April 15 is a red-letter day for everyone in America. For me, the day is permeated with a myriad of emotions as April 15, 1994, is the date my father died. Over the years the full body ache, akin to a blow to the midsection from a wrecking ball, subsided somewhat and on the 2013 anniversary of my father’s passing I was able to function reasonably well. I didn’t know it would trigger the beginning of a perfect storm of events (strained family relations, new friends behaving badly, the disappearance of a couple of decades-old friends in my time of need, spinning my wheels on a project that was way beyond my skill set, a little too much introspection with no self-absolution, and general isolation) that led me into a crippling depression.
Depression is definitely more than the pseudo-cute/very creepy umbrella that doubles as a hole in the ground you’ve seen in the Abilify commercials. Its affects left me feeling as if I had taken up residence at the bottom of an ever-deepening sinkhole during a thunderstorm. My disposition was worse than a general malaise. I lost interest in everything. An overwhelming sense of hopelessness engulfed me.
Since I recognized the symptoms of depression—but not before being put through the wringer—I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do. First, I prayed and meditated on what was going on. I recognized that my withdrawn and sluggish mood was not my typical demeanor.
I sought out old and new friends I could talk with who would offer a listening ear as well as emotional support. Talking with friends shed new light on well-worn narratives and stopped the negative playlist from looping in my head. A chemical imbalance was a possibility, so I checked in with my doctor to have tests run.
Depression typically manifests itself in a change in eating habits. Some people eat more, I ate less often and when I did eat I ate all the wrong stuff. So I got back into eating more healthful foods on a regular basis.
A change in diet and simply getting out into the fresh air and sunshine worked miracles in lightening my general disposition.
Once I realized what I needed to do, I committed to my recovery. Granted I didn’t feel like making the necessary changes, but I chose to do what I needed to do to get back in the game and ultimately felt better because of it. As for the test results, they came back negative.
Everyone experiences feelings of depression at some point in their life. Sometimes it’s situational, like the bout I described and other times it’s something more serious. All it takes is the right combination of economic, interpersonal, and/or professional stresses to throw even the most stoic personality into a tailspin. The thing to keep in mind is that your situation is not permanent. This is all temporary. The bad times won’t last forever.
While the following may not be clinical steps to treating depression, I found them most effective in my case.
1. Recognize the symptoms of depression.
- overwhelming sadness/unhappiness
- loss of interest in normal activities
- irritability/outbursts over small things
- fixating on past failures
- excessive sleeping.
2. Pray and meditate.
Take time to clear your mind and find your center. And go easy on yourself. Slide yourself a little grace. You’ll find, more often than not, that you’re your own worst critic.
3. Don’t go it alone.
Find people—close friends, family, clergy—you can talk to about what you’re going through. Sometimes a few in-depth conversation with those who know you will work wonders and can be just as effective as speaking with professionals (plus it’s easier on your wallet). Or if you prefer, speak with a professional. The search for the right psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor can prove to be a wise investment of time and money.
4. Eat healthful foods and get out there and let the sunshine in.
The benefits of a good diet and physical activity are well-documented. Run with it.
5. Cut yourself some slack.
There’s plenty of people out there more than willing to tear you down. There’s no need for you to join them. You’re never as bad as you think you are.
After I put the above steps into action, a couple of weeks passed before I felt like myself again. My doctor told me a great analogy during an office visit. It went something like this . . . imagine there’s a playground with all sorts of wonderful games and activities in which everyone can participate. But there’s one rule: over in a far corner there’s a barrel filled with all sorts of muck and slime and everyone has to spend some time in it. And when your time is up, you can get out of the barrel. Just remember to get out of the barrel.