as a living person, we are expected to go on living. Some of the suggestions further in this post may also help in this process.
The loss of a job or spouse is a different kind of grief, but a strong one just the same. Feelings are usually hurt, there is anger and bitterness, and all this on top of going through the grieving process. It can seem overwhelming, not to mention that, many times, the source of our grief may keep showing up to open up healing wounds. Many people going through a divorce or job loss have this in common. I can’t count the number of times while working in the counseling center that I heard statements like this:
“I was having a pretty good day, then the phone rang and it was (absent spouse) out of the clear blue, calling me to let me know that he was suing me for custody of the kids.”
“Yesterday I had a great job interview, and seemed pretty positive about my chances, then they called and said they had spoken with (previous long-term job supervisor), and suddenly this new place didn’t want to hire me any more.”
“My ex kept coming by my job so many times and causing a scene until I finally was terminated.”
The best advice I’ve ever heard came from Rob, someone for whom the advice had worked well. He said, “Stay as far away from the source of your sadness/anger as possible. Don’t call them, and if there are reasons to have to call them (such as coordinating visits with children, working out details of the house, trying to ask for a good reference from a former job, etc), take steps to eliminate those reasons. The less you have direct contact with or know about what is going on with them the better. After that, don’t accept calls or emails from them unless absolutely necessary. The U.S. Postal Service is an underused medium — now is the time to renew your acquaintance with it. In this day and age, most people have caller ID. And whether you do or don’t, most people have voicemail and answering machines. You can figure out from a message whether the call is anything you need to address and then call them back if necessary (nine times out of ten it really won’t be). Force yourself to distance yourself from them, at least for the time being. You’ll be happier for it.”
He also mentioned that the same applies to anyone who wants to give you “helpful” information about what is going on with your old spouse/job. Ask the people in your life at the get-go to refrain from imparting any information about this person/place of business. Let them know that a listening ear is sometimes what they can give you that will be the most helpful.
Again, time is sometimes the greatest healer. Get plenty of sleep, keep yourself medically and physically in shape, pray, and try to put a positive twist to whatever you do or think about in a day. The last piece of advice Rob gave was the best — When in the deepest part of grief or depression, do the exact opposite of what you feel like doing. In other wards, if you feel like lashing out, act out in kindness instead. When you feel spiteful, show thoughtfulness instead. When you want to break something, breathe fresh air or the scent of a fragrant flower instead. Things like this will start to train your mind to automatically use a different way of thinking that will ultimately take you on a happier, more peaceful path.
The same advice seems like it would apply to having hurt feelings as well. Many times we are left “cut to the quick” by people we have opened ourselves to be the most vulnerable to. Being hurt and then left to deal with it, especially when there is no recourse, can make us think we are going crazy. Hurt and anger can be a volatile mixture. It can lead to spiteful, vengeful behavior and bitter feelings if not held in check. To think of others having everything good while we are wallowing in our misery can be maddening.
It seems so trite and without feeling to advise a person going through this to just “get over it” or to say, “They’ll get theirs!” People going through this feel like they need relief from the torture right now. Yet, like many things, sometimes these types of issues heal best with time.
I used to be a big advocate of talking to the offending person and telling them how they made me feel. As time and experience later taught me, not every situation is made better by this tactic — sometimes it was even made worse. One must pick and choose when “talking it out” is the course of action to take. It depends upon the person that is being talked to and the situation. One must use a discerning and logical train of thought when deciding on this course of action. This is a time to think with your brain and not your heart.
Here are some ways to help deal with depression that I learned from my work in the counseling center, and also from personal experience and the personal experiences of friends and acquaintances who went through similar experiences:
- Get plenty of sleep — We’re not talking about the kind of sleep that depressed people tend to gravitate toward, where all they want to do is lay in bed all day and sleep on-and-off and be up most of the night. We’re talking about a full eight hours. Take melatonin, do mind exercises that empty your mind of thoughts of anything but sleep, and pray. It’s difficult to deal with depression and it’s causes if you’re doing it while sleep deprived.
- Exercise and fresh air — this can be the biggest help for depression and yet is the thing that most depressed people want to do the least. Force yourself to get out and get moving.
- Positive thought — It does sound cliche, but if you replace every negative, hurtful, spiteful, vengeful thought with a positive, self-affirming, lovely thought, you will be surprised at how much it will change things. Your mind will begin to automatically do this after awhile, and your positive outlook will change your life.
- Drink plenty and don’t starve yourself or overeat — Depression is deepened if you’re having to deal with feeling physically bad on top of it.
- Consider temporarily taking medication to help get over the hump — consider this option very carefully. I am not a strong advocate of using psychotropics, but in certain cases a medically supervised period of medication may help to get over that first hurdle. I’m not one to advise taking these types of medication for over a year or so (less if possible), unless you have been diagnosed with a chemical imbalance that has rendered you chronically depressed, and then only under a doctor’s strict supervision.
- Stay active and social — Most people who are having a rough time dealing with depression stop wanting to be around other people in social situations. The people I have seen come through rough times the best were those who allowed themselves a few days off from socializing after a major depressing blow, and then forced themselves to get back out there. They adjusted much better and more rapidly.
Life is so full of ups and downs and twists and turns. We’re all human and all have to go through a lot of the same things, depression being one of them. As far as being able to identify with each other and help, we’re all in this together.
There may be things in this post that people may have opposing opinions about, or ideas that I didn’t put in this post that may be helpful. What are some of the most helpful ways of coping for you when dealing with depression or grief?