First, an apology to my Christian brothers and sisters: this article is not a list of Bible verses to recite when struggling with depression. I fully believe in using scripture against the forces of darkness, but we still need practical ways—TOOLS, if you will—to fight depression. It takes about five seconds to do a Google search for “Bible verses about depression,” if you so wish (which I have, many times).
The main points in this blog were taken from the article Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression, by Lisa Firestone Ph. D., as published on the Psychology Today website (www.psychologytoday.com). Instead of copying and pasting the entire piece, I’ve just taken the eight tools Dr. Firestone mentions, and then added my own commentary.
“1. Recognize and Conquer Your Critical Self Attacks”
This is a tough one for me. As I’ve previously shared, I was overweight as a child, and the derogatory names the other children called me helped to form a negative self-opinion. There are a few ways I try and fight this:
A. I will literally stand in front of the mirror and force myself to accept the reflection staring back at me. This may sound NUTS to some, I know, but it helps. Seriously. You MUST begin to see yourself as a good person, and not this wretched THING.
B. I’ll ask family and friends to tell me what they like about me. They know this isn’t arrogance, but rather, a search for self-acceptance. “Tell me you love me,” I’ll say to my wife. I KNOW she loves me, I mean, after all, we’ve been together for over 30 years, but sometimes I just need to hear it.
C. I try and see myself through the eyes of the people who love me the most. That goes along with the idea I just mentioned, to a certain extent. More than that, however, it’s an attempt to keep my eyes on the GOOD instead of the “BAD” or negative.
“2. Think About What You Could Be Angry At”
Funny story: I went on a low-carb diet for about two weeks a couple years ago, and about four days in was VERY angry. I guess I was popping off at my family and didn’t even notice it. OK, that’s not the funny part.
My daughter, Jess, who is an R.N., knew what was going on. When my wife whispered, “I’m gonna KILL him. I’m gonna KILL HIM!” Jess laughed and asked me, “Dad, slow down for a minute. What’s actually bothering you? Tell me EXACTLY what you want right now.”
“I want some freaking ICE CREAM!!” I practically screamed, not having had sweets in several days.
I realized it wasn’t everyone else I was angry at.
Many times, if we stop and self-analyze, we’ll realize the people on whom we’re taking out our anger are NOT the ones we’re really mad at. So what’s the problem? Self-loathing? You’ve gained some weight and hate the way you look? You’ve recently been made aware that you’re not as young as you used to be?
Whatever it is, IT’S GOING TO BE OK. I promise. We all grow older, and the beauty we find in this life magnifies as wrinkles and gray hair appear (or hair falls out, in my case). Tell yourself it’s OK to get older. Those who love you the most don’t see the wrinkles and the bald head, they see LOVE.
“3. Be Active”
Yeah, this is self-explanatory, and does NOT fit my current lifestyle, unfortunately, so I’ll move on. My wife and I plan on starting a walking regiment, so hopefully I’ll be able to give a different report in a few weeks. 😛
“4. Don’t Isolate Yourself”
Dr. Firestone is spot-on with this one, and it’s a biggie for me. My family knows if it were up to me, I’d lock myself in the bedroom for 12 hours a day with the lights off. But that’s the last thing I need.
You NEED loved ones. You NEED friends, so get out and do something, even if you don’t feel like it. You KNOW you feel better when you get home, so what’s holding you back?
“5. Do Things You Once Liked to Do … even if you don’t feel like it”
What did you USED to like to do? Concerts? Going to the movies? Walking the mall? Going to the park?
Get back to what you really enjoy doing. Don’t do what others love to do; you must do what YOU love to do! My son and I attend a lot of hard rock and heavy metal concerts. That’s our thing, and we LOVE it, but maybe the thought of going to a concert is nauseating to you (as it is to my wife). That’s perfectly fine. Maybe you’d rather take a friend to a coffee house and listen to some cool jazz.
That’s MY idea of hell, but if YOU dig it, that’s all that matters! Just kidding, sorta.
“6. Watch a Funny TV Show or Movie”
I was dealing with this just last night. When my wife and I retired to the bedroom, I began looking over our list of recorded TV shows. Cooking shows, cop shows, real-life murder mysteries and drug addiction programs, JFK and Hitler documentaries, and on and on.
But I desperately needed something funny, and never found it. So we grabbed a couple seasons of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which our son bought us on DVD a couple years ago. This way, the next time a mood like that strikes me, I have something to fight back.
Comedy is a serious weapon against depression.
“7. Don’t Punish Yourself for Feeling Bad”
Tell yourself it’s OK to feel the way you do. That doesn’t mean you want to REMAIN in your funk, it just means you’re not a terrible person for being in it in the first place.
Deal with the funk, but don’t add GUILT on top of all the negativity you’re already dealing with!
“8. See a Therapist”
Some see this as a “weakness,” for some reason, but I’ve had to see a therapist on several occasions. Therapy can give you tools to fight anxiety and darkness which you never knew existed. I brought this up the last time I preached, and the leader of the recovery group to whom I was addressing, Pastor Tom Johnson, boldly spoke up:
“I see a therapist twice a month,” he candidly shared.
Some of the best, brightest and strongest people I know have had to seek therapy at least once during their life, so don’t knock it.
I hope it helps you to realize you’re not alone in this fight. Millions are fighting it with you! I’ll be praying for you today, and remember…
Never give up, never give in, never surrender!